After a couple of weeks of fun in California, we ended up near Waldport on the Oregon coast where we spent a few relaxing days on a sunny sand-swept beach with my sister Maggie, brother-in-law Tom, and our friends Ken and Noreen. From there I’ve come to the Cascade Mountains near the Columbia River valley in west central Washington State where my sister lives. I’ve been visiting these parts for close to thirty-five years, since Mag and I came to pick pears and apples in 1976 when she ended up pairing up with apple-picking Tom and stayed.
This blog left off with Laurie and I rain-soaked in northern California. Being in those redwood groves was a blessing, especially in the sacred old-growth forest of the Jedediah/Smith River area. I have wandered in many forests of various types, but there is something about walking through those woody mammoths’ legs – so still, so serene – that is prehistoric, primal, and increasingly precious.
We watched the waters of the Smith River (the last of the undammed salmon rivers on the west coast) rise in the endless downpour and had our plans to go on a longer hike or follow the shoreline wash away. We didn’t mind though, as we were happy to see that moisture after experiencing the drought-like conditions in the rest of California.
We spent a few days in sunny but chilly Arcata in Humboldt County, home of redwoods resistance and activism. It was our base camp for Laurie’s work and my book talks. We stayed in another VRBO house with a view of a young redwood stand on the hill behind us, a lone palm tree poking above the domestic northern trees (waving at me, I’m sure), and a wealth of wisteria in full purple regalia all around the house.
At my Strawberry Creek Friends talk a few days earlier I met a wonderful woman named Carol Mosher. She helped to arrange a book talk in Arcata and also did some networking for my talk that was coming up at San Francisco Friends Meeting the following week. When you are counting on the assistance and generosity of others to promote your book, it is a gift when a stranger reaches out and makes suggestions and follows through, doing whatever they can to help you make connections. Carol was one of these people, no longer a stranger, now a friend.
As we went from task to task, Laurie and I had a super road trip through north western California. We called in on her friends in Mendecino County – great people, great stories, great dogs – especially the black dot dog, which hogged every picture and was keen to join us on the Walking with Wolf tour.
We went down to what we thought was the Mendecino blow hole (highly recommended by a woman in Monteverde), but upon further discussion, I think there may be more than one and we weren’t at “The” Mendecino Blow Hole. But true to the name, I just about got blown off the cliffs. Except for when we were protected at the base of those big redwoods, we spent a lot of time in heavy winds on the Pacific coast.
I spent a night with a couple, Kate and Lars Larsen, who I had never formally met before, but they graciously hosted me in their home in Fort Bragg. They had a number of Friends over for a potluck and to listen to the Wolf story. Kate and Lars were super hosts and full of questions about Monteverde where they had spent a year back in the late 90s and many vacations since. The community had embraced them and they are anxious to return. Once again, I was overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness – and also really enjoyed reminiscing and laughing with them. Lovely folks.
I also did a talk in Arcata for another family of ex-Monteverdians. Andrea Armin and her daughter Rose hosted a potluck gathering of Friends. Once again I received a warm reception. I know that all those beautiful photos, along with getting updates and email addresses for old friends in Monteverde, was enough to push Andrea and especially Rose into planning their return. You can take the person out of Monteverde, but you can’t take Monteverde…well, you know the rest.
The other talk I did was in downtown San Francisco for the Quaker meeting there. I was assisted in the organizing there by Rolene Walker who has just completed a walk for peace and the environment from San Francisco through Central and South America to Chile. Her dedication and spirit is admirable – her blog is at –
- she is writing a book about her experiences which I look forward to reading.
At the San Fran meeting, I had the pleasure of talking to John Standing, a second cousin of Lucky Guindon’s. I’ve found that at any given talk there are usually people who have lived in Monteverde and often those who are related to someone in Monteverde. It gives me the chance to listen to more stories and share some that I already know.
A familiar face came into the room while I was talking – it was a man I had met a few days earlier, Dennis, a good friend and colleague of Laurie’s. He didn’t know I’d be there, and I didn’t know he’d arrive to lead a meeting in the same building, but in that big Bay Area, it was nice to recognize someone when they came in the door. I was especially proud of myself that I remembered his name!
To accomplish all my plans, it entailed a couple of days of serious driving on my own. Luckily, the weather was beautiful, the roads weren’t busy, the scenery was stunning. I drove Highway 20 out of Fort Bragg very early in the morning and caught the fog rising around each corner, unveiling the vistas across the forested valleys.
I passed the vineyards and orchards, quaint old wood buildings and split rail fences with a reddish tinge, awe-inspiring scenes around each corner.
I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge – twice! – observing that there were almost more pedestrians than cars – and through downtown San Francisco, but it was Sunday and not too bad for traffic at all. I was quickly back out in the country and headed back to Arcata, Laurie and the big trees, kept safe by a guardian angel.
We hunkered down in the log cabin on the Smith River, warm by the fireplace while listening to the rain fall, discussing academia, activism, and relationships.
As we made our way north to Oregon, we met up with a number of street people – highway people actually. California proved to be a land of sharp contrasts and great diversity.
And then we were in Oregon. Driving up Highway 1 along the coast, I was appalled at the industrial landscape – the hills were all in various stages of clear-cuts – from recently slashed to twenty-year-old or more tree plantations. The Pacific Ocean rolled wildly to the west as we became aware of the lack of wilderness to the east, mostly barren or replanted rolling hills with the souls of lost forests hovering. Scotch broom, an aggressive invasive plant thriving in disturbed areas, was covering the roadsides, choking the fir trees and spreading throughout the clear cuts, even heading into the sand dunes. Because the plant was in full flower, with bright yellow pea-like blooms, it was possible to see how far it had spread. There was very little natural looking about the landscape of southern Oregon, until we got north of the Eugene highway where the forests seemed to have been either left alone or not logged recently.
Three days passed quickly on the beach. The weather changed as regularly as the hour, allowing us some time outside in the sunshine or around a campfire at night between bursts of rain and howling winds.
We were in a house located right at the mouth of the river and each day we could watch a large herd of harbour seals sunning on the shore. However nature isn’t always fun and games.
One morning we realized that there was a baby seal that had come ashore right in front of the house, separated from its mother and left by the receding tide. When I noticed a raven starting to peck at the injured yet alive seal pup, I took up my post for about three hours and kept the seal safe from the eagles, ravens, gulls and vultures, hoping it would return to sea with the high tide and rejoin its mother.
Unfortunately the seal didn’t survive, but nor was it pecked to death. At one point, a bizarre looking sea lion walked out of the sea onto the beach, its nose in the air, heading towards the dying seal pup. It then stopped and lay down, halfway to the corpse. Not long after, another sea lion came out of the sea and seemed to catch its attention, beckoning it back into the water. We watched fascinated as the sea lion turned around, perhaps disappointed, and walked back into the waves. Between the seals, sea lions, osprey, and other birds, there was never a shortage of entertainment on the beach
It is nice to have some time to spend with my sister and brother-in-law. Laurie stayed for a day on the coast and then had to carry on with her own work. We had a great time together and I know that I saw a part of California that I wouldn’t have found on my own.
It was also super to spend some time with our old friends Ken and Noreen who now live in Eugene. After the beach, we went to their home for a couple of days, where I spoke to the Eugene Friends.
I’ve got a few weeks here with Maggie and Tom, picking morels, visiting friends and doing a couple of book events, wandering in the mountains and seeing some more of the beautiful west coast before heading inland – way inland – and home.