Thursday, April 5, 2012

Looking for the lost coast
Sheltered cove near Mendocino
Heading north from San Francisco, Highway 1 clings to the cliffs of an increasingly rugged and remote coast. Whilst summer must bring many San Franciscans for their weekend escapes to the mutitude of quaint B&Bs, during winter the coast is almost deserted and the quickly changing weather reveals it in all of its manifestations - windswept, sunny, misty and grey, all in the passage of no more than a day or two. Found another backroad to explore, this one taking us along a remote bit of coast  to Usal Beach, the name being an acronym  for USA Logging, a company that spent many years removing the majestic redwoods from this part of the coast. Their presence followed that of the Russian sealers and otter hunters who also over-exploited the resources they sought, to the point of the industry failing. The seals seem to have recovered but haven’t seen any otters, altho there were elk - very impressive when you see them for the first time!

Back road to Usal Beach
Overlooking Usal Beach

Into the land of giants...with Bruckner’s 4th
Moving north along the coast, the dairy country gives way to the mighty sequoia, or redwood, forests - magnificent trees that have drawn people from all over the world to view their majesty, and there is no denying, they are impressive - particularly as our first encounter was accompanied by Bruckner’s 4th symphony playing on local Mendocino community radio - a more fitting soundtrack is hard to imagine. Having left the car stereo behind, however, the forests are strikingly silent. Most of the birds are yet to return from their annual holidays in central America and those that are here are too cold to be vociferously cheerful, except of course for the crows and ravens which seem happy to express their opinions regardless of the circumstances. 

A couple of hikes took us into the midst of these mighty forests, firstly  in Hendy State Park, yet another closed-for-the-season park, where we camped in the day use area, and the second in the Humboldt State Forest where we camped in the Avenue of the Giants. 

Beneath the giants feet...
Not everything is large in these mighty forests:

California - closed for camping
As has been mentioned a couple of times above, it seems that California is pretty much closed for camping at this time of year, partially because of regular seasonal closures, but increasingly because the State is broke and the forestry departments have had their budgets slashed. Consequently they are now either closed Monday to Thursday, closed seasonally or, in many cases, on the brink of closing permanently as the State shuts them down or tries to sell them off. Seems like its OK to bail out the banks and the car industry but not the forests! Makes it a real challenge for anyone wanting to vacation out of peak season. Nonetheless, we are managing to find all sorts of out-of-the-way places that are only accessible with a vehicle that can tackle the snowy and muddy backroads, many of which are completely deserted. Tonight we are camped in splendid isolation near Trinity Lakes in northern California, beneath the redwoods alongside a babbling snow fed mountain stream. 

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