Thursday, August 11, 2011

July 2011 Road Trip VII: Salem to Humbug Mountain to Stafford to Walnut Creek

Sleeping on Bruce and Daisy’s back deck was surprisingly comfortable. Quieter than Eugene, and the wood of the deck no harder than the ground.

Time for the southerly run towards home. Sarah had several nights before she had to fly home. She wanted to see the Oregon coast and the redwoods. So west from Salem on Rt. 22, following the Salmon River to Lincoln City and Rt 101.

Two nights on the road. I drove; Sarah has foot issues that would have made the winding coastal highway unfun. Plus I like this kind of active driving, sensing the other vehicles and their relative speeds, while attending to the passing scenery (natural and human). Given that this run was a distance of over 700 miles, it’s a bit fuzzy.

We developed a quick pattern: drive, stop at a promising ocean vista, peruse and photograph, and repeat until exhaustion, the right camping opportunity and/or sunset occur. Any number of coastal towns rolled by: Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Otter Rock, Newport, Sea Rock, Waldport. Most of these, along 101 at least, seemed focused on tourism. No worries, only a few hours from Portland/Salem/Corvallis/ Eugene: most of Oregon’s population. Each town seemed to repeat the same pattern of businesses: drive-thru espresso, used book store, Mexican restaurant, and an art gallery (trending from glass to myrtlewood to redwood with proximity to the equator). This became our litmus for a place being real.

The coast was consistently dramatic. The compression along this convergent plate boundary has shaped the western edge or Oregon into steep mountains, composed of a mish-mash of rocks – lava, metamorphics, deep-sea sediments (based on my scant observations). The Pacific Ocean continually works away at this stuff. Given that a lot of the rocks are pretty hard, the coastline features dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, arches, and other intensely scenic features. They were lovely even in the flat midday light. Working with dual intuitions, we stopped at viewpoints that sounded right: Boiler Bay, Devils Punchbowl, Natural Bridges. The air was cool and wet, and abrupt change to my body after the desert. Strange to wear layers of clothing.
Further south, Reedsport, Lakeside, North Bend, Coos Bay, Bandon, and the tourism density began to decline. Fewer cars, more trucks on the roads. Through Port Oxford, coming on late afternoon, time to camp. Humbug Mountain State Park appealed. Well, the campground was right by 101 (a narrow canyon made this necessary) and full of Americans, but it was a short walk to the beach. We took one of the last spots and set up.

Dinner, a wander to the beach for a fully worthy brilliant sunset. Strong breeze: I was pretty sandblasted around the ankles by the time darkness emerged. Back to the campground; the family next door had thankfully taken the whistle away from the little boy. Eight hours of oblivion.

Misty dawn, actual dew on my gear. No worries. South and further south. The one part of the coast which had intrigued me during my pre-trip research was this southern bit; especially the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor: thirty plus miles of relatively undeveloped coastline. But fog and diffuse morning light masked its beauty, or maybe this was the dullness of too much time in Trixy. We progressed. Gold Beach, giving in to the urge to visit a used book store, I discovered that there was Pirate Festival in Brookings, the next (and last) town in Oregon on 101.

Aaargh, matey. The festival was a great lunch stop. Small with a lot of pirates who seemed to be wearing modified Renaissance Fair clothing. No worries. Good on Brookings for doing something so fun. Sorry to miss the cannon demonstration.
Back into California, 101 cutting inland towards Arcata and Eureka. Redwoods sensu lato as destination. It was a summer weekend, so I figured that most parks would be full. A stop at the VC in Eureka confirmed this. So we drove, with an appropriate pause at Trees of Mystery. Evening approached. My gazetteer indicated campgrounds in many of the small towns dotting 101. We eventually ended the day at the Stafford RV Park, in Scotia. Pleasantly funky, a mixture of permanent trailer residences and passers through. Adjacent to both the Eel River and 101. We were the only campers until a Japanese cyclist showed up at dusk. He was glad to learn where the water faucet was, and to understand about the incipient high mosquito density. Nice to camp under 100 year old redwood saplings, my last night out, alas.

A final morning. Not ready to go home, but ready to be there. I’d had enough of driving, and the San Francisco Marathon was only eight days away. Sarah and I redwooded, proceeding down The Avenue of the Giants with appropriate photo stops, which provided to be short, given the continuing mosquito density. Haw, one item I had not packed was insect repellent.

The damp coastal valleys now trended NNW-SSE; we were in terrain controlled by the San Andreas Fault System. Good bye to dominantly compressional tectonics, hello to dominant lateral shear. This is the geology of home, so after my time on the road, it felt strangely right. I guess I’ve lived in California long enough.
Eventually cutting inland and drier, tall trees giving way to grasses, oaks, and fairly quickly, vineyards. We paused for lunch at Saracina Vineyards. Sarah was iso a bottle of decent wine for her husband, so before eating we the caves. This being distal Napa, the tasting room and warehouse had been excavated out of a hill. I haven’t been to a winery since 1996. I knew that wine culture had exploded since then, but the financial impact of this was not apparent to me till seeing Saracina. Besides the caves, the winery per se was all brand new: very modern buildings; the plants, furniture and other accessories all pretty top shelf. And all this at a place that produces 4,000 cases a year? The other piece of evidence was the language the pourer used; varietals and adjectives that were totally new to me. Smile, nod and taste, not a problem mate. I picked out the syrah that seemed to have the most interesting nose and bouquet for my bro-in-law.

Having finished my 4 ounces of wine for July, it was time for the final two hours falling south. 101 widened, narrowed, transitioned from vineyard to exurb to suburb to city. The San Rafael Bridge, San Pablo Dam Road, Rt. 24, and home. 

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