Misty wet Northern California scene

Misty wet Northern California scene

Christmas tree, decked in all its finery

Christmas tree, decked in all its finery

Friday night: open presents

Saturday morning: open stockings

Saturday late morning: start driving to California

Saturday evening: drop my pretty girl off at her dad’s house to spend the holidays with him in Eureka.

I was exhausted by that time, but I still managed to find an adventure!

Christmas is a stressful time for me, because I do so much to get ready. This time we crammed our “Christmas” into a Friday night after work and a Saturday morning before an 8-hour drive. I was tired, cranky, and frazzled by the time my girlie was reunited with her other family, I wanted 1) quiet 2) dark 3) absolutely no people.

So rather than call up one of my girlfriends (sorry ladies!), I drove out to Clam Beach and found a spot for my tent. (On the way out of town I stopped and gazed in wonder at a favourite piece of Humboldt Architecture: the Carson Mansion. ) The first available parking spot at Clam Beach was also an official camping spot. It was full of cars and RVs with a couple of generators running and lots of street lamps lighting the place up, and fluorescent lights blaring from the windows of the whitewashed bathrooms in the center.

Eureka's Carson Mansion, magically alight

Eureka’s Carson Mansion, magically alight

Camping on the beach with generators and fluorescent lights? Uh, no, I don’t think so.

Instead I found a place to pull off the road where the sign said clearly “DAY USE ONLY” and I hauled my gear over a couple of sand dunes (the kind where the beach grasses and blackberries and cool beach plants have completely taken over), and hid my camp in a little gully. I was totally surrounded by dunes, buried about 4 feet deep in brush. It was soft and almost completely dark (except for the beam from the airport slowly slashing through the fog over McKinleyville). I could hear the ocean roaring and an occasional vehicle on Highway 101. I’m such a lawbreaker!

Part of HWY101 slid into the sea. Lights regulated the use of the remaining lane.

At exactly 5:50am, a few raindrops on the rain flap woke me up, so I started packing up. As I did so, I was startled by dazzling flashes of light…and a little later, the rumble of a thunderstorm. When I used to work for NOAA there on Woodley Island, I learned that thunderstorms are somewhat rare on the North Coast. Partially because they are rare, but partially because meteorologists can’t help themselves, the storm thrilled me and was an excellent start to my Sunday morning.

Rainy dawn. There’s a ship! See the light?

Just as I was slinging my backpack over my shoulders to head back to the car, the downpour began! I laughed. Mother Nature is so awesome. What excellent timing! I stayed almost perfectly dry by getting into my car at 6:15am. The rain POURED until about 10am. By that time, I was in Crescent City having a salmon omelet.

The red speck is a pickup truck

So when the sun finally came up, I moseyed off the path a little. Explored the Smith River, tooled through the Redwoods, watched the fog slowly lift off the ground into the sky, and then evaporate.

By the time I hit Grants Pass, it was a sunny blue-sky day. Funny.

The solitude did me so much good. Man I get sick of people. Yes, I’m an introvert, and you are all wonderful. You really are. I still need to get away from you. I am truly myself when I am in nature, and can hear the air whistling over a crane’s feathers as she soars over me, and hear the spray of water droplets fall off a trout’s back as he snaps a bite off the surface of a still pool in the river. My soul craves the smell of moss and decaying leaves; the sight of a frog leaping through a clearing; the sound of raindrops that had been clinging to each and every tip of the fern-like sprays of redwood branches and then letting go to create a whispering ceremony of percussion on the branches below.

rain

fog

My batteries are recharged.

Jedediah Smith State Park

One of the Highway 101 bridges

Smith River two minutes before sunrise