Published July 4th 2003.
As promised last week, here is the rest of the journal notes previously sent to us by Janette. We have had no news since this last communication and can surmise that the daily routine has perhaps been of a more arduous nature of late and has not permitted time for writing and quiet reflection. More is surely to come though. In the meantime, enjoy...
Sunday Evening (6/22).
"at Richardson Grove Camp, a private RV camping park 20 miles south of Garberville,..
Ken Weiss, a reporter with the L.A. Times, and photographer Al Steid, have been traveling with the coast-walkers for part of the journey. They were with us at the start, where we drew a line in the sand to represent the OR/CA state line. Kindly note: correctly it is state line, not a border, which has vastly different political implications... Then with great care we placed our ceremonial hiking stick along the line and each of the ten dedicated members of the Coastal Trail Expedition 03 (short version CTE3) stepped across from OR into CA territory. The beach here is wide and the low coastal cliffs offer no hint of the majestic route ahead.
Ken & Al stayed with us for all of the first week and a little more, ken often writes on environmental issues and is an avid outdoorsman. Al is a marvel of swiftness while loaded down with gear. He carries an 8.5 mega pixel digital camera with several huge lenses and a state of the art Sony digital video camera, plus all his water/lunch etc.
needed for the hike, he hurries ahead of the hikers so he can capture pictures of us as we clamber up steep inclines or slide down, jump across flowing streams, or seek the safer route of stone stepping as in my case. When we walked across the dunes around Crescent City he would take a circuitous route and up would pop his camera to record our slippery progress on the shifting sand. Further south when we walked through the groves of giant Redwoods the trails often switch-backed down to a gully and when I looked across the ravine there was Al, already on the other side, recording our progress through the ethereal, filtered light which makes these trails some of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. Who else walks these trails? I do not know. Certainly not the photographers whose images are offered on most of the postcards available for sale. Often a nice paved highway is featured, snacking between the giant trunks, or maybe a wide footpath with thematic railings alongside. Just in case you are wondering, I am rather a connoisseur of postcard artistry. On important journeys I leave my camera safely at home. That way my eyes are focused on all that is around me and I am not editing the scene in anticipation of ‘a good shot.’
Ken is writing a major (he hopes!) article about the CA Coastal Trail and our expedition for the L.A. Times, and Al’s videos will be made into two 7 1/2 minute segments for their web site, which is part of a free (advertising!) service. I think this will be very exciting because everyone will be able to see the grandest arts of our long walk.
They joined us again for the only backpacking part of this journey, which follows the lost coast (so called for its inaccessibility) located at the southern end of Humboldt County & Northern end of Mendocino County. I have chosen not to do any hikes which require carrying more than a day pack. I have good endurance, but know there is no joy for me when my back feels overburdened. So I get a few days off and am driving a mini-van belonging to Richard & Brenda Nichols while they lead this part of the hike. I was able to hike one of the days when Mel could get the ‘Mel Mobile’ into Shelter Cove to resupply the group.
Al & Ken hope to return for a few additional days as we journey south, and be with us on Sept. 22nd for the big celebration at the Mexican border where we will ferry across the Tijuana River (at least that is what it says in my private itinerary). So look for Ken’s write-ups in the L.A. Times and Al’s work on their web site.
Our guides have been interesting and varied. Most days we have had a different person. Some days one in the morning and a replacement in the afternoon. Jim Barrett is an avid kayaker and hiker, with a lanky body, wide-brimmed hat and tall hiking stick he leads a steady pace over the dunes and meadows north of Crescent City, where he lives. Humble & inquiring, often he would stop and draw our attention to a particularly beautiful-sight. A stand of trees, the rolling dunes, a wide open marsh land with a trail snaking into the distance.
And when we reached a tranquil lake he would say with poignant sorrow in his heart, ‘Why can’t a lake just be enjoyed for itself?
Just as a lake? Or any other place of profound natural beauty? Why does man need to turn such places into developments often driven only by a profit-motive from investors who frequently do not live, nor intend to live, in our community?’ His words, spoken in their authentic setting, had a particularly memorable quality for me even though their sentiments are familiar.
Our guide the next morning along the dockside of Crescent City to the southern edge of town was a lesson opposites. Stocky, proud and certain, Beverly had continued her life as a fisherman after her fisherman husband had died. Now she is retired from the sea but continues her involvement as a member of a fisherman’s Safety Panel sponsored by the Dept. of Fisheries, this involves flying to Washington DC a few times a year, but only to be involved in marine safety issues she repeated often…
In Del Norte and Humboldt counties strong tides often move the fine beach sand to form sand spits at bays & estuaries. These spits are sometimes many miles long and when they end the hiker can no longer proceed without assistance. Six times so far we have been ferried across open oceans, wide quiet backwaters or deep, fast-running rivers. Our first journey was with the local game Warden from the Dept. of Fish and Game. He cut a rugged figure with a mass of grey curls billowing around his baseball cap. A red padded jacket accentuated his burly torso & grey waders left no doubt of his watery territory. He transported us in an air boot, imported from the Florida Everglades.
These are exceedingly noisy (we all were loaned fat ear muffs) but highly impressive with their flat bottom which allows the craft to negotiate the slick grassy banks adjacent to the waterways. I think he showed off a bit, but we were all enthralled and entertained. Quite a contrast was our next ride in a traditional wooden dory type boat. It was delightful to be rowed across the water with the even, rhythmical strokes of a skilled oarsman. We enjoyed one other man-powered crossing (or should I say woman powered). Berti & her partner carried their canoe over the dunes and paddled us three at a time across the mouth of the Mattole river.
These two women are tough, humorous and living a life of retirement which many would envy. Needless to say, two of our stronger men carried the canoe back to the truck & loaded it on the roof rack. The two women outdid themselves by barb-b-cueing our evening meal and getting up in the morning to cook us a special breakfast of ham, eggs and toast. Even by Coastwalk standards I would say it was effort above & beyond.
The other rides were by various forms of open craft powered by inboard or outboard motors. As we traversed the mouth of the Klamath River we saw sea lions standing up on the river bank waiting for their evening meal of salmon to swim by. Our boat man pointed out a golden eagle, perched on a dead tree branch watching all the action, that evening we also dined on fresh salmon, expertly prepared by our host at Kamp Klamath. The cutlets had been marinated in a secret sauce which, when lightly bar-b-cued, imparted a savory crust to the moist fish inside.
The most jolly boat ride was on the afternoon of our entry into Eureka. We hiked to the Coast Guard Station at North Spit and as we arrived we saw ‘the Madaket’ approaching. We hopped on board for a ride around Humboldt Bay and a triumphant welcome at the new Eureka Marina by the historic district. The Madaket is an adorable, small, narrow tug boat which has been restored with bright blue and white paint work and lots of varnished wood details. The mayor, and many other dignitaries joined the locals in a formal welcome. The Red Hat society ladies were also present & gave each of the Coastwalkers a balloon to carry …"
And so it goes, life on the trek along the California Coastal Trail...
June - Sept 2003