Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walking Among Giants

There is a stretch of highways called the Mystic Corridor between Crescent City, CA, and Oregon's Crater Lake National Park.

More specifically, the Corridor begins at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park on Route 199 about five miles east of Crescent City.

I don't know how many miles one would travel in the drive between the two points, but it's not the miles but the sights along the way that would determine how long it would take to complete the journey.

We traveled about a half mile of this route--not half the distance, but half a mile (less than one thousand yards) in an effort to determine how best to use our time at the starting point.

The park ranger provided extensive information about roads, trails, and overlooks, and suggested taking Howland Hill Road--"a single lane gravel road" with two-way traffic that "a school bus travels on an annual trip, so you should be OK with your truck."

With that attempt at reassurance, we decided to consider other options.

So we re-traced our quarter-mile drive into the park, and, following the ranger's second suggestion, headed west toward Crescent City to the Park's Simpson-Reed Grove.

The Grove's trailhead, located right on Highway 199, has parking spaces for fewer than 12 vehicles. But we found one of those spots and enthusiastically began the hike through the old-growth redwood grove.

Two trails, the Simpson Reed and Peterson Memorial trails together form a one-mile figure-eight loop. The path crosses a small stream and winds through a very dense section of the woods, encountering all sizes of redwoods from young saplings to huge old-growth trees.

Some new trees are growing several feet above ground level, either on top of the many thick fallen trunks, or over the bark at the base of living trees, such is the richness of the environment. The forest shows some evidence of past fire damage, but not much.

Underneath the redwoods is a layer of hemlock trees so encrusted in moss and lichens that it's amazing they can survive (the redwoods don't have this problem because they shed their bark). It's these hemlocks that really give this grove its distinctive look.

Underneath the hemlocks are small maple trees with brilliant green foliage, a common sight near streams.

Finally, the ground is covered with a dense layer of sword ferns, and underneath those are abundant, clover-like redwood sorrel.

The figure-eight trail is probably covers less than a mile, but it took us 90 minutes to complete the loop.

We felt like young kids making their first trip to a large city, looking up to view the skyscrapers of the forest.

We would also take time to study the colors and shapes of the bark of these giant redwoods.

It is the thick, sapless bark that protects the trees from fire.

Being in the presence of these towers that have taken 400 years to mature and some of which have survived more than 2,000 years was quite an experience.

Monday, August 30, 2010

“So,” Asks My Favorite Traveling Companion,

“Just how adventurous do you feel?”

We had watched the Salmon Festival parade in Klamath, CA. We had toured the festival booths. I had bought a bottle of home-canned salsa and a jar of jelly. It was time to head back to Crescent City for lunch. And we find ourselves standing in front of the Klamath River Café. “Why not,” I replied. “Let’s give it a chance.”

So we walk into the almost empty small restaurant, surmising that any potential customer was skoffing down Indian Tacos and hamburgers at the Festival. Well, the café may have been empty then, but it certainly wasn’t at the time we left.

Décor was basic. Above the pass-through between the kitchen and the dining room was a large sign reading “Welcome to Klamath. Fish On.” Salmon fishing is a big deal here.

So are the redwoods. Displayed on the walls were a local artist’s impressionistic carvings of redwood trees. You could purchase a small tree for $16.95, a medium for $18.50, or a large for $19.95. I didn’t see the price for the double trees.

As we looked at the menu, none of the lunch items piqued our appetite. Nor did the day’s special of a turkey melt with fries. So I asked the waitress if we could still get breakfast. She launched into a long explanation about the small size of the grill, having too many orders at noon for pancakes, and the fact that they weren’t really busy then. Finally, she responded, “yes.” Breakfast for two coming up.

For Chuck it was the Sinker, a concoction that included home fries, bell peppers, onion, cheese, and sausage. Two distinct elements made this noteworthy. First, unlike many similar breakfast mélanges, this did not suffer from an excess of cheese. There was enough cheese to bind the different components together, but not so much that the assemblage became a gloppy mess. Second, it was served with a small side of smoky and just slightly spicy salsa that enhanced the Sinker’s various tastes.

He added one of the large frosted cinnamon rolls to his order, and this was served warm, full of cinnamon, and iced with a vanilla frosting that had been applied after the roll was heated.

I took a more traditional route and ordered the eight-ounce Fisherman’s Ham Steak Breakfast with eggs (“over easy”) and home fries. My plate contained a large, half-inch thick slice of smoky and not salty bone-in ham that was as tender as any fine steak.

Eggs are eggs. What can I say other than that there was no uncooked albumen (I hate, hate, hate runny egg white), but the yolks remained appropriately liquid. And though I prefer hash browns, the home fries with red skin-on potatoes, onion and red, yellow, and green bell peppers were very good.

We took a chance, and it paid off. While the lunch menu was unexciting, the Klamath River Café serves a very good breakfast and earns a 3.5 Addie rating.

The drive back on Highway 101 to our RV Park convinced us that this was one of those days that the fog was not going to burn off by mid-afternoon.

There are several roads between Klamath and Hiouchi that offered panoramic views of the coastline; local folks reassured us that we would have no trouble navigating these roads with our truck.

But when they say things like, "It goes from gravel to a dirt road for a short bit" or "We have a school bus that takes kids on a class trip up here every year," instead of being reassured, I became more apprehensive--especially when the latter comment is made about a one-lane road that is open to two-way traffic.

And when the Klamath Coastal Drive has the statement: "drive the edge of the continent" in its description, I start looking for the nearest paved highway.

But for some reason the road to the Klamath Overlook sounded navigable (makes sense doesn't it?).

The road took us four miles through the handful of homes in Requa and past the historic Requa Hotel to the overlook.

Even on this cloudy, foggy day, the view reached "Wow" level.

The views in the two photos above show the mouth of the Klamath River emptying into the Pacific.

When we came back to 101, we spent a little time just listening to the ocean.

The ride through redwood forests was even slower than was warranted by the fog. The imposing figures in the fog created a air of mystery as we traveled north.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Salmon Festival and The Marching Lumberjacks

Tourist brochures listed a Salmon Festival in Klamath that weekend.

It was only about 20 miles south of our campground in Hiouchi, CA (about five miles from that oceanside town of Crescent City), and since it was a cloudy, foggy day, we decided to postpone our stop to see redwoods and head south for salmon.

The drive along Highway 101 took us along the Pacific Ocean, and a couple of the overlooks provided a glimpse of the ocean below.

But we found other stops that took us closer to beaches along this scenic drive. Even with the fog, the beach was an inviting destination.

This was the kind of day when beach activity would consist of sitting on a log and just listening to the sound of the surf.

Not surprisingly, we were the only people on the beach that morning, but that desolate quality just heightened the specialness of the solitude.

Several times we both commented that the scenes seemed to be in black and white.

Interesting and beautiful.

Resuming our drive, we came upon Trees of Mystery. A towering 50-foot Paul Bunyan and 35-foot Babe the Blue Ox beckoned us to join their friends for a walk through, or gondola ride over, the redwood forest, but we were already going to be late for the parade at the Salmon Festival.

The 48th Annual Yurok Tribe Salmon Festival is an event sponsored by the Yurok people, California's largest Native American Tribe.

This young scout carried this flag proudly, although, at times, it was a struggle.

The parade had dignitaries from the Yurok Tribe, entries related to the police and fire departments and other services of the Tribe, and political issues related to Tribal concerns.

One group carried signs with "Undam the Klamath" and "Dams Kill More Than Fish," while a second group had banners proclaiming "MLPA Taking Tribal Rights Away" and "Save Our Native Culture."

And there was an impressive collection of classic and antique autos and trucks. This Buick was a standout.

The end of the parade brought a marching band, but this was not your typical band. The difference began with the drum major, carrying an axe instead of a mace.

The banner announced the band as The Marching Lumber-jacks from Humboldt State University in nearby Humboldt, CA.

As the banner carriers passed us, their banner proclaimed the band's motto: "March or Die."

Clearly, this was a group of musicians who marched to different drummers--and different composers.

As we were watching the drum major and banner carriers, we found ouselves singing along with the band's music:

Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the Poorboys are playin'
Bring a nickel, tap your feet.

Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Marching Lumber-jacks--oddly compatible.

We were also struck by the non-uniform uniforms. What a hoot!

The festival would include Native American dances, arts and crafts booths, skill demon-strations, a fashion show, open pit salmon bar-b-que, and games.

There was a good crowd at the parade and the booths.

We were able to photograph one attendee's shirt which had artwork associated with the Yurok Tribe.

I really liked this one gentleman's hat, and by the time I positioned my camera, I was pleased to have captured his expression during this greeting.

As we thought about lunch, we passed the Country Club Bar and Grill--and those Marching Lumber-jacks. Once again entertaining attendees to the Salmon Festival in Klamath, CA.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fog and the Hungry Clam

Chuck: Resources describe fog as

--needing the difference between the air temperature and the dew point to be 5 degrees F or less in order to form. Under these conditions, when water droplets are on their way up to the clouds, they will bond together close to the earth and form fog.

--different kinds depending on how the cooling that caused the condensation occurred: Radiation fog, sea fog, advection fog, . . . .

Let's just say fog is a stratus cloud that has touched the earth. And the part of the Earth we were in recently was Brookings Harbor, OR. At times there are two towns identified: Brookings and Harbor; other times it was one town.

The marina serving these towns, located just across the California-Oregon border, was the ideal place to photograph fog. To me, fog engulfing ships and boats by blending sky and water presents a comforting, albeit somewhat eerie, picture.

The stillness of the scene was broken by a sea lion (?) which seemed to be throwing something it was eatiing, then retrieving it, and then repeating this sequence. One gull was attracted to the sea lion's actions and, at various times, hovered overhead, stood--briefly--on the sea lion's head, and dove for whatever was being tossed around.

But speaking of food. . . .

Kate: So you’ve spent the morning photo-graphing the harbor. You’ve listened to the call of the fog horn. You’ve smelled the salty (and somewhat fishy) sea air. You’ve developed an appetite. What to have for lunch? Certainly not a burger or a salad or a taco. You want fish. Deep fried, if possible. You want The Hungry Clam.

We found this small fish and chips house via the internet and those posting comments raved about The Hungry Clam's chowder and fish and chips. When we arrived there was only one older man slurping down a bowl of chowder. By the time we left, all eighteen seats inside were occupied as were most of the picnic tables in the parking lot.

Given that the morning was cold and foggy, we took seats inside after placing our order at the counter.

Both of us started with a bowl (O.K. – it’s a paper container) of the highly-praised chowder. I am not the biggest white clam chowder fan. That spot is reserved for Chuck. But I must admit that this was one fine chowder. Thick, but not too thick. Extra creamy. Not too many potatoes. Lots of clams. Plenty of ocean flavor. And gently seasoned with herbs. Just what a white clam chowder should be. If only there had been some salt pork and it would have rivaled the best of New England.

The menu isn’t all fish. You can order a burger in any number of permutations, hot dogs (probably for non-fish-loving kids), a B.L.T., P.B. & J. (the kids again), and salads. I had been hoping for appetizer portions of clams or calamari or shrimp, but everything came as a full meal with cole slaw and your choice of fries, hushpuppies, or tots. Then we saw the Ultimate Combo meal with fish, shrimp, clam strips, calamari, and oysters. When the young woman behind the order counter assured us that this was large enough to share, we went for it along with an extra side of slaw.

While the meal had more winners (at least for me) than non-winners, all was not perfect. Both of us were disappointed with the fish which we compared unfavorably with Mont-gomery’s in North Vancouver, British Columbia. The coating/ breading/ batter was way too thick, and the fish was a bit overcooked. The clam strips were chewy on the ends which tend to be thinner and thus cook faster. The shrimp had great seasoning, but also was a bit overcooked. So much for Chuck’s portion of the combo.

The basket contained two large, plump, and juicy oysters in a thin and crunchy batter. If you love oysters—and I do—you would love these. Chuck, not being an oyster lover, cut into one and saw how large it was and told me “You can have both of these.” I didn’t argue. And, instead of being in rings, the calamari came as strips about a half an inch on all sides. And they hadn’t been dipped in any coating, they were just lightly fried. I loved them. He didn’t.

The crinkle fries were forgettable. I am sure they came from Sysco or some other restaurant supplier. But the slaw was quite good with a light and creamy dressing.

The Hungry Clam is certainly not the best fish and chips joint we have visited, but still earns a 3.5 Addie rating.