Sunday, August 30, 2009

An Incursion into California

Pampas Grass lining the roadway at Big Lagoon, in the Humboldt Lagoons State Park.

Yesterday a photographer friend and I traveled south looking for fun photo ops in what is an undeniably photogenic region of the world.  Our route traced the coast, redwoods, elk habitat, wetlands, and two wonderful cities filled with relics of their Victorian era origins.  Unfortunately -- most of the meandering trip was thick with fog.  Fortunately, most of that burned off by the time we reached Arcata and Eureka.

This is a section of Highway 101 that I've driven many times -- including two trips within the last month -- but have never stopped to explore.  I'm always en route further south, or have other time constrictions.  This trip was all about exploration -- and photo ops, which means we traveled every side road and stopped often. It was wonderful!  Twelve hours of travel, and we didn't even stop at any of the redwood groves.  I'll save those for another trip.

This is also the Big Lagoon.  We stopped beyond the causeway (no stopping on it) and walked back for quite a distance in search of that perfect photo.  I was intrigued with this moody, misty vista and frustrated with my inability to capture exactly what I saw in it. 

This fellow, and many of his relatives, was in the wetlands that lined the other side of the highway.  Hard to photograph with my camera!

As part of our exploration, we opted to see what lay in the small town of Trinidad.  As we pulled off the highway we were met with this wonderful scene of backlit fog in the forest.

Once in town, a little further exploration led us to this little lighthouse perched on the edge of the coast.  I did mention that it was foggy!  I really liked this little town.  The homes along the coast near this monument reminded me of coastal New England, in a way.  Very quaint and charming.  By now it was 11 am, we'd been on the road since 7am and were feeling a bit peckish.  The local supermarket had something cooking in the parking lot and the aroma alone drew us in.  Turned out to be barbecued Tri-Tip sandwiches.  We shared one (they were huge!) and continued on our journey.

Our next stop was the city of Arcata, home of Humboldt State University.  Some friends of mine had recently visited here and reported that it was quite an interesting place, and I have to concur.  You may notice a theme in these photographs: my fellow traveler was in search of buildings to photograph for a photo club assignment and since I love Victorian architecture, this was a natural.  This wonderful home appeared to be in the midst of complete restoration.  From it's perch on top of the hill, the vistas must be superb.  We, of course, saw little but fog.

Arcata has a delightful 'Old Town' area with large town square which on this day hosted the Saturday Farmer's Market.  Vendors lined all four sides, music filled the air.  I didn't buy anything, but the beauty and variety of produce drew my camera like a magnet.

This wonderful old Ford sat on a sidewalk nearby.  Don't you love those old curves?

 From Arcata we continued south to our ultimate destination for the day, Eureka.  A wrong turn fortuitously took us to the marina, home of a very large fishing fleet.  Among the many jewels here was this huge bronze statue dedicated to the local fishermen.

Call me crazy, but I found something interesting in these two guys silhouetted against the marina.  Old-town Eureka is across the bay.  Humboldt Bay is huge, offers all the flat water for kayak exploration anyone could ever want, or all the small-boat sailing.

This incredible bit of Victoriana perches on the waterfront across from the marina.  Now a private club, it was the home of a Mr. Carson, one of the founders of Eureka, built in the 1880's, if I recall correctly.  On the far side of it is a beautiful public library and an original firehouse from the 1880's.  A super public walking/cycling path lay on the water side of these buildings, going I know not where in either direction.

From here we wandered into Old Town Eureka, which is lively and filled with restaurants and shops and includes a boardwalk, although we didn't stop to walk around.  A few errands later, we once more headed north, more or less sated photographically for the time being.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An Afternoon's Drive

A photographer friend of mine called this afternoon to see if I wanted to go along for a drive on a backroad he recently discovered.  He wanted to check the light, so off we went.  He called it County Road 500.  I can't find that on a map, but I can tell you more or less how to find it.  Follow the North Bank of the Chetco  River up a few miles until you reach a 'Y' intersection.  The main road to Loeb Park bears to the right.  You'll take the left road, which goes quite a distance and is a very good road with interesting vistas.  At the end it becomes gravel, but good gravel, and we bore to the left when we reached a 'T' intersection here, followed the road downhill for about 3 miles to a river which remains unknown, but lovely.  Here are the photo highlights of the journey.
I loved this little shed resting in its thicket of trees and blackberries.  I also liked the way the light was hitting it.

The views to the east up here are terrific, even with all the devastation of past forest fires in the foreground.  This was an unusually clear day here for this kind of distance.

At the end of the County Road there is this wonderful river and parking/turnaround area -- but it's all private property, seriously signed and posted.  We didn't think anybody would mind if we had a quick look, and this is what we found.  It's clearly the underpinnings for some long-forgotten bridge.  I wish I knew the name of the river and the history of this bridge.  I'll ask around and if I find anything interesting, I'll report back.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thomas Creek Bridge -- in the Sunshine!

Since this morning dawned bright and clear and I had itchy feet, I decided to give this trail another try. The first attempt back in May was thick with fog, and while those photos had a certain charm, I also knew there were some fabulous views just waiting to be seen on the big bluff. As you can see, I was right! This photo is of China Beach, also the subject of a previous post and only reachable by a steep trail that travels three-quarters of a mile downhill through the forest. Beautiful -- and well worth the effort. By the way, the name of this post is something of a misnomer -- I did not actually hike to the Bridge nor is there a photo here of the bridge. When I first tried this hike, the effort was to find a good viewpoint of the Bridge, which really never happened. I could see the Bridge at one point today, but turns out that it's really not all that exciting to look at -- it's just high. So, go with it!

This is the starting point, and if you blink you'll miss it. Look on the north side of the Thomas Creek Bridge for a wide pull-out. I don't believe it has any signs ahead of time and this sign is shaded. Walk into the forest a short distance and the trail will fork. You'll want to bear left at this point. The other trail is the one that leads to China Beach, and it's not very obvious. You're likely to miss that one if you blink, too!

After a short walk through the forest you will emerge onto this large meadow. Last time I was here, it was filled with blue iris. The bluff in the distance is your goal here, and the trail will lead you there. Just be careful when you reach an intersection and the trail takes a hard left. You want to continue on towards the bluff, not take this left trail which leads to the bridge right back at the highway. If you want to see the bridge, it's easier to just walk down the highway from where you park your car. The wind out here was really strong -- these bluffs tend to be that way!

Once you get to the bluff, this is what first greets your senses (unless you bear right on the loop, in which case you'll see China Beach first). There are no safety rails here, no barriers of any kind between you and -- the rocks below. I'm not normally uncomfortable with heights, but I have to admit that being this close to the edge, on rough ground in high winds, made me just a teensy bit nervous. Not a place to lose your balance -- or drop your camera! I guess it's obvious, but this view is to the south.

I wonder if that tiny little beach down there has ever seen a human footprint? Would be awfully hard to get to!

I just love the character of this bent, twisted and knarly tree that clings right to the side of the cliff.

Isn't this a beautiful place? And almost hidden.

To reach the northern view, over China Beach, you walk through this leafy, shady arbor that seems almost out of place on this worn, windy bluff.

Did I mention that it's a long way down and that there might be a few rocks?

And did I mention that the winds tend to be a bit strong out there?

All in all, this was a quick and beautiful hike that almost anyone without physical disabilities could accomplish. The bluff is actually fairly dangerous, with all the sheer cliffs with no barriers of any kind, so perhaps it's not a place to take your kids. The trail tends to be narrow and a bit rough, but again, doable for most people. The walk to the bluff probably takes no more than 15 minutes, unless you dawdle as I do.