Monday, 10 November 2008
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Amy and I are walking again: walking north, walking along the Avenue of the Giants. Following the Eel River. Heading first for Eureka, then for Oregon, then Seattle, and then .... well let's not get ahead of ourselves.
We sat and looked at the map at the Myers Country Inn, a few miles north of Miranda. It's a smart place: wood verandas, floral prints, all that kind of stuff. All very North Californian. But Amy didn't seem impressed. "This place is No. 24 in the list of 101 things to do in Humboldt County", I told her. "God help the other 76", her look seemed to say.
We followed the road north skirting Humboldt Redwoods State Park. As you walk by this massive 52,000 acre park, you have to admire the American approach to going back to nature. The campgrounds are all carefully set out with well-kept paved roads for your SUV. There are showers and toilets, picnic tables, and even wi-fi networks for your computer. But, as Amy was quick to point out, despite all the promise of going back to nature and the days of the pioneers, dogs are not allowed in most places. It's because you might chase the Grizzly Bears and give them a fright I told her. She ignored me: she was too busy composing a letter of complaint to Governor Schwarzenegger. It wasn't all endless tree-scapes. Towards the end of the week was a bit of a high spot : the point at which the various forks of the Eel River join together. This is near a place called Duckett Bluff which is noted for .... well actually it's noted for very little other than its bluff. The following day we came to the settlement of Redcrest. Checking out the website to find the scale of the place I was intrigued to see an option which promised me "ten job vacancies in Redcrest, Ca". This sounded good, here was a town of some substance if it could offer ten job vacancies in these troubled economic times. Alas, I was wrong yet again. I should have been suspicious when I checked out the first on the list which was a vacancy for an Army Chaplain in Iraq!
Before the week came to an end we travelled through Engelwood, Holmes Flat, Shively and Pepperwood and there was hardly a wooden hut between them. "They love their names, these Americans", I commented to Amy. She sniffed at something and we walked on. Alone. With just the Eel River and the trees for company.
So we take the story up again where we left off in the tiny Californian town of Miranda. So far we have walked some 600 miles. Only another 3,400 miles to go!
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
The hotel was built back in 1926 and has a rich history. It was built by the Benbow family - nine brothers and sisters - and soon became a popular hide-away for the rich and famous. Guests have included the likes of Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Charles Laughton, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Fontaine, and Basil Rathbone. The Hotel and resort has everything a virtual traveller could desire and Amy was particularly taken with the "special doggie playground and the Salon'd Soggy Doggy™ Pet Wash which is complete with hot and cold water so fido can really be pampered".
Monday, 10 March 2008
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
Monday, 4 February 2008
I explained all this to Amy who didn't seem particularly interested. Indeed, when a train steamed into the depot and caught her off her guard, she launched a vicious attack on it and we had to scurry away and go in search of a more gentle and serene location. We followed the signposts and headed for what has been described as one of the most unique beaches in the world - Glass Beach. The story of the beach is interesting, almost inspirational, and therefore I didn't need much prompting to explain it to my dog (which was fortunate because I didn't get much prompting). Beginning in 1949, the area around Glass Beach became a public dump for the town of Fort Bragg. People dumped all kinds of refuse straight into the ocean, including old cars, and their household garbage, which of course included lots of glass. By the early sixties, some attempts were made to control what was dumped, and dumping of any toxic items was banned. Finally in 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board established a new dump away from the ocean. Now, some 40 years later, Mother Nature has reclaimed the beach. Years of pounding wave action have deposited tons of polished glass onto the beach. There were quite a few tourists around taking photographs of the shining glass pebbles and Amy and I joined in the game. You had to be a bit selective with your field of focus in order to avoid the bits of old car tyres which were also in the habit of being washed up. But the beach is a fine place and a monument to natural recycling. Amy did her bit for the recycling movement by appearing by my side with what looked like a bit of dead seal in her mouth. We hurried on.
Later that same day we waded across Pudding Creek on the seaward side of the recently rebuilt trestle bridge which carries the old Mackerricher State Park road over the estuary. Our old friend Highway 1 was a little to the east but I had decided to stick to the coast as far as possible this week. For the next few days we would be travelling the length of Mackerricher State Park which, Amy was pleased to note, was one of the few dog-friendly State Parks in California. As we walked over the rocky headlands and across the numerous sandy coves, Amy was free to wander - as long as she kept within the legally required limit of a six foot leash. If the truth be told, at one stage, as we approached Lake Cleone, her leash extended to about six and a half feet for a few minutes and we spent the rest of the afternoon hiding behind bushes and living in dread of Governor Schwarzenegger swooping down on us in an helicopter gunship. The northern part of the Park is given over to the less than appropriately named Ten Mile Beach and Ten Mile Dunes. In fact they are seven miles in length from end to end : their name comes from the Ten Mile River which can be found at their northern end. The name of the river comes from the fact that it is ten miles north of the Noyo River which - quite appropriately this time - is ten miles to the south. As usual I explained all this to Amy and, as usual, she preferred to sniff things.
We could have crossed the river and kept our feet and paws dry if we had tracked about half a mile inland and crossed over the bridge that carries Highway 1 north. But Amy knew better and decided to risk wading across what she assumed was a shallow little stream : the result was that we got soaked and when we dripped and squelched into the tiny settlement of Seaside Creek we were a sorry site. The weather was kind, however, and we lay on the white sandy beach until we were dry. The sea and the land, nature and mankind all seemed to be in harmony on this delightful bit of coastline. I lectured Amy about this as we walked north, making several very valid points about love and universal friendship, harmony and mutual dependence. As the lecture drew to a close we approached a marble memorial stone which had been set adjacent to the road a few miles out of Seaside Creek. It celebrated the life of one Randy Fry, an enthusiastic diver and fisherman who died a few hundred yards west of this spot in August 2004. He was eaten by a Great White Shark!
We kept to the main highway as we travelled north and were eventually delivered to the beauty and tranquility of the Pacific Star Winery. Wine barrels line the cliff tops, maturing casks of glorious wine are stored in sea caves within the sound of breaking surf. The tasting rooms are open almost every day of the year and you can sample up to ten different wines - all for free. There are even picnic tables available so you can drink your wine, enjoy a picnic and watch the whales swim by. This really is a little bit of paradise on the Pacific coast. Amy behaved herself and sat quietly and watched the sun set over the Pacific. I just sat quietly and got slowly pickled. If you are ever travelling through Northern California it is worth stopping off at the Winery. If you are not, if you are just driving to work on the A616 through Keighley, it is worth making a detour. We spent the night at the charming Howard Creek Ranch Inn, which was remarkable both for its old world charm and for the fact that dogs were welcome guests.
Our week came to an end in the little village of Westport. A hundred years ago when lumber was king it had a population of over 20,000, now it is home to little more than 230 souls. It's a pleasant enough spot, but - as I suggested to Amy - one could easily get bored with so little to occupy yourself with. However she had spotted a poster advertising the village's famed annual chicken barbeque. She was smitten. If paradise for me had been that glorious winery a few miles down the road, paradise to Amy was a chicken barbeque. As our week came to an end we were searching the lists in Real Estate offices looking for a property midway between village and winery.