Monday, June 25, 2012

Countdown to Africa

All my bags are packed,
I'm ready to go.
I'm standing here.......

In reality the bags are half packed.  This afternoon I am going to spray my clothes with mosquito repellant, a type that lasts through 6 washings, in preparation for entering malarial areas on the safari.    But everything is selected, laid out and ready to go into two small bags.  One is carry on size, but will be checked due to the carry on limitations of carryon on Emeriates Airlines.   The other will be my photo daypack.   If that is overloaded with electronics, some will go in the photo vest I plan to wear onto the plane.  

Chris will drive us to the San Francisco airport on Saturday.   We are packed for three climates; very hot Dubai, cool and wet Cape Province and dry game safari areas which will be nippy in the mornings but shirt sleeve weather mid-day.  Won't be as nippy as my early morning starts in Yellowstone so I should handle this part fine.

This is a big adventure.  A couple of days in Dubai, then on to Capetown, South Africa.   We will spend some time in Cape Province, and then head to a couple of private reserves which border Kruger National Park.   I am traveling with my two second cousins, Bonnie and Sharon, and a group put together by a professional associate of Bonnie's.  There are 12 of us, and Bonnie knows most of them.   I hope to update my blog as I travel so keep an eye here for stories of our adventure.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Behind the Redwood Curtain

Humboldt County, on the north coast of California, is my old stomping grounds.  I was as student at Humboldt State during its greenest days in the early 1970s.  Those of you who remember those days will understand the "green" to refer to a  triangle (or at least a variation on the word green) and not ecology.  But the community of Arcata is now an example of one of the environmentally greenest communities in the country.  

With a spectacular natural environment, the advent of the first Earth Day set things in motion.   Major recycling, a curriculum with emphasis on the natural world, a world renown  sewage treatment plant and a college campus dedicated to sustainability, are evidence of this green attitude.   The college is involved in research in many environmental issues.  The students, despite the high costs of education, voted a special fee upon themselves to help attain the goal of a solar\sustainable campus.  The sewage treatment plant uses natural ponds as its tertiary treatment, a move that saved the taxpayers money, enhanced the migratory water bird environment, and made news among water treatment plants worldwide.


But the  north coast is more that that.  The region is home of the redwoods and includes the Redwoods National Park, just north of where we were staying.   It boasts a spectacular, rugged coastline.
My trip was an almost three week journey, with stops in Petaluma, Ukiah, Eureka and in the driveway of Bruce Haston, one of my college professors, mentor, and  writer of many recommendation letters for me over the years.   Chris flew in to the tiny Arcata-Eureka airport, which is located in neither of those communities, but in McKinleyville to the north and a 15 minute drive with no traffic from Bruce's house.  

Trillium's were blooming on the damp forest floor.

Chris and I spent a day at the Kinetic Sculpture race, touring Arcata, Eureka and the Somoa-Manilla area, a large sand spit which encloses Humboldt Bay to the west.   The next day, in thick fog, we headed to the Redwoods National Park.    I hoped that the rhododendrons would be blooming in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.   Some of them tower 40 feet above the trail.  But they weren't in bloom yet.   Still, it took us hours to traverse the trail as we stopped to photograph the giants, dew drops on vegetation, talk with a couple of other photographers, and enjoy the day.    The fog broke before we were through, but we enjoyed the fog, an aid to photographing in the redwoods.  And by hurrying Chris at the end, we managed to get to Fern Canyon for the final part of a long day of photographing.

White Trillium.

A young visitor on the trail

The large leafed plant in the foreground is a rhododendron.  Unfortunately they were not in bloom.  The grow up to 40 feet high, but are still dwarfed by the coastal redwoods.


     The final photo in this blog is of the rugged northern California coast.   Although there are protected coves and a few long sandy stretches, such as the views of Agate Beach in the blog labelled Fern Canyon and Patrick's Point, most of the region is rocky, rough and more like this view.
      The ceanothus was blooming, the blue flowering bush in the foreground from this view from the Luffenholtz Beach overlook.  Storms have washed this staircase out as well as the one at Patrick's Point.   The beach is no longer accessible.  Back in my college days this was a favorite spot for collecting driftwood for making mobiles and sand castles to decorate dorms.

View of the Humboldt County coast from Luffenholtz, south of Trinidad.

Fern Canyon and Patrick's Point

     Our day in the Redwoods included beautiful Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek State Park which is enveloped by the National Park.   The first time I drove the road to this spot, several miles through redwoods today, there was little greenery to be seen.  In reaction to the creation of the Redwoods National Park, logging companies clear cut right up to the park borders.  In a few instances they miscalculated and cut within the park.    It was ugly.
    But 40 years later, while there are no large trees along the route,and there are stumps if you are looking closely, there is a forest again and it is looking like a park.   It will be a long time until it looks like it did before the logging, but the healing has begun.
     Fern Canyon is a narrow slice where the creek has cut through for ages.  Trees along the top, impacted by the wet climate and winds from the coast periodically fall into the canyon.  In time the canyon will become a valley, but not ln my lifetime.  Perpetually moist, water seeps from the canyon walls watering the many species of ferns.   The creek flows year round, but once the water level is down, park staff place portable plank "bridges."  Even then, it wasn't possible to traverse the canyon without getting our shoes wet.   So be it.   Small price to pay.   Chris had never been there so it was fun to see his reaction.  The canyon meets the beach at Gold Bluff, an area of limited gold mining in the early days.   Prospectors on the Trinity River did much better finding the treasure.

Walk into Fern Canyon

Five Fingered Ferns (an yes, I count more than 5 fingers
cascade down the steep canyon walls.
We visited Patrick's Point State Park where I lived\volunteered for a summer and part of another. The path down to Agate Beach has washed out. It was a popular spot for locals as well as campers. The beach is still accessible from the north, but as visited as it once was, even with the long climb up and back. 

Here is the view from the edge of Bruce's property looking south along Agate
Beach and Patrick's Point State Park.  Bruce, from the other north coast blog, was one of my professors when
I was in school at Humboldt State.

This is the view from the top of the cliff within Patrick's Point State Park
 looking down on
Agate Beach.  Bruces' house, where I parked the
motorhome is along the bluff to the right, about where it dips down in

   Within Patrick's Point State Park is Sumeg Village.   This is a re-created Yurok village.  Built by the local Yurok community, in cooperation with the park, it is used for ceremonial purposes.

And finally, here is a beach morning glory photographed at the county park at the north end of Agate Beach.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kinetic Sculpture Race

The Kinetic Sculpture race began in 1969 in the town of Ferndale, California, a dairy town near the mouth of the Eel River.   It is also an art community.   The race concept caught on, it expanded, and 43 years later it is still going strong.   After the first few years, the race expanded to run a 42 mile course from the square in Arcata, across sand dunes, roads, mud, a portion of Humboldt Bay, and across the Eel River at Fernbridge.  The race takes three days, ending on Ferndale's Main Street.  

The race happens every Memorial Day Weekend, come rain or shine, and rain is not unusual in the region.   If you are not lucky enough to be here for the race, there is a museum of past sculptures in a building on Ferndale's Main Street.   It's worth a stop.

This one shot flames out the rear, had a whole contingent of moustache wearing firefighters.

The sculptures are human powered, and must have brakes and some kind of floatation device (life vests for the operators, something more creative for the sculpture).   Generally they are powered by one or many more folks using bicycle pedals.  But then the creativity starts.   Some have standard bike wheels, some have rollers, some have large inflated tires.  

The rules are wacky, the costumes are part of the fun.   Over the years there have been Yellow Submarines, serpents, and all order of craziness.   The rules run for pages and cover everything from the ages of "barnacles" (young riders), to bribing the judges (encouraged), to requirements for stuffed animals on board.  It also covers brakes, which are tested before the race begins. 

The idea has caught on.  While the Humboldt Race remains the grand master, other communities have adopted the idea.  There is a good sized web page if you check out Kinetic Sculpture Races.

Big Foot, reported local denizen on the far northern woods of California, and one of the Big Foot watchers lead the sculpture...what else?   A Big Foot.   Crew was on hand to trim the toenails.

Lined up and ready for the noon whistle send off.

And they are off, with the Silver Slipper first out of its slot.

A crab seems like a likely candidate in this region where fisheries are a major industry.

The next set of photos are not of the sculptures but a a unique motorhome.  Custom designed and built with a deco period feel, this vehicle was parked on a corner off the square and became the focus of attention after the sculptures were headed out of town.
The driver, owner, designer can drive from either the inside, the standard situation, or from a seat on the top deck.   A beautiful wood staircase on the outside, allows folks to climb up for a look.  

Inside view

He followed the route of the race and we saw him parked on a side road at Somoa after we had lunch.
Chris had arrived for the weekend and the Kinetic Sculpture Race was our first photo op.   After the send off we headed to the Somoa Cookhouse for lunch.   It is a tourist place now, but still fun if you have never done it and the museum gives you a feel for life in a lumber camp.    Originally the cookhouse served the folks who worked in the pulp mills that once dominated the spit west of Eureka, enclosing Humboldt Bay.