Sunday, 13 December 2009

29 November 2009 : Postcard From Cape Blanco

Click on the postcards to enlarge and read

Sunday, 29 November 2009

21 November 2009 : Postcard From Port Orford

Click on postcards to enlarge and read

Sunday, 22 November 2009

19 November 2009 : Postcard From Humbug Mountain

Click on postcards to enlarge and read

Sunday, 15 November 2009

12 November 2009 : Postcard From Gold Beach

click on the postcards to enlarge

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

5 November 2009 : Postcard From Whaleshead

click on postcards to enlarge

Sunday, 8 November 2009

3 November 2009 : Postcard From Cape Ferrelo

Click postcards to enlarge and read

Saturday, 7 November 2009

1 November 2009 : Postcard From Brookings

Click postcards to enlarge and read

A New State : A New Start

"Don't you think she is getting a little plump?", my wife asked me the other day. "Who?", I replied. "Amy, she's getting rather large around her rump". Amy, our soft-coated wheaten terrier, gave us one of her looks. It was out of the "I have just been grievously offended and it will take more than a plate of chopped-up chicken breast to get me to be your friend again" category. She has an extensive wardrobe of "looks" our dog. "I suppose it's time we started walking again", I said.

If truth be told I knew it was time to dust off the pedometer and start exercising again. Some two and a half years ago, Amy and I had decided to combat the layers of fatty tissue that were attacking the pair of us by taking regular walks. To make things interesting we decided (OK, I decided, but she didn't seem to mind) that we would use a pedometer to calculate how far we walked each day and plot our course along a virtual walk from Los Angeles to California. We would use the rapidly expanding information available on the internet to learn as much as possible of the places we "virtually" traveled through. It would be good exercise, good fun and a decent attempt to discover the limits of virtual travel.

For two years all went well. We walked from Los Angeles all the way up the California coast. We visited places in our imaginations that we never knew existed. It was fun. It was the next best thing to being there. And then we crossed the state line into Oregon and we got lazy. Our pedometer gathered dust and Amy's bottom gathered fat. What we needed was a new start, a nudge in the right direction to get us going. That nudge was provided by two people. It was provided by my wife and her comments about Amy's increasing girth. And it was provided by Tina Lonergan who had come across the Blog which was the record of our trip so far and liked it. 

So here we go again. I have changed the format slightly for the trip through Oregon and the posts will be virtual postcards which we virtually send every few days from our virtual walk. I hope you enjoy it. We might not think it as we trudge along the wet streets of West Yorkshire, but I am sure that both Amy and I will benefit from the exercise. The map above shows our intended route through the southern part of the State of Oregon. Whether we stick to this route or veer off in search of spectacular scenery, tasty beer or succulent chicken will depend on circumstances. Whatever happens, we will try and let you know by sending you a postcard or two.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Week 49 : Smith River To Brookings

Week 49 Crossing The State Line

"Now imagine a California casino surrounded by that magnificent landscape. A casino resort featuring Live Blackjack, Video Poker, Slots and Casino Bingo". Yes, here we were stood at the door of the Lucky 7 Casino a few hundred yards north of the mouth of the Smith River and reading from the Casino brochure. Why one would want to come to where the "giant redwoods kiss the mighty Pacific Ocean" to play on a fruit machine was beyond me, but what the hell, we were in California. Just.

I say "just" because we were now just a few miles short of the long-awaited border between California and Oregon. Amy and I had been walking for fifty virtual weeks and we had progressed up the California coast from our starting point outside Los Angeles Union Station. We had climbed mountains (well, OK a couple of small hills), crossed mighty rivers (via modern concrete bridges, but what the hell) and transversed numerous County lines, but those few steps just south of the Winchuck River were the big one. As we took the momentous step into Oregon, I declared to Amy, "Just two small steps for a man and his dog, but one giant leap for the blog". I thought the words had a momentous ring about them : it was the kind of statement that would live for ever. The implications were considerable : we had left behind California Dreamin', the Golden State, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And we had said hello to ....? I wasn't quite sure, so I quickly Wiki'd Oregon. "It's called the Beaver State", I told Amy. As we walked north up the Oregon Coast Highway our minds were occupied : Amy was working out how to track and catch a beaver and her owner was pondering the meaning of words.

The State name may have changed but the scenery hadn't. There were still trees. Tree after tree after gas station after tree. If you have the mind - and if you have nothing better to do - you can follow this part of our journey on Google Maps as the Street View van has travelled the route. But don't expect too much excitement, there's an awful lot of concrete and wood. Tiring of the concrete, Amy and I left Highway 101 and followed Ocean View Drive which hugs the coast (the Street View van didn't make it up here so you will just have to imagine what it is like). With all the changes, being next to the ocean was somehow comforting. It was still the Pacific. It was still blue. And as Amy discovered as she explored the rock pools near Red Point, it was still wet. 

By the end of the week we had reached Brookings, our first Oregon city. Like so many of the places we had passed through in recent months, it is a timber town, indeed it was founded by the Brookings Lumber and Box Company just over 100 years ago and named in honour of the company President, John E Brookings. There is still a lot of wood around and if you walk down the curiously misnamed Centre Street you can still see the occasional Plywood Mill still in business. So it was with the familiar aroma of sawdust and tree-bark, that Amy and I ended our first week in our new State. Little seemed to have changed. But at least now, when my neighbour, seeing Amy and I on our daily walk, calls out, "Where have you got to?" I can reply with just a little pride : "Oregon".

Week 48 : Crescent City To Smith River

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.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Week 47 : Klamath to Crescent City

"I'm fed up of trees", I said to Amy as we walked north out of Klamath in the general direction of .... well, if truth be told, in the general direction of a lot more trees. We had been walking for what seemed like a lifetime. In our youth there had been Southern California beaches and cities, San Francisco shops and bars. But since we had come of age there had been trees. Big trees, wide trees, straight trees, gay trees. This United States was supposed to be a land of contrasts and natural splendours: a land of deserts, mountains, prairies and cities. But as far as I could tell it was a land of trees.  Amy pulled me to the side of the road so I could look down on the fine estuary of the Klamath River as if to say, "look there, it's a river not a tree, so shut up moaning" But all I noticed were the tree-lined river banks : like someone visiting the Louvre to look at the picture frames.

I cheered up a bit when we got to Requa a few miles further up Highway 101. Here is the historic Requa Inn and I am always a sucker for an inn. Dr Johnson once said that "the tavern chair is the throne of human felicity" and who was I to argue. So I went inside and pulled up a throne and ordered a drink.  Amy was less than pleased as she was tied up to a wooden post outside. The Requa Inn is one of those dog-unfriendly establishments. Amy suggested trying our usual trick of smuggling her in under my coat but she is too fat for that and I half suspect that she has picked up a few Northern Californian fleas of late. Her next suggestion was that we boycott the place, but decent inns are few and far between around here. So she was tied to a post with a bowl of water. 

Refreshed and revived - well I was refreshed and revived and Amy was sulking - we pressed on until we reached the coast at False Klamath Cove. The name seemingly is derived from the fact that early sailors used to mistake the headland for the mouth of the Klamath River. The shore here is strewn with bits of old timber and what might look like - if you had a vivid imagination - old bones. Amy had a good sniff and declared that they were nothing but sea-smoothed branches and I suppose dogs should know about such things. We played a game as we walked along the beach as twilight approached : guessing what kind of strange animals could have given rise to such weird and wonderful bones. I suggested to Amy that one great old log was part of the breast bone of a giant chicken and she got quite excited about the prospect of this for some time. Ah, simple pleasures.

We stayed the night at the stunning Redwood National Park Hostel which is part of Hosteling International. I couldn't find any rules about dogs not being allowed but to be on the safe side I booked her in as my travelling companion and went for the more expensive option of a private room rather than a dormitory.

After we left the Hostel it was serious trees for the rest of the week. Big trees, wide trees, straight trees .... hang on, we've been here before. I said this phrase to Amy on numerous occasions over the next few days, but we hadn't been there before, they were just different trees that happened to all look the same. It was a relief at the end of the week when we came into site of Crescent City. A city, a real city (well a kind of little city, but what the hell). I would give myself a few days to enjoy city life and then press on. Just a few miles further north and we would at long last cross the State line and enter Oregon. "Do they have trees in Oregon?" I asked Amy as we sat on the harbour wall at Crescent City. She just yawned and ignored me.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Week 46 : Orick To Klamath

Leaving Orick behind, Amy and I entered Redwood National Park. Or at least I think we did, it was all very confusing. Redwood National Park was established in 1968 with the joint objective of protecting the old growth coast redwood trees and also promoting tourism in the area. There were a number of State Parks already in existence and these became partly incorporated into the new National Park, but they also retained their individual entities. Add to all this that the area was later designated a World Heritage Site and, even more recently, an International Biosphere Reserve, and you can see how confusing it gets. At any one time you might be in a National Park, a State Park a Heritage Site or a Biosphere Reserve, or all four. The giant trees must get awfully mixed up and it is a miracle that they manage to grow up so tall and straight. We had been provided with a map which marked all the different parks, sites and reserves in different shades of green but eventually Amy decided that this was the cause of even more confusion so she chewed it up.

As we walked along I tried to interest her in the dominant fauna and launched into yet another lecture about Redwood trees. "There are three members of the redwood family", I told Amy : "coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) of the California coastal fog belt, giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada, and dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) of central China". "Which is the largest?", I felt Amy wanting to ask me (sometimes I have to prompt some of her questions as she is not over loquacious in the mornings). "Good question", I answered obligingly. "Coast Redwoods, like these", I pointed to a convenient tree we were passing at the time, "are younger, lighter, but taller, whereas giant sequoias are older, broader and heavier". She looked a little unsure about my explanation. "Think of it this way", I told her, "Guy is taller than you" - Guy is Amy's Great Dane friend - "but you are fatter". Following that little bon mot, she didn't speak to me for the rest of the day.

Not that I minded that much as that particular day we were walking along the Newton P Drury Scenic Parkway, a ten-mile paved road which runs through old-growth redwood forest in the State Park (or the National Park or whatever). As Amy kept a silent look-out for the ever-present Roosevelt elk I mused on the subject of Newton P Drury. If you are the kind of person who wants to leave a lasting memorial when you finally quit the mortal sod, you can do worse than becoming a State or National Park Director. In lesser professions you might get a gold-coloured watch when you retire and a short paragraph in the company newsletter when you die, if you are a State or National Parks Man (or woman) you can almost guarantee a couple of small forests, a woodland glade, and a brace of campsites being named in your honour. 

Old Newton B did quite well out of his ten years as Director of the National Parks Service in the 1940s, he had two redwood forest groves, a 10,000 foot mountain peak and a Scenic Parkway named after him. "What do you think they will name after me?", I asked Amy as we walked along in the shade of the massive redwood trees. She didn't reply - she was still not talking to me - but she stopped and had a good sniff at a steaming pile of elk dung. It said it all somehow.

Towards the end of the week we rejoined Highway 101 and experienced the thrill we always felt when we crossed a County Line. Here we were in the last county in California - Del Norte County - which as well as being the most northerly county is also one of the smallest of the rural counties. During my time in California I had become something of a County bore, carrying around with me a host of facts and figures about some of the more obscure counties that people just did not want to know about. Over the last few months I had liberally given forth from this fascinating cornucopia of knowledge only to discover that people had the habit of walking away from me when I was in mid-sentence. However, I had discovered that Amy could not use this gambit as she was attached to me by a long length of unbreakable twine, and so I once again attempted to educate her. Although this is now Del Norte County (and I should point out Amy that if you want to be taken as a local you should not pronounce the final "e"), it used to be Klamath County and before that it was part of Trinity County. I would like to pretend that Amy fained interest, but - truth be told - she didn't. But if I stopped talking when people didn't show interest, I would have led a quiet life. I continued. "There are only 30,000 people living in the County which makes it about the same size as a half-decent housing estate, but the population density is 27 people per square mile which makes it twenty times less crowded than England". I had just launched into a detailed analysis of voting figures in the County - it was, for example, one of the rare places on earth where more people voted for Senator McCain than Barak Obama in the recent presidential elections - when I noticed Amy trying to chew through her lead. I decided that she had suffered enough so I stopped talking and started whistling instead.

At the end of the week Amy and I whistled our way across the Klamath River and into the little town of Klamath. We were stopped in our tracks - and halted in mid-verse - by an extraordinary sight : a giant fiberglass carving of a bearded logger and strutting blue oxen. Amy gave a low whistle and I barked : or maybe it was the other way around, you get confused after walking through a redwood forest for a week. Which ever way around it was, we stopped to investigate. The statue, it turns out, is a 49 foot representations of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox : heroes of American folklore who did things like create the Grand Canyon (when Paul got fed up with carrying his axe and dragged it along the ground) and cut down the biggest trees in the forest without breaking into a sweat. 

Why exactly these fibre glass statues were in Klamath I wasn't sure but they were standing next to the entrance of something called "The Trees of Mystery Park" so I paid the $11 admission charge (reduced rate for Seniors, dogs get in for free) and had a look around. What we found inside is what the Guidebook calls a "8/10ths of a mile groomed interpretive trail through the awe-inspiring Redwoods of Northern California". I was not sure what a "groomed interpretive trail" was and Amy was getting a little agitated - she thought I had said a "groomed interlaced tail" - but it turned out to be nothing more that a walk passed a series of trees which had names like the Brotherhood Tree, the Cathedral Tree and the Candelabra Tree. It was all very jolly, but the best bit was the 1,500 foot Skytrail cable car ride. As Amy watched the little cable cars lurch into the sky I saw a look of pure panic on her furry face. The one salvation, I am sure she felt, was that there was little chance that dogs would be allowed to ride the Skytrail. How wrong she was. She barked and whined the whole 9 minute journey, but once her four feet were back on solid earth she remained remarkably well behaved for the rest of the day.

It was with a obedient and quiet dog that I sat outside the Klamath Shoping Centre cafe at the end of the week, looking back on our walk ... and planning another week ahead.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Orick : The Bigfoot Capital of America

Sunday 25th January 2009
By Sunday, Amy and I had arrived at our destination, the small town of Orick. The town - if this row of roadside shops can be called a town - clusters around the point where the Redwood Highway spans the Redwood Creek. There's an awful lot of redwood around here and we are only a short walk from Redwood National Park. But in Orick the Redwood tends to be carved into odd shapes and standing outside a variety of roadside stores. Amy found some very odd shapes and after a preliminary sniff, she drew my attention to them. "Ah Bigfoot", I said with my usual pretense of ancient wisdom, wisdom so ancient the Wikipedia ink is still not dry.  "Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch", I recited to a patently uninterested dog, "is an alleged ape-like creature purportedly inhabiting forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid". Amy started barking, but it appeared to be more of an indication of my mental state that a warning against a hairy, bipedal humanoid. The number of large wooden apes lining the street was an indication that Orick is sometimes called the Bigfoot Capital of America : there have been more reported sightings around Orick than almost anywhere else. One feels slightly sorry for Orick : when American small towns gather together for a drink after work and start boasting that they are the World Cucumber Capital or the American Breeze-block Capital, all Orick can claim is that within its borders a lot of people didn't actually see something that doesn't exist. 

Orick does have a good bar and diner however. Hawg Wild Bar and Grill is a renowned bikers stopover, but despite having six legs rather than two wheels, Amy and I were made welcome. Amy socialised with the bar-owners' dog whilst I took a tour of some of the weird and wonderful bikes on display. On the grill a couple of Elk Burgers were cooking and in my hand a glass of ice-cold beer was chilling me out. Time to sit down and work out where on earth we are going to go to next week.


Thursday, 22 January 2009

Stone Lagoon

Thursday 22nd January 2009
Amy has become a keen fan of spit-walking and has insisted that we walk along the coast this week. After my fearful transit of the Big Lagoon barrier, I was marched past - rather I was pulled past - Dry Lagoon and Stone Lagoon, and I have still got Freshwater Lagoon to look forward to. Nevertheless, I did manage to insist on a quick trip inland to get a look at Stone Lagoon Schoolhouse, an iconic one-roomed, red-painted, wooden schoolhouse of the type that once could be found throughout rural America. It is well worth taking the detour to see the school, it looks quite wonderful set against the dense forest and with the ever-present coastal mist sweeping down from the hills. It is usually surrounded by a grazing herd of Roosevelt elk which, to my mind, just add to the overall impression of rural idyll.

Amy didn't share my appreciation of the elk, nor -unusually for her - did she try and chase them. She must have had a frightening experience in a previous life involving elk because she adopted that cat-like, low-slung posture she reserves for when she is scared out of her wits. I ignored her fear as I was determined to get my own back for my hair-raising walk along the sand spit. "There is a distinctive school bell", I told her as I read from the guide, "but the best way to hear it is to go onto the school website and press the button marked "school bell". I was slightly disappointed with this, somehow it didn't seem right. Here we were having virtually walked all the way to Stone Lagoon and we were being advised that we could get the genuine experience by pressing a button on a computer. Seemed like cheating to me.


Big Lagoon

Tuesday 20th January 2009
"It's a stretch of sea water separated from the sea by a low sandbank or coral reef", I said to my dog Amy as we walked north of Agate Beach towards Big Lagoon. We would be having close encounters with four lagoons this week so I thought it advisable to explain the word to Amy as she often had difficulty with complex concepts such as "sit", "stay", and "stop chasing that seagull". I might as well have saved my breath as she took little notice and continued to pull me along the sands even though I protested that our chosen route took us along the east side of Big Lagoon up the great Redwood Highway. Amy had different ideas, she wanted us to walk up the narrow strip of sand and shingle that separated the wild Pacific from the still Lagoon waters. "Hang on, Amy, I'm not sure it is safe", I said as she dragged me north. "Perhaps you can't get through", I tried. She pressed on. "Perhaps it's private property", I declared. She quickened her pace. "Perhaps dogs aren't allowed", said I throwing it my trump card. She trumped my trump so we kept heading up the sand spit.

According to the guidebooks, gold-seekers swarmed into this area in 1849 when discoveries were made along the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Prospectors attempted to mine the sand spits, but managed to extract very little gold despite considerable effort. It was only when we were a mile or two up the spit that I got to the paragraph which warned that particular care was needed as several times each winter the lagoon barrier is breached by waves. From there onwards I kept my eyes neurotically on the waves to our left, imagining with each incoming wave that the narrow strip of sand was getting narrower. Amy seemed relaxed about it and happily ran around searching for gold. By the time we passed the half-way mark it was me pressing ahead and Amy being dragged along in my wake. When we eventually got to the northern end of the sand spit she stopped and gave my one of her looks. It was as if to say, "what's all the fuss about, it was a lagoon, separated from the sea by a low sandbank .... ".


Monday, 19 January 2009

Week 45 : Patrick's Point To Orick

You will recall that Amy and I are speeding north, heading for the County Line having illegally allowed a dog (Amy) to sleep in a hotel room which did not welcome pets. Although we won't quite make the County Line in the week ahead, our route will take us through Humboldt Lagoons State Park. By next weekend we should arrive at the town of Orick .... unless the pet police catch us first.

Patrick's Point State Park

"If there is a dog you particularly fancy, you could get married", I said to Amy as we walked from the Patrick's Point Inn where we had spent the previous night along the path to Wedding Rock. I was wasting my breath as Amy rarely answers me. Also she was sulking as Patricks Point Inn had displayed one of those annoying "Sorry, No Pets Please" signs hanging in its window, so Amy had to be smuggled into my room surreptitiously. Hopefully she left a good doggy-smell to permeate the room, and equally hopefully we will be across the County Line before this is discovered.

Wedding Rock really is used for weddings and one can only admire the determination of couples - not to mention the sure-footed courage of their bridesmaids, ushers, sisters, brothers and maiden aunts - who traverse the rocky staircase up to the rock. This spot has been popular for weddings ever since the original caretaker of Patrick's Point State Park was married there in the 1930s. The State Park website says "it's a uniquely special place to start the journey through life together--a rock-solid foundation for wedded bliss". There were no weddings taking place on the day we visited, and Amy hadn't come up with a suitable mate, and therefore we took the path back to Agate Beach to see if we could pick up a fortune.

We found nothing so we contented ourselves with sitting in the shade of a giant Redwood tree and planning out our walk for the coming week.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

And So To Trinidad

Thursday 15th January 2009
And so to Trinidad ... In case that sounds a bit exotic even for this pair of virtual travellers let me immediately point out that today we arrived at Trinidad in Humboldt Country and not Trinidad in the Caribbean. Nothing wrong with Trinidad Ca, mind you: this little seaside town doesn't need to stand in awe of anyone. Actually, it's not a town but a city, and with a population of just over 300, it is California's smallest incorporated city. Small it may be, but it has two lighthouses, ten public beaches and the gateway to a National Monument within its city boundary. Add to this the fact that many claim that it is the oldest incorporated city in California and that it used to be the County seat of the long-gone Klamath County, and you can see that tiny Trinidad punches well above its weight.

Let's start with those two lighthouses : there is nothing much to choose between them because they both look very similar. Trinidad Head juts out into the Pacific Ocean and its phalanx of sharp rocks and craggy bluffs coupled with the areas natural inclination towards sea fogs leads to a natural hazard to shipping. From the 1850s onwards Trinidad became an important harbour for both the gold prospecting valleys of Klamath County and, later, the lumber industry, and therefore a lighthouse was an urgent requirement.  The Lighthouse Friends website takes up the story :

"In 1866, forty-two acres were purchased for a light station on the southern portion of the headland, but work on the project did not begin until the spring of 1871. First, a road was carved into the eastern side of the head, and then work began on the Trinidad Head Lighthouse, which would stand at the top of a 175-foot cliff. Given the loftiness of its perch, a squat brick tower was deemed adequate. The tower and associated keeper's dwelling, located roughly fifty yards from the tower, were finished over the course of the summer and fall, and on December 1, 1871, Keeper Jeremiah Kiler activated the revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens for the first time".

An important part of the installation was a fog bell which was set into the cliffs some fifty feet below the height of the light. The bell was struck using a clockwork mechanism which had to be wound up by the lighthouse keepers every two hours, an exhausting business.  Electricity didn't come to the lighthouse until the 1940s, but then the old Fresnel lens was removed along with the metal fog bell. It was then that the citizens of Trinidad clubbed together and built a second lighthouse - nearer the centre of the city - to house the relics. This is the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse shown in the picture above.  

As Amy and I stood on top of Trinidad Head we looked out on what is the magnificent California Coastal National Monument for which Trinidad is one of the five "gateways". In all the monument covers 1,100 miles of coastline and some 20,000 small islands, rocks, exposed reefs and pinnacles. Established in 2000, the primary objective of the monument is to "protect the important geologic features and the unique habitat they provide for both terrestrial and marine plants and animals found within its boundaries". This is why, I said to Amy who was getting distracted by certain movements along the cliff edge, you can't chase the birds.

We walked back into Trinidad, it really is a super little town (I can't get my head around the idea of it being a city). Within a few weeks, Amy and I would be leaving California for the state of Oregon. This little town with its rocks and its lighthouses would form just as powerful a memory of the state as would the mighty cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Another Moonstone Beach

Tuesday 13th January 2009
"I'm sure we've been here before", I said to Amy as we headed off Highway 101 down Moonstone Beach Road. The sound of the traffic eventually gave way to the sound of the surf and in front of us we saw a wonderful collection of surf-piercing rocks and near-forgotten rock pools. Amy dropped  her head to one side which made for a quizzical look : she tends to do this whenever I do something or say something she doesn't understand. "Moonstone Beach, Moonstone Beach" I repeat as I flip back through our collected travel diaries. "Ah, here we are, it's just south of San Simeon and we visited it months and months ago". Amy dropped her head a few more degrees from the horizontal plane, which tends to mean "fool" : and in this particular case "it's another Moonstone Beach you old fool". 

We walked on the beach and caught site of Camel Rock in the distance. Named because of its two prominent humps, the rock is a local landmark and a popular gathering point for surfers. The beach is a fine sandy beach and, unlike its Southern California namesake, is relatively unlittered with pebbles or driftwood. After a while we left the beach and wandered up to the Moonstone Grill where we surveyed the menu with much thought. "California Red Abalone medallions lighted coated in almonds and cracker crumbs and served over angel hair pasta in a sauce of chablis, butter capers and fresh herbs" is one of the house specialities but I stuck to good old steak and fries. Amy decided to be adventurous so I ordered her the sauteed duck breast. "Very tasty", I said as I washed down the last of my rib-eye steak with a glass of local wine. Amy gulped down the last of her duck and dropped her head a few degrees from the horizontal plane. Undoubtedly this meant "very tasty"


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Week 44 : McKinleyville to Patrick's Point

Amy and I plan to keep to the coast this week, as we make our way north from McKinleyville to Patrick's Point. The beaches should be pristine, the coves should be craggy and every time we look inland we should see the ever-present tall redwood trees. Midweek we should pass through the city of Trinidad and by the end of the week we should arrive at Patrick's Point State Park.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

McKinleyville Totem Pole

Sunday 11th January 2009
For the last two days we have been walking north up Highway 101 towards our goal of McKinleyville. Someone once asked Amy how we choose our weekly goals which was rather stupid as she is a dog and doesn't speak. If they had asked me I would have said that they need to be about the right weekly walking distance from our starting point and, if possible, there should be something vaguely interesting about them. So what is vaguely interesting about McKinleyville? It has the world's largest single totem pole in the car park just outside Safeway's, that's what.

If you read the notice at the bottom of the pole you will discover that it is 160 feet high, weighing 57,000 lbs and 500 year old. This all sound quite impressive until you discover that it is not alone in claiming to be the world's largest totem pole - there are rivals in both Oklahoma and British Columbia - and it is 500 years old in the same way that my house - which is stone built - is 37 million years old. The redwood tree itself is 500 year old but it wasn't made into a totem pole until 1962. In totem pole terms it is a "celebration pole" and it celebrates the opening of McKinleyville Shopping Centre.  For Amy and I it celebrated the end of another week's walking and for Amy in particular, it posed a challenge of monumental proportions. Now what would any self-respecting dog do to a 160 foot high wooden pole?   


Saturday, 10 January 2009

Humboldt State University

Friday 9th January 2009
Amy and I had carefully timed our arrival in Arcata, a city about eight miles north of Eureka. Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University (HSU) - the northernmost campus of the Californian State University System - and HSU was due to host a concert by the jazz singer Bobby McFerrin on the 9th January. The human half of our duo is a great Bobby McFerrin fan and therefore entered town humming along to "Don't Worry, Be Happy". The canine half kept him on a long leash. But the best laid virtual plans of men and dogs ... and all that. The concert was cancelled due to ill-health and therefore I had to pretend it happened as I listened to one of his CD's on my MP3 player. A pretend concert on a pretend tour - how sad is that?

The cancellation did give us time to explore the campus. The present-day seven-and-a-half thousand student university developed out of the Humboldt State Normal School, a teacher training college established in 1913. It has a excellent reputation as a centre of learning - "Humboldt students are among the brightest and most unique students anywhere", trills the university brochure  - and as a centre for student activism and libertarian views. Architecturally, its most prominent feature is Founders Hall which dominates the local landscape. During the second-world war it was painted in camouflage so Japanese submarines could not use it as a navigation aid.

Today, the university is keen to entice anyone in its direction and I thought I might as well check out the opportunities for Amy (after all she keeps telling me what a clever dog she is). There's a Department of Wildlife Management, I say as I flick through the prospectus. She objects to this and indicates a degree programme in kinesiology as an alternative. "What the hell is kinesiology?" I ask as we walk out of town. I look it up in my dictionary. Ah, yes - exercise science!


Friday, 9 January 2009

Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday 8th January 2009
Amy and I spent yesterday walking up the length of the Samoa Peninsular, enjoying the feel of sand under our feet and the sound of the crashing ocean in our ears. Manilla Beach was windswept, largely deserted and hugely beautiful and my dog and I walked on without a care in the world.  Towards the top of the peninsular the view is spoilt by a number of caravan parks - charmingly known by the locals as the Ghetto By The Sea - but I promised Amy that we would soon be returning to the delights of Mother Nature as we were approaching the northern dunes which form an integral part of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I read from the brochure, trying to transmit my excitement to Amy. "The coastal habitats conserved at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge - from lush wetlands to fragile dunes and jutting seastacks - support an incredible wealth of plants, fish, and wildlife". By then we had reached the entrance to the Ma-le'l Dunes and my eyes focused on that dreadful phrase, "No Dogs Allowed". I tried to explain it to Amy : "it's in order to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure that these rare creatures are safe". She gave me a look of contempt which clearly indicated that she understood the double-standards which us humans are capable of, and cocked a leg up at the bit of the sign which clearly stated that hunting and fishing were allowed! As I have probably said before, strange place this America.


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Samoa Bridge and Indian Island

Tuesday 6th January 2009
Leaving the city of Eureka behind, Amy and I head along Highway 255 which effectively means transversing the mighty Samoa Bridge. Built in 1971, the bridge - or to be more exact, three bridges - provided a direct route from Eureka to the Samoa Peninsular and made the old Humboldt Bay Ferry service redundant. The bridges first of all links the mainland with Woodley Island, then Woodley Island with Indian Island, then Indian Island with the Peninsular.

Amy and I stopped off on Indian Island - or Duluwat Island as it was originally known - to pay a visit to the site of Tolowat village, the ancestral home of the Wiyot Indians. It was here in 1860 that a shocking massacre took place when a group of European settlers paddled over from the mainland and killed about one hundred Wiyot men, women and children. The tragic story of the massacre, of the slow decline of the tribe following the events of 1860, and of the attempts to preserve the sacred sites and the culture of the Wiyot people is told in full on the Wiyot Tribe website. Contributions are needed to help return parts of the island to the Wiyot people : a cause fully supported by these two virtual visitors.