Blog .:. September 2014 2 Entries

Sea Lions and Injuries and Bears, Oh My!

22 September 2014 Comments

To recap:

It’s o’ dark thirty.

My friend is yelling out my name from her tent. Has been yelling out my name repeatedly.

Somewhere in the distance, people are yelling.

Once I am awake enough to comprehend all of this, I manage to ask “What?”

Given how deeply I sleep, that practically qualifies as witty repartee.

“I think a bear came through the campground!” my friend says.

I try to process this. She sounds very upset. She’s using the past tense. There are people yelling in the distance, suggesting the bear is occupied elsewhere at the moment. There’s an appropriate response to this.

“Is it gone?” I ask.

In retrospect, that was probably not the appropriate response.

Apparently the bear stopped at the water faucet at the edge of our campsite (where everyone had been washing their dishes, natch), snuffed around for a bit, and then cut straight through the campsite. It stopped at the bear box, which happened to be right next to my friend’s tent. However, we’d kept all our food in the car, so the bear box was empty. It then moved on through the bushes, apparently eventually making it to a campground with more to offer. Or more hysterical campers. Whichever.

After my friend tells me all this, I try to process it. “So it’s gone?” I ask again. I’m trying to make sure I understand the situation.

The bear came, he smelled, he moved on. We’re all alive and have all limbs intact. The people in the distance are opening and shutting car doors and talking loudly, but they have stopped yelling and it sounds like they are taking the time to break camp. Whatever the bear did in their site, I assume no one is spouting blood or they wouldn’t be bothering to take down the tent.

In other words, there’s nothing for me to do here. I can go back to sleep. Right?

My friend is not quite as blase about a bear coming through our campground as I am, but she is calming down and eventually says she is ok. I go back to sleep. I find out the next morning that she does not—she spends most of the night texting her husband. I get the impression he’s not impressed with my response.

But the bear was gone? And I was tired.

Before I left on this trip, there were a lot of jokes about bear attacks on the trail. When people would voice their concerns, I would shrug and point out that you don’t have to be the fastest one in the group, you just have to trip someone else on your way out. But for all my daytime bluster, it appears that I am, ahem, dead meat at night. I mean, I didn’t hear that bear come through the campground AT ALL, and my friend said she called my name out repeatedly before I woke up. The bear could have eaten us both and moved on to dessert elsewhere, and I’d probably still be trying to wake up.

Anyway. We survived, one of us with more sleep than the other.

We spent the next day exploring Patrick’s Point State Park. We split up—I am a fairly solitary person and am not used to being around people on a 24/7 basis. I needed a day on my own to just regroup and chill and be me.

We planned to meet at the beach later that afternoon, and I headed for the furthest point from the beach, figuring I’d work my way from there to the beach over the course of the day.

But first I stopped by the gift shop and front gate to let them know a bear had come through the night before. They thought it was most likely a yearling that had been through a few weeks before, and he was probably circling around again. They’d keep an eye out for him and watch to make sure he wasn’t a nuisance, and the camp host was going to try to track down some of the other campers who had seen him go through to make sure he hadn’t gotten into anything.

Then I headed off to start my day of hiking fun.

At the far end of the park, there’s a steep drop-off to a fairly rocky beach:

I climbed down and began scrambling on the beach—some of it was rocky pebbles, but quite a lot of it was large boulders. It was fun. And I found a turtle:

At the far end of the cove, I hit a point where I couldn’t go any further. At low tide it might have been possible, but I would have had to wade through waist-deep water around a pretty steep turn. The waves were coming in hard enough that I was concerned about keeping my footing—and I had no idea what sort of currents were in the water. I’m a good swimmer, but part of being a good swimmer is knowing when a situation is questionable.

I scrambled back along the cove, climbed back up the bluff, and started walking along the trails to see what else the park had to offer.

About this time I ran into my friend, who warned me that the trail got pretty rough a little ways ahead, and she hadn’t been able to climb up a particular part. When I got there, I saw why—it was an 8 foot or so climb straight up, with very little in the way of hand or footholds. She had been in sandals. I was wearing my hiking boots and had better traction, so I made it up. Not long after, I was rewarded by seeing a bunch of sea lions basking on some rocks—much, much closer than the ones we’d seen yesterday.

After watching them for a few minutes, I moved on, hoping I’d run into my friend again and could tell her to approach this section of the trail from the other direction so she could see them as well.

Not much further down, I hit another open bluff with a much smaller group of sea lions hanging out just off the beach. This bluff was steep but climbable, so I scrambled down and spent some time watching them from the beach.

Then I continued on my way, taking a small detour to climb up to the highest point in the park and another walk/climb out to a large hill/rock that gets used for weddings sometimes.

My leg was starting to bother me, and so I decided it was time to head for the beach—the sandy beach, that is—and just hang out.

By the time I reached the beach, I was having some trouble walking. I was having enough trouble that I was concerned I might have severely strained something during all my scrambling up/down/along rocky beaches, and I might have just killed my ability to to on the Chilkoot hike.

Like many of the beaches we’d been to along the Oregon and California coasts, this beach had large signs warning people not to swim due to strong undertows. The water was also very cold.

I was walking along the edge of the water, just enjoying myself, when I realized the water was cold enough that I could sit in it and let it ice my leg. Or get as close to icing as I could, anyway.

And so I spent the afternoon moving from the water’s edge back on the beach, where the sand was hot hot hot and oh so comfortable to sit on. Ice, heat. Ice, heat. Stare at the waves.

Try not to think about just how much my leg hurt.

Eventually I hobbled back to the campground, cursing myself every step of the way for not bringing a walking stick with me. I hurt, and it was only getting worse.

But as I passed the gift shop, I remembered that we had talked about having a fire that evening. Our campground was not far from the gift shop, and I decided I could make it with a load of wood.

When I finally limped into the campsite, I found my friend starting to get dinner ready and another bundle of wood by the fire pit—she’d had the same thought I had. When she realized I was walking wounded, she sent me off to my chair while she cooked and got the fire going.

She tried valiantly with the fire, but she had some trouble getting the larger pieces of wood to start. She finally gave up and went back to cooking, and I went to take over the fire. In two minutes, I had it roaring. But in all fairness to my friend, she had actually finally gotten some of the larger wood to start and gave up just a minute sooner than she should have. All I had to do was poke it a bit and pile on a few medium pieces to encourage the larger wood to stay lit.

We spent the evening just hanging out by the fire, burning through both bundles of wood, kicking back and enjoying the end of a leisurely but very enjoyable day. Even my leg was starting to recover, helped by some prescription-strength doses of Ibuprofen.

By the time I went to bed, I was hopeful that I had simply overused my leg all day and not drastically injured it.

We were even more careful about cleaning up the campsite than we had been the night before, given the bear visit the night before. But he did not come back. I slept soundly and my friend—if she didn’t sleep soundly, at least she got more sleep than the previous night.

We broke came the next morning, planning a leisurely drive through more redwoods and then down to Fort Bragg and its glass beach.

Tagged: 2014 Redwoods Road Trip, 2014 Summer Adventure, United States - California, United States - California - Patricks Point

On to California: Crescent Beach and the Redwoods (Take 1)

18 September 2014 Comments

We were up and on the road fairly early (in my opinion) or a little late (in my friend’s opinion) the next morning.

We continued our leisurely pace down the road, stopping at various pullouts. We were closer to the California border than I realized, because much sooner than I expected we pulled up to an inspection station. The agent came out and asked if we had any fruits or vegetables in the car.

I admit, I was confused. The last time anyone asked me that was when I was flying to or from Europe. I tried to remember what we had bought when we went grocery shopping. “Grapes?” I guessed. “Some apples?”

After making sure we had bought them in a grocery store, we were allowed to enter California.

For the record, it was harder for me to get past California’s border than it was to get in or out of Canada later on the trip. Just saying.

We hit Crescent Beach around lunch time and stopped in a visitor’s center to find out what was in the area and decide how we wanted to spend our day. While there, I saw the most kitschy “Grow Your Own Sequoia” seed kit ever, and promptly bought one for my brother and his wife. Because they like to grow things, right? So they could grow a honkin’ big tree! This sort of thing is why people are just as happy that I am actually not a big gift giver.

We decided to drive to the furthest point of Enderts Beach Road and then take our time driving back along it, stopping wherever. Then we’d go drive Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. And when I say we decided, I mean I suggested it and my friend, distracted, didn’t hear me. I took her silence for assent, and merrily began driving towards the farthest point. Since we had been stopping at every scenic pullout, she was less than pleased to suddenly discover that we weren’t, while I was zipping along, happily contemplating all these nifty places we would be stopping on the way back.

Communication, people. It helps. Don’t assume silence = agreement.

We saw our first real wildlife along the beach—sea lions basking out on some rocks:

At the end of our drive along the beach we stopped for lunch, and a seagull tried to make friends with me.

However, I knew he was just trying to charm me to get to my sandwich, and I’m not that kind of girl. As we drove away, I saw him sidling up to another group that had stopped to eat. See? I knew he didn’t love me.

We headed towards Howland Hill Road. From the discussion we’d had with the rangers at the visitor’s center, I was under the impression that this was a very popular scenic route. From the near-complete lack of signage pointing the way, I’m not sure if the locals know this… or if they have tracking cameras up to see how many tourists get lost on their way to it.

We didn’t get lost. We just took a wrong turn. Twice. The same wrong turn twice, mind you. I’m special like that when it comes to getting lost.

Eventually we found it. “It” turned out to be an unpaved dirt road, about a lane and a half wide. It’s not a one-way road, however, but traffic flow is managed with lots of pull outs.

There are actually two types of giant sequoias—the Coast Redwoods, which grow very tall but are not very thick (relatively speaking), and the Giant Sequoias, which are the ones that grow very thick but are less tall (relatively). Howland Hill Road goes through an area generally populated with the Coast Redwoods.

This was, hands down, the most awe-inspiring forest I’ve visited. It’s not just the scale of the trees—it just felt like a place where I could breathe and just be. I couldn’t photograph it well (ahem… well even for my general amateur skill level), but it definitely left an impression on me.

We later stopped at a small loop to see—if I am remembering correctly—Tall Tree. I assume that’s the tallest tree in the area. While I was walking the loop, I found Big Foot trying to squeeze between a couple trees:

(If you think that’s bad, just be happy I am not showing you the pictures of the rock I thought looked like a fat guy floating in the sea, or the burl that looked like a dead boar hanging from a tree. I was seeing things EVERYWHERE.)

It was still early afternoon, so we decided to go visit Fern Valley, where they did some filming for Jurassic Park. As we headed towards the canyon, we drove through an area that had so much dust from the road kicked up on the trees and in the air that it was ghostly. Beautiful, but ghostly.

I pulled over a few times to let more impatient drivers pass me. This is only relevant because, after a while, we hit a point in the road where there was a very wide puddle of unknown depth. I contemplated it for a moment, decided that at least one of the cars that passed me was, in fact, a car, and I was driving the Pimp-mobile, which its manufacturer calls an SUV. I’d debate the “SUV” designation, but given the lack of air bubbles coming up from the puddle and/or half-drowned people floating in the water, either of which would have suggested it was dangerously deep, I figured we could cross it safely.

And the next one, too.

I know you’re not supposed to just drive into puddles of unknown depth, but, like I said: the general lack of half-drowned people or stranded cars suggested we’d be ok.

When we got to Fern Valley, we discovered it is a steep, not very wide canyon whose walls are entirely covered by ferns (imagine that):

It was about this point where my fancy new camera’s batteries died and I had to switch to my camera phone. I should probably not admit this, but I have a version of the iPhone that is so old it doesn’t have Siri on it. Let’s just say my photos will be great for jogging my memories and are not so great for sharing.

As we walked along Fern Canyon, we were using small plank “bridges” to cross a tiny streamlet. When we hit one particularly difficult area, where the only steps available were half-submerged and clearly rotting wood, I eyed the situation for a moment and then decided that, you know, the manufacturers of my shiny new hiking boots claimed they were waterproof, and this seemed like a good time to find out. Wet feet beat slipping off one of the questionable pieces of wood and potentially falling face-first in the water. It helps to know one’s limitations when it comes to balancing on muddy, rotting wood. And to have waterproof boots.

The rest of my walk through the canyon was considerably more enjoyable, because I was able to stop worrying about where I was putting my feet and spent more time looking at the scenery.

This is also the place where we discovered that, while I may get lost on paved roads of all sorts, my friend lacks any wood sense whatsoever. Or else she has a natural affinity for deer trails, as she kept wanting to go check them out rather than staying on the main path. I only mention this because it’s so rare to find someone with less navigational sense than I have.

If you’re wondering how the two of us ever managed to get anywhere on the trip, don’t worry—we wondered the same thing. Frequently.

After we left Fern Valley, we headed for Patrick’s Point State Park, where we would be camping for the next two nights.

We got camp set up quickly. We set up two tents—I had brought my tent along to use in Juneau and on the Chilkoot Trail. It is nominally a two-person tent, and my mom and I did share it on the trail, but it’s a cozy two-person tent. So we borrowed my brother’s tent for my friend, giving us both a little extra space to sleep.

But not for long. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up to my friend calling out my name and the sound of distant yells.

I should mention that in college, my roommate would have to practically haul me out of the dorm during mandatory fire drills, because I would try turning off my alarm, throwing my alarm across the room, and unplugging the phone before my brain would catch up with me and I would realize it was the fire alarm.

I am not a light sleeper who jumps out of bed fully functional.

So it took me a minute to process that my friend was calling my name and people were screaming, and this probably meant there was a problem.

My brain finally stumbled on a probably appropriate response. “Whu—?” I tried. And then again: “What?”

Tagged: 2014 Chilkoot Trail, 2014 Summer Adventure, United States - California, United States - California - Crescent Beach, United States - California - Patricks Point

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