Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Week 37 : Westport To Dutchman's Flat

Amy and I set out from Westport knowing that the week ahead was going to be pivotal. During the last twelve months of our virtual journey there has been lots to virtually see. The detailed Google Earth photos have been brim-full of information : villages, towns, shops, and places of interest of all kinds. This week the Google Earth photos are brim-full of ... trees. Big trees and small trees and even more big trees. Mile after green mile of them. Don't get me wrong, they're lovely. Kind of majestic. Unchanging. Grand .......... (sorry I must have dozed off there) .... and just a tad boring.

"This week", I announced to Amy as we walked out of Westport, "we are making for Dutchman's Flat". She didn't ask me about our destination which was a good thing because I knew nothing about it. As far as I could gather it was nothing more than a couple of buildings in a clearing surrounded by ... trees. But we had the sea with us for the first part of the week and when you walk in sight of the coast there is always something to lift your spirits.

A few hours north of Westport we got to Wages Creek and went in search of something to lift our spirits. We found a campsite and a beach and, guess what, some trees. " Wages Creek Beach in Mendocino County, California is a really good place to spend some time" says a strange little website called Goingoutside.com. "Wages Creek Beach is a relaxing place and it sure is a nice beach. Among the things you can do near Wages Creek Beach are paddling, fishing, swimming, and boating, so there's no way to get bored". They certainly got most of that right although they forgot you could also throw pebbles into the water. And count trees. Anything but bored, Amy and I forced ourselves ever northwards.

Soon we reached Westport - Union Landing State Beach. There were fine coastal sunsets, lots of fish ... and trees. The main species of fish which can be caught around here are Day Smelt and Night Smelt. As you might imagine, the Day Smelt spawn during the day and the Night Smelt spawn at night. "Isn't that fascinating", I said to Amy, but she was otherwise engaged, chasing some fish through the surf.

After all that excitement, Amy and I settled into day after day of walking and trees. At times, the road left the coast and headed into the hills, but eventually it came back again. And then one day it didn't. We were about to leave the sea behind and cut inland. We were at the start of the Lost Coast.

I avoided telling Amy that we were at the start of the Lost Coast : she would only make silly jokes about how we had found it again. Instead we walked a few hundred metres away from the main road so that we could get a taste of, what is, one of the last coastal wildernesses in California. The 40 mile stretch of coast between Middle Rock in the south and Eureka in the north is so craggy and wild the normally robust Highway 1 has to skulk inland. It would have been adventurous and challenging to trek up the coast, but over recent months Amy and I had become addicted to Highway 1 and we were determined to follow it to its end.

So we headed inland. Into the trees. For a couple of days we saw nothing other than trees. I misquoted Ben Jonson to Amy : "I think that I will never see, anything other than a bloody tree". By the end of the week we reached Dutchman's Flat - or at least I think we did. There was a brief clearing in the forest, a barn, a house. It wasn't flat and there were no Dutchmen around. But for a precious few square yards there were no trees.

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