Further Afield: Northern California

“Let’s go back,” he said, back to Ferndale.

It’s a little town in northern California – more precisely, in Humboldt County, home of mammoth redwood trees, counter-culture cannabis growers, and (more prosaically, because everything shouldn’t be exciting) dairy and beef farms.

We liked Ferndale last time and we wanted to see the coast again, and the redwood forests so

we planned, we packed, and before we knew it

we were driving onto the Coupeville ferry and crossing over to the Olympic peninsula. It’s a longer route, but so much prettier, and we avoided Seattle traffic. Heading south along the Hood Canal (it’s a fjord!) on a quiet two-lane road, we passed Hamma Hamma and Lilliwaup,

glimpsed a herd of elk grazing by the roadside, then merged onto the interstate (ugh). We powered past Portland and stopped in a town called Brownsville for the night. Google pointed us to a local joint called Kirk’s Ferry Trading Post for dinner. The food went down even better after we watched a vintage truck –

the one we thought was part of the display of vintage tools and stuff –

start up with a groan and a growl and slowly, very slowly, putter down the road. (We noticed the pickup truck owner’s wife scowling as she sped away in a separate vehicle).

1. Parked in front, the old Dodge blends right into the scenery at Kirk’s Ferry Trading Post.

2. A single new wiper and a pair of sunglasses on the seat should have clued us in to the fact that this baby can still sputter. We assume local law enforcement officials look the other way when they see this vehicle.

The next day we crossed the Oregon/California border and sailed down a loopy mountain road in a downpour, finally arriving in peaceful little Ferndale at dusk. Early the following morning I wandered outside where a peaceful, pastoral scene unfolded: the world refreshed by September rains.

3. Rain, rain, rain on the scenic Redwood Highway, where we passed Broken Kettle Creek, Dead Horse Gulch, and Panther Flat but saw nothing but trees and water.
4. The clouds echoed the trees, or the way ’round.

5. Cumulus clouds exploded over heaps of evergreen hills. This is a place where the built environment plays nicely with nature.

6. An almost full moon embellished the bucolic scene.

Contentment worked its way under our skin and deep into our bones as we strolled wide beaches, hiked emerald forests and motored through rolling hills that overlooked the empty Pacific far below. Daily coffee in a laid-back cafe with a workshop where a man builds kayaks anchored us to Ferndale’s gentle rhythms.

We’re home now and I miss this exquisite corner of the world already.

Maybe you can see why.

7. The beach at Ma-l’el Dunes in Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge.

8. Wading in frigid water, exhaling deeply, flinging my arms wide: feeling good.

9. Another day, another beach: Centerville Beach, a county park that was almost deserted on a Tuesday morning.

10. What washes up here is more colorful than what I’m used to. I think this is Feather boa kelp (Egregia menziesii).

11. Dune grass improvises with wind and sand.

12. Looking south towards the Lost Coast from Centerville Beach.
13. Cliffs plunge to the sea at Lost Coast Headlands. Three geologic faults lie just off the shore here, making this area profoundly unstable.

14. High up on a hill overlooking the ocean a cowboy and his two dogs wrangled cattle.

We met a cast of friendly, eccentric characters on the trails, including a 94-year-old man intent on hiking a steep trail connecting grasslands and beach, a woman of a certain age hiking barefoot in the rain with two tiny dogs on leashes and a cat on her back, and a man who seemed to go nowhere without his two cockatoos.

16. Along a trail in Headwaters Forest Reserve.

17. Reflections in Salmon Creek; Headwaters Forest Reserve.

18. A trail leads to an opening in the forest; Headwaters Forest Reserve.

19. The morning sparkled after rain showers at Headwaters Forest Reserve.

20. New growth on a Redwood at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

21. A visitor photographs steam emanating from a sunlit redwood tree named Demeter at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Nearby is “Iluvatar”, the world’s 16th largest tree. It has over 1 billion leaves and is over 1800 years old.
http://famousredwoods.com/iluvatar/

22. Neck stretching at the Cal Barrel Road redwood grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

23. Sword ferns thrive in the shade at the feet of redwood giants; Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

24. Deer fern fronds (Blechnum spicant) arch over a bed of Redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) at the base of a redwood tree; Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

On the way back home we spent two nights on the Oregon coast in the little town of Waldport. More on that later, but here is a view from the beach at low tide one morning:

25. Oregon Coast Moods

This trip went by too fast. I know I’m privileged to be able to spend any time at all at such spectacular places as California’s redwood forests and its nearly deserted northern beaches. Breathtaking scenery lurks around the corner anywhere you look though, if you let old habits drop away and look with new eyes.


64 comments

  1. when I see your pics, dear Lynn, I feel a deep nostalgy, i want to travel those great contrysides, like the old lady with the cat, want to feel the rain and fog in my face and touch the magnificent trees. And than cry with joy when the sea is getting in sight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is so good to hear, Gerda, thank you so much. I can see you put yourself into the story, totally! πŸ™‚ (We enjoyed talking with the woman. Her cat was completely comfortable. I only noticed the bare feet as she walked away. A tough woman! The 94-yr-old man had his dog with him, and his daughter, who is in her 60’s. They too were very strong people).

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    • If you ever consider it, this part of the west coast is awe-inspiring, between the redwood forests and the magnificent beaches. We’re thinking of flying to SF next time and driving up from there. It would cut a day off the travel time, and the first day – between here and central OR, isn’t all that great. It’s the central to southern OR coast and the northern CA coast that are really spectacular. OK, I’ve said enough! Thank you, Penny.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You claim you took a ferry, but I’ve always suspected you step through the back of a big oak wardrobe to get to these places. The old pickup has weathered to a great old-leather state, great to think of it chuffing along into eternity. #5 I love the telephone lines sketched over top of of the scenery, it’s nice to see. And #24 is just fantastic, I’m at a loss for comparison or analogy, it’s just cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I can reveal a tenth of the magic of these places, it’s good, so thank you, Robert. We were completely, happily flummoxed when the old guy got in a drove that truck away. We circled it several times, taking pictures, then we had gone back to our car and heard the engine….surprise!! So funny. I’m glad you like the telephone wires – they can add a lot to a scene, in my opinion. The ferns and sorrel were shiny with rain, and processing brought out the sheen. I know you notice things like this too, so I’m pleased you appreciate the image.

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    • And a few days ago we went up into the mountains because soon the road will close. πŸ™‚ We still want to get over your way – one of these days! It’s nice that you mentioned the forest scene – I did play with the processing there, to bring out the magical feeling. And the fern and sorrel were shining from rain – that was a nother beautiful morning. Thank you, Denise!

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    • He had two and was passing them around a small gathering of people tasked with repairing a roof in a park. The barefoot hiker with the cat on her back was even better at the time. πŸ™‚ Thanks Ken, it sure was worth it!

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  3. This beautiful place is far away, but it is so close to the things that touch me!
    Whether it’s the big trees or the small details, the images just reveal beauty and sensibility.
    I just love the post and photos!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful series this is of such a wonderful place. I love all of the pictures and I understand that you wish to be back there. The scenery, the magnificient trees (1800 years! Incredible!), with the moss and the ferns, that look like from a fairytale! The beach is amazing! 4 and 5 – I love the cutouts and the clouds, 7 + 25 (breathtaking the sky and the vastness of the sea, almost dreamlike), Nr. 16 and the other red cedar trees, are just wonderful. 24 is lovely and touching somehow. I can feel your love for nature there. Very very very nice!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is no way to convey the feeling of being with those tres. people say it’s like being in a European cathedral, but it’s more than that. Still, it’s a similar feeling. And there is a hush – we noticed other visitors also got very quiet. πŸ™‚ And yes, that beach is really dramatic (but unstable, which is why they can’t build good roads in that area, which is why few people live there, which is why we love it!). πŸ™‚ We had interesting weather too, with lots of great clouds, as you can see. That was nice, even if it meant getting rained on a few times. I think you liked this post! πŸ˜‰ Seriously, I hope that one day you can get over here. I know it’s overwhelming to think about traveling to the US because it’s far away, huge and not cheap, but, well, maybe it will happen anyway.

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      • A visit to the US would be overwhelming, because of all these beautiful places – too many!! πŸ™‚ But who knows right. My mother always wanted to see San Francisco and I think she did in her 70ies πŸ™‚ – I am glad you had such a wonderful time there and these lonely places are really a treasure! I will have a late dinner now – have a good day Lynn πŸ™‚

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  5. Love the truck! And ” counter-culture cannabis growers”, are these different then from the ones who sell it door to door? πŸ˜‰ What a wonderful part of the world! I like 4, 5, 18, 19 and 20, but 16 is ohhh!!! A πŸ™‚

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  6. the trees are simply amazing…and I love the single new wiper and all the stories I imagine driving that truck…I love your work…and resisted with my coffee and I always feel like I’m right there…thank you for your teachings Lynn β˜ΊοΈπŸ’›πŸ€“ always appreciated hedy ☺️

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  7. Oh Lynn, how beautiful!

    Especially the sea photos are so wonderful! I think the ocean in the area around Anacortes is great in your pictures, but this is different – you show more space here, the fine sandy beaches are the way I love them, and the light is different … more colorful maybe. What I see really depends on your pictures, you will be able to tell if it was actually another light for your eyes.

    Quite unusual and striking, I find that you have portrayed people so close, you do not do otherwise … but they are so special, bizarre types that you have met.
    Thank you for the great pleasure of being able to take part in the travel – and without using a plane

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    • You’re right, it does look different from the beaches around here – remember that we are far from the coast here on Fidalgo Island. California beaches can be really wide, and the light – I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s a little farther south that it’s brighter and warmer, or because we were on the coast. More colorful makes sense – around here there is a certain kind of prevailing slight darkness, and things tend to be very green, or gray, depending on whether the sun is shining. I didn’t change the colors much at all on the photos.
      I wish I was more comfortable photographing people, but I’m getting a little better. Californians tend to be easy-going, so that helps. πŸ˜‰
      On the way home, we spent a few days further north, at the central Oregon coast, which has its own feeling, separate from California or Washington. One of these days I’ll post about that, too. Thank you, Ule!

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  8. Nice road trip, Lynn. The beaches are nice, along with your foot πŸ™‚ , and I always like seeing what plants to when blowing around like those beach grasses etching their travels in the sand. The deer ferns and sorrel are a great combination. And Fernwood, well maybe you remember this…or not. πŸ™‚

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    • The beaches in northern California – and of course, the redwood forests – are just incredible. We will go back – there’s much more to see. The beaches have interesting features, like dunes, cliffs, and rich estuaries as well as pristine, wide sandy places. The town we stayed in is actually Ferndale, not Fernwood. It’s known for the well-preserved Victorian downtown core. The movies “The Majestic” and “Outbreak” were filmed there but I haven’t seen either of them. πŸ™‚

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    • It’s impossible to convey the scale of those trees, Louis, so if you enjoyed the photos, that is good enough. It’s a memorable experience to be in a mature redwood grove. Thank you!

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  9. In 16 the trees seem to be reaching out to grasp something.
    In 10 I wondered what’s egregious (etymologically ‘outside the flock’) about this genus of seaweeds.
    24 reminded me of the redwood sorrel we saw three years ago in California.

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  10. A wonderful photo essay, Lynn, of this special part of the coast. We love exploring up there!
    Your landscapes are so thoughtful- love the color shot with the telephone pole and fog. Your B&W ferns and the incredible redwoods. Many gems in this series. And the hikers with their expressions!
    Glad you had a great time. It’s got quite a history up there between logging and cannabis. πŸ˜‰

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    • I’m eager to return, Jane, though I think it will be a while before we do. I’m glad you like the telephone pole. It all seemed to work together, so why not, right? Gems abound when you’re walking those beaches and trails, it’s so beautiful. Oh yes, the history! All the tree-sitters and the long history of cannabis farms back in the beyond, and all the characters, with a nice dose of solid dairy farmers to keep it interesting. We had a good time on the way back coming up the southern-central OR coast, too. A guy riding his bike into the surf, barking sea lions…. πŸ™‚ Thank you Jane!

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  12. That’s definitely the scenic route. I had to laugh about your comment on the trucker’s wife – I suspect the truck wasn’t the only thing groaning and growling. I assume the loopy bit of road you were talking about is the stretch running to Crescent City. I did that one years ago during fall colors and it was gorgeous. (I think Oregon Caves is down that way too). As for the Coastal Redwoods and the beaches, they are special places for both eye and soul.

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    • Yes, I think you’re right about the truck driver’s wife AND the winding road – it was a little rough in driving rain, but we’d done it before so I suppose that helped. Fall colors? I don’t think so, it was all gray. πŸ˜‰ Seriously, I only saw evergreens and Bigleaf maples but there must be more colorful trees somewhere along that route. Special places, the coast and forest down there, for sure. And we returned via the OR coast as far as Newport, with an overnight in Waldport. That was nice too. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Otto! It’s so interesting to see how the landscape changes between here and there. We will go back – there is so much to see in northern California, and it’s a very comfortable place to spend time in.

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  13. Ahhh…. such a breath of fresh air after the desert scene I’ve returned from. I really need to get out and catch some of that brilliant red of the vine maples for you when the right light makes it glow. Thanks so much for this delightful view of my world as only you can capture it! I find your posts both inspirational and informative.

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