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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Seven States of California

Woody Island, Crescent City, CA


     Since my last posts, I have migrated to the far northern border of California, Del Norte County. What a contrast from the beaches of Laguna or Santa Barbara. Somewhere during my trip I read the obituary of Philip L. Fradkin, a journalist who wrote extensively about California. I was intrigued and picked up a copy of  The Seven States of California when I was in Chaucer's Books, one of the few really great bookstores left in southern California (Santa Barbara). It was great reading for my train trip to Oakland when I transitioned to Northern California last week (more on that later). Fradkin calls his book a natural and human history and he divides the state into seven distinctly different areas, three of which I have visited this summer so far and I will drive through three more before I end the journey . It's a very large and diverse state.
      Right now I am in what Fradkin labels "The Land of Water." Uh, yeah. Fog and ocean definitely define my hometown of Crescent City. I believe it averages at least 75" per year of rain and this year it may have been higher. I know that the river is high right now and that a lot of good beaches at the swimming holes are under water. A friend out in Gasquet, 20 miles from town, diligently recorded the daily rainfall at her home for many years and the average out there was 100".  That's what the redwoods love! In the summer the rain turns to mist and it hugs the coastline, especially when it's hot over in the valley.  When my trip began in LA on July 10th, I started reading the Crescent City weather report every day .  The highest temperature recorded was 63 and the average was 61. I knew that meant fog most of the time. Sunny, southern weather was feeling pretty nice.

  Here is a recap of my trip since I was dropped off in Santa Barbara by my daughter on July 23rd. I stayed with friends in SB for 3 nights. Walked to the harbor on the beach, attended some master classes at a music academy, visited with old friends.  I also visited in Santa Ynez and Lompoc. In all , I was in the area for almost 10 days and so enjoyed having the time to take all of the back roads and trying out some local restaurants. It's all about wine around there but I did manage to try an interesting offering from Lagunitas called Lucky 13. It only comes in quarts so keep your eye out. This is a part of California I love:  the beer coolers.

Surf, CA - Amtrak stop for the Surfliner
 On July 30th, I took an Amtrak line called the Surfliner from Surf, CA (10 miles west of Lompoc) to San Luis Obispo and then changed to the Coast Starliner to Oakland.  It was a long ride but so lovely.  Incredible scenery, first along the coast and then heading inland by Paso Robles and up through the Salinas Valley. I ate in the dining car as it got dark and we were going by some kind of tidal water way south in the bay.  It was late at night when I arrived at the Oakland-Jack London station but the hotel I had booked was only two blocks away.  The next morning Oakland was overcast, but that had been the pattern everywhere on my trip so far, even Santa Ynez, and it did get nice and warm in the afternoon.  I took BART out to Pleasanton, through the savannah hills to the east, and visited cousins.  On Wednesday I picked up my rental car in the afternoon and headed north to Sonoma to visit with another cousin.  My goodness, I seem to have family all over the state these days. The Sonoma wine country is one of my favorite "cousin" visitation spots. Did I say Pinot Noir?

Russian River at Healdsburg, CA
I left Sonoma in the morning, heading for Humboldt County, what my cousin told me would take him four hours.  First, I had to find coffee. Then, I stopped to visit a friend at his workplace on the north edge of Santa Rosa.  It was an old HP site that had been built on an old ranch.  Quite lovely. After that, it was lunchtime and I drove into Healdsburg, a place I do not remember visiting before.  I am usually on a mission to get home at that point on Hwy 101. At this point it has been five hours since I left my cousin and I've made it about 60 miles.  The weather was so fine, one of the warmest days of my trip so far and I just didn't want to leave that warm sun. So, I called up The Benbow Inn, near Garberville,  and booked a room. Luxury awaited me two hours up the road.  That was the most spontaneous and rash decision I have made this summer but it was well worth it.

fork of the Eel River near Garberville, CA
 As soon as I checked in, I got into my suit and found the path to the Eel River.   Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes! Cold, clear, envigorating ... I did laps up and down the far side where it was deep.  I lounged on a sandy bank admiring an old bridge while I listened to the Hwy 101 traffic on the new bridge in back of me. I think it had been 90 degrees that afternoon and it felt perfect. I later enjoyed a dinner on the terrace and the views from my third floor corner room windows which included redwoods over the river and the hotel courtyard. Cool breezes caressed me to sleep.


I did not check out the next morning until noon, soaking up the sun on the balcony with coffee and paper and then practicing in my room.  And it was still sunny all the way into Eureka but you could see the fog bank hovering out on the horizon.  I picked up my sister-in-law, who lives on the south side of town, and told her it would be foggy when I brought her back from lunch and I was right.  I put on a jacket, rolled up the windows and drove north. I got to my cousin's near Trinidad very late afternoon. What would take my cousin 4 hours, took me about 20 but it was so worth it. Since that afternoon, I have only experienced one day when it was sunny at dawn but each day the fog burns a little earlier and the sun feels a little warmer.  20 miles inland on the Smith River it is really starting to warm up and I have been swimming four afternoons in a row.  Tomorrow I head east to The Land of Fire and am expecting 100 degree temperatures.

To get back to the Fradkin's book, The Seven States of California, I started in the Profligate Province (LA and surrounding desert);  took a train to The Fractured Province (central coast San Luis Obispo to Point Reyes); drove up to The Land of Water and tomorrow start my journey through The Land of Fire (Shasta, Lassen) to The Sierra (Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes) via The Great Valley (Redding to Bakersfield) That's six out of seven.  I will save The Deserts (Death Valley, Barstow, Palm Springs) for a winter vacation.

Trinidad Cove

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