Week 48 : Crescent City To Smith River
Crescent City is a pretty place, although with just a few more than 4,000 citizens it isn't much of a city and you need to squint a bit before you can recognise the crescent shape of its bay. But both Amy and I agreed it was pretty as we gazed across the water towards Battery Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is over 150 years old and was one of original eight West Coast lighthouses built to protect shipping en-route to the boom cities of the California gold rush. I tried to lecture Amy on the design of the lighthouse and its Fifth Order Drumm Lens (with 20,000 candle power!) but as usual on these occasions she yawned, scratched her ear and fell asleep. I moved on to tsunamis in the hope that it might hold her attention but the look she gave me implied that she had never heard of her. But Crescent City is surprisingly prone to tsunamis, research shows the city has been struck by more than 15 in the last fifty years. For most of them you would have to be a researcher to know they had taken place, but the 1964 tsunami was of a different order altogether : it destroyed the city (if, unlike Amy, you are interested in the story of the Crescent City tsunami you can read the story here). Noting that someone had once said that Crescent City acts like a magnet for giant waves, Amy and I decided to head inland.
Although we left the Pacific Ocean behind us we didn't quite escape the water : it rained. It is not surprising that it rained : it rains a lot in Crescent City; with an annual precipitation of over 70 inches it is one of the wettest places in California. So it's small. it's wet and it attracts tsunamis, I summed up as we walked north up Lake Earl Drive. But it's pretty, Amy and I both agreed. Over the coming days that judgement was reinforced as we skirted the splendid Lake Earl lagoon with its profusion of wildlife. Amy noticed signs relating to the sport of duck hunting which is popular in these parts and was anxious to join in, but I put a stop to that. By the middle of the week we had discovered another potential drawback of Crescent City. This one was known as Pelican Bay State Prison.
When I first checked the population of Crescent City I found two quite different figures : the first was 4,000 the second was 7,300. I subsequently discovered that the difference between the two figures was the prison population of Pelican Bay. And these aren't your ordinary mobile-phone pinching, chicken-bone stealing criminals, they are pretty nasty individuals. With this in mind Amy and I accelerated our progress north, and only felt safe once we had crossed the Smith River. Why we then felt safe I can't imagine : one strongly suspects that if an individual can murder a string of his fellow citizens without a second thought, he would be able to walk over the Smith River Road bridge as well.
Smith River spreads its bets in terms of its attraction to passing virtual tourists. It is a river (and very nice too) and then its an "unincorporated community" (which seems to be an American term for a village ... and very nice too) and eventually a seaside community (at the point where the Smith River meets the Pacific). And very nice too. As we headed west towards our rendezvous with the ocean we knew we were there when we saw a 490 ton steel-hulled yacht lying calmly at anchor .... in the middle of a field. The ship is now a central feature of what is known as the Ship Ashore resort. It is quirky, slightly eccentric and very American. It was the perfect place to end our walk for another week.