Christmas Trip – Part Two

San Diego — (If you are just tuning in, do drop to the post below this where the trip thread starts then come back…)

The day after Christmas dawned pretty clear with a nice sunrise over the harbor and docks in Crescent City.  Since our campsite had us parked next to the boat repair docks we had shot there Christmas evening doing some unexpected shooting of subjects not on the primary hunting list.  Sort of a photographic Christmas present.  To tie the last and this post together, here is a shot of Larry photographing the boats in the repair yard the previous evening.

It was a short walk around the rest of the area so next morning, the day after Christmas, we struck out in search of a nice sunrise shot. Larry headed for the bay and I headed down to the docks following the morning call of the sea lions and found this shot with the Crescent City lighthouse in the background.  I call it “Roosters of the Sea.” …think about it…

When we got back to Rosey we had breakfast and then turned back south, stopping several times along the way to shoot both overlooks and beach shots.  The storm appeared to be over but the tidal surge was still pretty strong.  Here is a shot of Larry at one of those pull outs.

Though the day started clear in Crescent City, as we headed south we were once again back in fog and sometimes rain.  In places it made the headlands look like an oriental painting as the ridges disappeared off into the fog and gave you just a hint of the wave action crashing against the shore below.

Larry wanted to shoot some lighthouses, a term by the way, that he is now forbidden to ever utter in my presence again…  So we took off on a road that was to take us to a couple of them according to some print-out he had gotten from the web..  We exited 101 and went first through Ferndale (what a GREAT little town to shoot in, but we were on a mission).  The road out of Ferndale through the mountains to Petrolia was shown as a continuation of the road from 101 to the town — actually a normal paved, two lane country road — on all of the maps we had.  But it was quickly evident it was anything but normal.  It did not go THROUGH the mountains, it went OVER then… straight up and over with hairpins that challenged both Rosey’s 26 foot length and my failing shoulder.  and it had last seen any service on it sometime in the middle 1800s.

Here is a shot of her stopped at a wide spot for us to shoot in some of the moss encrusted area.  The storms had left everything wet and saturated so that colors were unnaturally rich and deep; so of course we stopped several times for photos.

Finally, after several time wondering if we would EVER stop climbing, we got to the top.  It leveled out and presented a view of the most incredible valleys and meadows this side of Colorado; it was beautiful.  I had no idea this existed in the mountains between 101 and the coast.  OK, I’ll admit it, I didn’t even know there WERE mountains between 101 and the coast.

And then we started… DOWN.  Whoa, I mean D-O-W-N, Down.  Even in low gear I sometimes had to ride the brakes to keep us marginally under control.  As steep as we had been climbing we were descending even more steeply.  The road, to borrow a phrase from C.W. McCall, looked like a collection of malaria germs.  Finally we could see the coast and one last little down pitch and we would be level.

I stopped at the last semi-level spot (only about 6 degrees down bubble) to downshift into low gear.  While I firmly stood on the brakes, Larry kindly got out to take a shot of the coach with that last section and a view of the coast. But a photo really does not give a sense of the steepness of the road.  There were no switchbacks in this section to tame the drop.  Rather, once around this bend, the road veered back to the right as it lined up with the road below and then went straight down toward the coastal shelf you can see winding off in the distance.  It would make a world class, if somewhat terrifying sledding hill if they ever got enough snow here.

But we reached the bottom safely with the coast spread out before us… but… there was NO lighthouse to be seen.  No structure, no trail or road marked as going to it; a clear and beautiful secluded bit of coast line, but not a lighthouse to be seen.  Hmmmm…  We were not amused.

So we drove on, glad to be on what was mercifully now a fairly normal, level, straight country road right along the coast to Petrolia.  There we followed a sign to the dead-end dirt road going 10 miles to where the Punta Gorda light house was shown on the map.

Bear in mind that at that moment, seeing the state of this dirt road, I was very worried about our timing vis-a-vis getting back to the highway and getting far enough south for that night’s camp ground that we could have a chance of meeting Larry’s deadline of being home by Tuesday night.  (You can see the length of the shadow in Larry’s shot above taken a good half and hour before we reached Petrolia.)  And, adding some sport to the action, my shoulder was screaming bloody murder at every turn of the steering wheel. But I could simply not get my mind around the concept that the other end of the road could be like the first part, so was not too worried.

We got to the end of the road and sure enough, an info sign said yes, indeed, there was a lighthouse in the area, but that it was a ½ mile hike to see it.  I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to make him do that hike at gun point carrying ALL of his AND my gear, or to say forget it, there is no time.  Except I was not sure I could even hold a gun, my shoulder ached so much.  On his own however, he returned after reading the data and said, “…forget it!”  So, more than a little disappointed and quite relieved, all at the same time, we headed back down the wonderful, rough, dirt, hole-filled road to Petrolia and what we hoped would be a reasonable road back to 101.

Well that hope lasted about 100 yards out of town!  We immnediately started to climb steeply back up over the mountains on a road that on the GPS (unlike the map) looked like a snake convention in a coffee can.  It went through some gorgeous country, there is no denying it.  But we were averaging about 10-15 miles per hour, sometimes a blistering 20 and it was 30 miles to the highway.  Daylight was fading fast but there was nothing for it but to keep going and hope that if the map lied about the condition and character of the road, it at least told the truth about where it came out.

The road dropped down therough the mountains and into Humboldt Redwoods State Park and wound through some incredible groves.  Even had there been any light left to stop and photograph (and we would ahve wanted to) there was no time.  It was almost a blessing that by the time we got in amongst those wonderful trees it was sufficiently dark I had to turn my lights on.

All in all we spent over 5 hours on a trek we anticipated spending less than 2, never saw or photographed a single %#$@(*% lighthouse, and now we were WAY late.  The road, (forever after to be known on my maps and memory as “Larry’s Road”) when we finally hit 101 had just taken all of the stuffing out of me, but we still had at least 2-3 hours to drive to get far enough south for me to feel comfortable that we could make it back on Tuesday, easily.  I kept trying to rationalize in my mind that if we stopped and just got up early enough we could still make it work but I truly had no faith in that plan so set it aside and kept going.

There was no point whining, much as I wanted to.  All that did was make me focus even more on my now completely shot shoulder.  There was no way I could hold that arm that did not send shooting pains from the shoulder cuff down into the tricep muscles.  So in some ways it was mercifull that much of 101 in that area had the lane marking paint so worn away that it was hard to tell where the center line or the shoulder was.  Those are two very important bits of information for an 8 ft wide vehicle piloted by a very tired, very pained driver.  But it gave me something else to focus on and worry about so the truth is, it helped.

We passed Willitts where we spent the first night, on through Ukiah, and ended up in Cloverdale for the night.   We got up early and then had an easy drive home, arriving about 5 pm after getting stuck in LA rush hour traffic and then rush hour and returning vacationers traffic coming into San Diego.

This was a great learning trip for me about how to plan for proper RV-based trips and workshops (and how NOT to).  Rosey was a trooper and did everything asked of her including perfectly navigating a road never designed for any sort of motorhome.

Now it is time to work on trip photos.  But before I leave this tale I also want to put up one more shot.  Before we turned toward Ferndale and while still on 101 near Requa, we spied this old abandoned barn.  All during this trip I could feel my own artistic ‘vision’ in flux, responding somewhat to the impact of the canvas class of last semester and the look of images on canvas.  So here, then, I’ll leave you with the shot of that barn.

See you next trip!

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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