Saturday, June 7, 2008

Explorations

For whatever reason, I'm getting excited about this camping/caching trip we will be taking this summer. I'm not sure if it's because the price of gas is rising so steeply that this might be the last extended driving vacation I take with any of my kids, or it's because of the added GPS games I've added to my repertoire. Maybe it's because I'm headed back to Redwood country, the place where I went to college, the place that I hold near and dear to my heart, the last place where I would just leave my place of residence and just disappear for a couple of hours, just to be away from it all, without anyone know where I was. At those times, I was truly alone with my thoughts and alone in the world. With today's technology advancements, unless you deliberately leave your communication devices at home, it's harder to do. Of course, with the extra responsibilities that I've added to my life, I wouldn't even consider not taking my communication devices with me, even though they probably wouldn't work.

There are other possibilities as well. For the first time in about five years, I'm also heading to a place that I've never been before, Point Reyes and Muir Woods. When I was in high school two of my school friends and I planned a graduation trip through California with the purpose to explore as much of California as possible. We drove up the coast and spent a couple of days camping at San Simeon State Beach along the central coast of California. This particular campground is just south of Hearst Castle, so naturally we toured the castle. That was the second time I'd seen the castle, having seen it when I was four on our first extensive trip my dad took us on, in his explorations of California.

After that we continued out drive up the coast to Santa Cruz to visit with one of my friend's sister who was attending UC Santa Cruz at the time. We paid a customary visit, crashed at her apartment and then decided the the boardwalk had to be explored. Once on the Boardwalk, the Giant Dipper was beckoning to us. If you've ever been to Santa Cruz, you really do need to take a walk on the Boardwalk. It's probably not the same as it is on the some of the east coast boardwalks, but it's still a lot of fun to explore and enjoy. The Giant Dipper, a 2,640 foot "woodie" type rollercoaster is neither the biggest, nor longest at all, but it still rocks and usually ranks up there in the top ten of classic wooden rollercoasters when these types of lists come out from time to time. I think we rode it 5 or 6 times that evening. I haven't been on it since, but I will sometime.

We continued up the coast, stopping just north of San Francisco, very near where we will be camping this summer at Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Interestingly, this is just over the hill from Muir Woods and just down the road from Point Reyes, yet we didn't visit either one of these places, choosing instead to take in the sights of San Francisco, walking the hills (don't ask why, I'm still not sure myself), taking in Chinatown and exploring the city's main tourist areas. We had also resolved to take in a baseball game and got lucky because it was family day at Candlestick Park, so we got to see a double header against the San Diego Padres. Both games were decided in the ninth inning with the home team winning both.

While the first half of our trip seemed to be dedicated to more cultural aspects of the state, the second half definitely leaned towards the natural beauty of the state. We camped in Redwood National Park. It had been a national park for less than a decade when we visited. We hiked the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and in the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness area of the park. We got pulled over just south of Crescent City by the Crescent City Police, the Del Norte County Sheriff and the California Highway patrol. I'd crossed the solid white line on the right hand side of Highway 101 once too often according to them, so they decided that since it was a slow Saturday night in Crescent City, we were the likely entertainment for that evening. After checking us all out, running license and registration, they let us go.

Our trip eventually took us over to Lassen National Park and then down to Yosemite National Park as well. This was in the days before they had campground reservations in Yosemite, so we literally drove all night to make it to the park early in the morning so we could grab someone's campsite as they were pulling out in the morning. The entire trip lasted close to two weeks and I came home with 2 dollars in my pocket, having spent everything else that I had brought along for the trip. I can imagine that I'll probably spend more, on just gas, during this upcoming summer trip.

The interesting thing about that trip is there are so many memories that are etched into my brain, some of which might seem strange now, but it's all of those collective memories that help me to relive the trip any time I want. One of my friends had never been camping before in his life. He'd never cooked before either so was amazed that I, his contemporary could. I think he might have believed that we were going to survive on cold cereal morning, noon and night, but we ate really well.

Different silly things make up that trip. The flat tire south of Laytonville, the notion that I might root for the Padres at Candlestick and the realization, that even at 18, both young and naive, I was able to recognize the reality that I might get hurt if I openly rooted against the Giants that day. I have to hand it to San Franciscoans. They, at least, rabidly support their team, much like what I've seen happen in sports venues in the east. I can't say that I've ever seen that with Angels or Dodgers sports fans.

As noted above, getting pulled over by all three major law enforcements agencies of the region could be considered a highlight by some. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I understand why. 101 was, at the time, a two lane road, with speed around 55 mph and the possibility of accidents probably caused them to think that we were three teenagers already on a liquor induced bender and so they decided to stop us and check. They were doing their job. The Crescent City policeman who did all the inquiries was very young and he had a partner that reminded me the entire time of a George Kennedy character. They partner even stuck his head in the window of the car and bellowed, "You've been drinking there son?" I smile today with the memory, but didn't then.

Another memory that flashes into my mind is the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store in Chinatown, complete with Chinese writing on the sign. One of the big selling items that many stores in Yosemite Valley sold for many years during the 70s was the famous "Go Climb a Rock" tee shirt. In San Francisco, I found a store that sold a "Go Climb a Street" shirt and found one in Lassen that stated "Go Climb a Volcano." I came home with both of these plus another one from Yosemite to add to my bright orange one that I had purchased the year before.

While driving into Yosemite, I saw my first and only badger. It ran out on the road and I almost hit it before it realized that our station wagon would probably do it much more damage that it could probably inflict on it, so it turned around and scurried back into the scrub on the side of the road. About an hour later, I hit and killed a blue jay that had been feeding on road kill in the road. I can still picture in my mind's eye, the bird as it hopped and then seeing it fly over the windshield after I'd hit it and land in the middle of the road behind the car. Like I said before, it's those silly little memories that make up an entire story and keep the trip alive.

I can remember picking Salmon berries which were growing wild around our campground in the Redwoods and having fresh berries in my cereal for breakfast. I can remember opening up the tent one morning and staring right into the face of a small gray bunny rabbit. We stared at each other for about a minute before it got bored and hopped off. I love those kinds of encounters.

As I look back on this entry, it appears as if it rambles quite a bit and I'm not sure exactly what the point of it is, other than to re-emphasize that I'm looking forward to this trip. It will recreate much of that senior trip the three of us took way back when. It will allow me to share these memories with my son. There it is. Sharing those memories with my son is what it's about. I'll be able to tell him about these things and we'll be able to create new memories in the process. He's turning 13 at the end of the summer. There's not too many more of these memory building trips left. I want to make them count.

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2 comments:

Hick@Heart said...

I remember enjoying listening to my Dad's stories when I was growing up. They were great stories. I remember thinking that I never did things that were as exciting as that. Now I realize I did do exciting things. I did them with my Dad. Now I share those stories with my son. And we are working on his future stories. I'm sure the story of your next trip will be proudly told years from now.

Tee said...

I enjoyed this post so much. Webby, there's a book I think you might enjoy called "The Mindful Hiker", by Stephen Altschuler. He writes in great detail about Point Reyes...I've never been there, but I could feel its very ambience in reading Mr. Altschuler's book. It would be a great addition to a camping trip.

"The Mindful Hiker: On the Trail to Find the Path (DeVorss, 2004), a memoir of [the author's] experiences and insights on a wilderness trail in Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California, was awarded Best Biography/Self-Help and Book of the Year by the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) at their national convention in Denver in June 2005. The book has also been selected as a finalist in the 2005 Banff Book Festival awards, in Banff, Canada, in the mountain literature category."

Keep up the good work; I enjoy it immensely.