Sunday, January 7, 2007

More winding roads

The Last Chance Section of the Coastal Trail
Redwood National and State Parks
Crescent City, California

Crescent City is not known as a gastronomic paradise, but there are a few restaurants that are worth a visit, so when my friend Bear invited me to join him for Sunday brunch at the Surfside Grill, I happily agreed. I’ve wanted to try their brunch for several months, but the first time I went by it was 11:00, I was hungry, and the sign said they opened at noon. Unfortunately hunger won out and I ended up at Denny’s. In early December, I attended the symphony concert with my friends Steven and Carl, and afterward we headed to the newly opened Ambrosia Grill, but it was closed. Surfside Grill, however, was open, and we had a delightful dinner. This morning, knowing that we wouldn’t get into the restaurant before noon, I agreed to pick Bear up at 11:45.

When the morning dawned dry, if not sunny, I packed Gypsy and the camera gear in the car. My thought was that I might grab some shots before breakfast, so I headed for the south side of Crescent City—Endert’s Beach to be exact. Endert’s Beach is the southern end of the crescent shaped bay that gives Crescent City its name. It is also the viewpoint where my favorite area photograph was taken—one where the Battery Point Lighthouse and the St. George Reef Lighthouse appear to be close together. I wanted to see if I could even begin to duplicate that shot. Admittedly, in order for the two-lighthouse shot to work, you have to have a much longer lens than I own, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

Only once before had I visited this area, and then I never left the flat land adjoining Crescent Beach. This morning, I drove to the end of the road—a road that must be an older version of US 101. Turning off 101 at Endert’s Beach Road, I drove for a couple of miles, passing a very small brown sign that read “Redwood National and State Parks.” So much for the entrance gates at West Yellowstone. If you blinked, you’d never know you were now in one of America’s National Parks. Passing the trailheads leading to the beach, the road leaves the coastal plain and starts climbing. Perhaps a mile further on, you reach the end of the road, and a beautifully landscaped parking and viewing area. Gypsy immediately jumped out of the car and went to investigate, while I gathered my camera gear. A trail leads on from the parking area, posted with several signs indicating that even on a leash, dogs are not welcome. Now personally, I can’t imagine how anyone could object to Gypsy, but not wishing to incur the wrath of any Park Rangers, I cajoled her back into the car, where I left her crying while I went off in search of the perfect shot.

Now if you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll recall that yesterday I said I didn’t need any more seascapes. So where am I but on the shoreline. And what a wonderful shoreline it is. I used to say that living in Montana, the two things I missed from California were my mother and the ocean. In January 2000, Gary and I headed out to a New Image National Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida. Sitting in our motel room, looking out over the Atlantic, I realized that it was not the ocean I missed. It was the Pacific coast of California and Oregon. I just can’t get enough of it. Even now, having spent the past 11 months on the coast, I never tire of it. It helps that we haven’t had the torrential rains I remember from my college days. But sun or fog, mist, haze, overcast skies, the coast is ever changing.

Having enjoyed the viewing platform built out over the cliffs, I headed back to the car and beyond—going through the stile and heading down the Coastal Trail. A sign informed me that I was on the “Last Chance” section of the Coastal Trail—which means, I presume, that there is no trail north of here in California. Of course, there’s only about twenty miles left in California at this point, and most of that is coastal plain and urban sprawl. Another sign told me that “Nickel Creek C.G.” was a half mile ahead, and that I’d meet US 101 after 6 miles of hiking. Now remember, I had a brunch date, so hiking 6 miles to 101 and 6 miles back was out of the question. But the chance of seeing a Coast Guard station, even an abandoned one, was certainly worth a ½ mile trek. The trail was exactly the kind I love—wide with gentle slopes, and the occasional PRECIPITOUS DROP where most of the trail has fallen into the sea. In short it’s one of those trails where you can walk and dream, as long as you keep one part of your mind open to the chance of nightmares. Lots of rocks along the way, and lots of trees. Of course there was a whole ocean of water—so my favorite photographic subjects were plentiful. And in no time, I had snapped 75 shots of trees, rocks and water. Some of them are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. Eventually I reached a cross in the road with signs pointing to the “Coastal Trail,” the “Creekside Trail,” the “Beach,” and the “Camp Ground.” Oh, that’s what the C.G. meant. It’s not a Coast Guard station at all. Well, I am in a National Park.

At this point, I knew I’d have to turn around if I was going to pick up Bear at the appointed time. But maybe just a little way up the creek. OK, got some shots of the creek and the velvet covered tree trunks. Well, maybe just a few steps further up the Coastal Trail. Aha! There’s the view of the waterfall I wanted to get. Well, I can’t go to the beach, and besides, it’s high tide. There is no beach, but maybe if I walk down the trail I can get some different shoreline shots. Oh what the heck. The beach is right there. Go look. And yes, as I walked back from the beach, I stopped to check out the camp ground as well. Nice place. I recommend it. In fact, I think I may have to camp out there myself one day soon.

Rock and wood. Two of my favorite subjects.
I thought this looked rather like a dog with a bone.
Endert's Beach, Redwood National and State Parks
Crescent City, California

By this time I was seriously in danger of leaving Bear standing by the side of the road wondering where I was. Yes, I do have a cell phone. You may call me at that number any time you wish. If I’m not in the car, however, I won’t get your call because I never take the phone out of the car. I’m at least a half mile from the car, a half mile of uphill trail. The car is at least six miles south of Crescent City and Bear is at least four miles north of Crescent City. I have twenty five minutes to cover this distance. Will I make it?

Well, yes, I did. Once I reached the car, I called Bear and explained that I might be a bit late. As it turned out, I was right on time. Bear climbed in the car and we headed to the Surfside Grill where the sign now read “Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.” No brunch today. Damn. Well, how about the Ambrosia Grill. No, it too was dark. I know, the Grotto. But, once more the lights were off and no one was home. We ended up back at the Northwoods where we had not enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. Bear had been so displeased with his turkey loaf and moistened crouton holiday dinner that he made sure the waitress knew he was not a happy camper. But that was then, this is now, and the Northwoods, seemingly alone among Crescent City restaurants, was open for Sunday dinner. And it was good. We both chose the almond-crusted halibut with raspberry pepper sauce. I can heartily recommend it. Dinner finished, I returned Bear to his cave and homework, and headed back south of town to see if I could catch some surfers in my lens.

I have no idea how long I spent on the beach happily shooting away. Got some fun shots, some not so fun shots, and wet shoes, socks, jeans. Well after all, if you’re going to be standing on the beach with your face in the back of a camera, the breakers are going to get you. Once I accepted that, and stopped trying to dance out of their way, everything was fine. I thought I’d get my sneakers wet and I was ok with that, but the waves were a little larger than I had anticipated. Oh well, I haven’t rusted yet. And I came away with 103 shots of sun, sand, sea, and surfers. Most of which will be ignored from this point forward. Considering that by this time of the day I was shooting almost directly into the sun, and considering that the tripod was in the car and not planted in the shifting sands and seawater, I think my hand-held surfer shots came out pretty well. Now with a longer lens…..

Surf's up. Wrist is limp. Yes our surfers wear wet suits.
Crescent Beach, Crescent City California

Well, one last venue to check out. The harbor is always good for a shot or thirty. I love photographing the boats, and you never know when a gull is going to decide to entertain you. I grabbed some shots of gulls, sea ducks, a couple of seals, and lots of boats. I even got some shots of a novel way to walk the dog. Hearing a honking horn, I looked up to see a pickup truck on the beach and a dog running madly away from it. As I watched, the truck picked up speed, chasing one dog while another ran behind. When the truck got to my end of the beach, the driver made a U-turn, and headed back down the beach, this time with both dogs in hot pursuit. Hmm, wonder if Gypsy could keep up with the Volvo???

As I was watching the harbor, I caught a glimpse of a gull landing on a boat and picking up something in its bill. I started shooting, caught the bird as it rose off the water heading toward the dock, and then watched and shot as the gull enjoyed his Sunday dinner. Who knew that starfish were edible? Don’t think I’ll try it myself, but as I watched, that bird ate the whole thing. I can’t believe he ate the whole thing, but I have it fresh from my camera. So, next time you’re on the beach and hungry… Let’s just leave it at that.

Many parts of a starfish are edible.
Thank you Ewell Seagull.
Crescent City Harbor

Weather: Morning overcast clearing to sun and blue sky, 50 degrees
Number of photographic images taken: 252
Happy Camper Index: 10+ on a 1-10 scale

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