Thursday, May 14, 2015

Returning to Childhood Haunts

My hubby spent several of his formative years living in southern Humboldt County amidst the redwood trees and fog. So as we planned our travel route from the Pacific Northwest to Southern Utah, it came as no surprise that he wanted to take the coastal route and revisit some of his favorite childhood haunts. First up was Prairie Creek and Fern Canyon, which I blogged about already. These two destinations were places he'd taken me early in our romance and I enjoyed reliving those old times with him. Plus, seeing elk up close always makes me smile.

Our second day on the Northern California coast found us in places both familiar and new to me, as we continued along the pathway to Josh's childhood. Driving south on Highway 101, we hugged tight to the coastline and enjoyed sweeping views of rocky shores. Our first stop was at Patrick's Point State Park to take in the epic coastline and so I could pee while surrounded by wildflowers. (You know you would too if given the option.)

Pretty pink heart flowers spring to life on this Manzanita bush.

At Avenue of the Giants, we left the highway and meandered between the big trees and tiny towns enveloped within Humboldt Redwood State Park. A short hike in Founders Grove filled us with awe and harkened us back to both our childhoods spent measuring our smallness against the massive tree trunks. I recalled a grade school trip where it took all 28 of us kids holding hands outstretched to fully hug a redwood tree. And Josh and I laughed as we drove by scenes we'd photographed more than a decade ago on our first coastal California roadtrip together.

Josh's 6'3" stature is nothing compared to these old redwoods, which were much too tall to get all in the photo. You'll have to imagine them reaching three times as high into the blue sky.

The hollow in this tree is big enough to build a fort inside! Too bad that's against the rules here.

And then we pushed onwards to Redway, a small town where Josh's mom once worked in a bead shop. We drove down the narrow streets trying to identify the house he once lived in, before heading west on a winding road. The road ends at the bluffs of Shelter Cove, where we intended to camp in a public campground overlooking the shoreline that Josh had remembered fondly from his youth. To our disappointment, that campground had disappeared in the 25 years since he was last in Shelter Cove and so we made do with a grassy lawn set away from the bluff. (It was the only tenting option in town and we were much too weary to drive back inland in search of something else, although we wavered for a few minutes.)

Our campsite near one of the only trees in the park. It wasn't private but it was available and that was good enough for one night.

Luckily we came prepared with a nice bottle of sparkling rose from our favorite winery in Oregon's Applegate Valley. And so as afternoon turned to evening I joined Josh in his brown hiking pants and black soft shell jacket traversing the dark rocks that form tide pools just below the crest of Shelter Cove. Behind us yellow mustard flowers and purple prickly thistles climbed the exposed sandy hillside. And beneath my feet, gray polished pebbles filled my slip-on shoes as the sun warmed my shoulders. We listened to the waves crash and tumble against the rocks and a lone gull screeching on the breeze. The salty sea air filled my nose, displacing the earthy scent of redwood forest we'd left behind that morning. The world felt complete as I sipped my wine while watching a momma seal and her young pup play in the rollicking waters.

Seals and seal pups playing in the cold Pacific Ocean. This shot is from the next day at Seal Rock, just a short drive from our campsite, still in Shelter Cove.

Then, hand in hand, Josh and I climbed back up the cliff and returned to our campsite to make dinner and watch the fog roll in, hiding any view of the ocean and wrapping us in its chilly embrace.

Enjoying some Oregon wine from my sippy cup at the retired Cape Mendocino Lighthouse which now stands on the edge of Shelter Cove. I felt a little ironic drinking wine here as the lighthouse door sported a hand-lettered sign announcing Thursday AA meetings upstairs.


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