HEY KIDS, YOU WANT SOME DRUGS?
After navigating one of the most narrow and winding roads in probably all of California thanks to our always reliable GPS, we arrived in Point Arena, which is about 20 miles south of Mendicino. We decided to stay at a KOA since our laundry bag was overflowing and we felt like having power for a few days. Apart from the KOA in Moab, Utah, this place had some of the nicest showers/restrooms we've seen so far. It's always a plus when the campground amenities are nice, as all too often the places we stay at are dirty, dingy and unkempt.
After setting up camp, we drove down the coastal highway to find Schooner Gulch State Beach, which is known more popularly as Bowling Ball Beach. Here, hundreds of small round boulders are gathered on the shoreline awaiting the onslaught of the tide, much like an army readying for battle. Technically called concretions, the boulders seem almost unnatural in their nearly uniform size, shape and spacing, and they make you wonder how they even got there in the first place. Unless, of course, you show up at high tide, in which case you won't even know they exist at all. Since we had no phone service, we were unable to check the tide chart before setting out for Bowling Ball Beach. We decided to give it a shot regardless, and headed down the trail around 6pm. Both our guide book and the park website state that the trail to Bowling Ball Beach is closed due to erosion and travel to the beach is "at your own risk," as the bottom of the staircase leading down the cliff is no longer attached to land. Rather than being risky, the wounded staircase made an easily navigable ladder down the remainder of the cliff.
|Not really impassable|
When we arrived at the beach, the bowling balls were underwater. We sat around for a bit to see if the tide would subside but unfortunately, the water level just kept rising. On the plus side, Melinda found a few cool shells and we did see a sea otter pop his head out of the shallow water to look around. Since the sun had not yet set, we decided to high tail it to Point Arena Lighthouse to try and catch the sunset. It ended up becoming extremely cloudy and foggy, which worked out nicely for shooting the lighthouse.
|Point Arena Lighthouse|
The remainder of our time in the Mendocino area was spent exploring the areas around the town of Fort Bragg (not the well-known army base). One area in particular that we were excited to see was an area referred to as Glass Beach. For a good portion of the 20th century, residents of Fort Bragg threw their household garbage over cliffs owned by the Union Lumber Company onto what is now Glass Beach. In 1967, city leaders closed the area and clean-up programs were undertaken to correct the damage; however, clean-up efforts could only do so much. The millions of glass shards littering the area and churning in the surf were too costly, if not simply impossible to remove. Over time, the unrelenting surf "cleaned" the beach in the sense that it turned all of the glass shards into beautiful smooth pebbles. After parking in town, we walked to a small area of beach that was loaded with people, kids and dogs. We looked around and much to our disappointment, there was hardly any glass! We saw people with sandwich bags full of glass pebbles (even though signs say not to remove the glass) and just assumed that years of pilfering had dwindled the supply.
Heading back to the car, we were feeling a little let down but decided to check out a small side trail that ran beside an old chain link fence. The trail led down to a cliff overlooking a small beach covered in small, smooth glass pebbles. There was so much glass that you could reach down and scoop up handfuls and handfuls before reaching the sand below. It was very cool. On our way back to camp we stopped by Point Cabrillo lighthouse. It was tiny and cute and sat perched on the cliffside all by itself. Some of the original keeper buildings were left standing and you can even rent them for a private vacation home.
|Point Cabrillo Lighthouse|
|Butt slide down crushed bridge|
I really wanted to shoot the falls from the base and noticed a piece of rope tied to a tree that went along a pretty steep area before disappearing over the cliffside. I climbed down to the rope and back up to the overlook probably 4 or 5 different times over the next hour trying to figure out how to get down to the river, but I just couldn't in my right mind get myself to go past the point of no return. I'll usually climb up or down anything, but it was a long descent and it dropped pretty much straight down. I could have very well been able to make my way to the edge of the cliff with nowhere to go and I would have been in deep crap. After scrapping that idea, we decided to hike back. We met some people in the parking lot before we started the hike and chatted for a minute and then ran into them again at the falls overlook. On our way back to the car, we passed them once again and when we walked by they asked us if we wanted a hit of pot before we left. We politely declined. The idea of hiking 5 miles with cotton mouth and a serious case of the munchies didn't seem all that appealing. The funny thing is that the couple was probably in their 70's and they were there with who I'm guessing was their daughter. I guess a family that blazes together, stays together ; ) Welcome to California.
|A pretty girl|
We only stayed in Oroville for two days and the next day we just did a short hike searching for some wildflowers.
|Some wildflowers and a wild flower|
The next day we packed up and drove to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area to see a few other waterfalls. During the drive, Melinda looked up reviews of the campground we would be staying at and it sounded shady, very very shady. Some of the more notable reviews included reports of the following: people urinating in bushes, loud music at all times of night, obnoxious drunks, and filthy bathrooms. Needless to say, we scrapped the idea and drove another hour to MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park.
The campground in the park was probably one of the best state park campgrounds we've stayed at in California so far. For the first night, we had almost the entire campground to ourselves. The peace and privacy was short-lived once the weekend crowds showed up with yapping dogs and screaming kids, but I guess that's to be expected. The most annoying thing was that our neighbor apparently let their dog roam free at night. We learned this when our neighbor told us his dog had stolen a plate, a bottle of beer, and other odds and ends from various campsites and asked if any of it belonged to us. None of it was ours, but this explained what happened to my muck boot insert I left to dry out overnight the previous day. I was slightly pissed off. During the day, we visited the park's main draw, Burney Falls, which was a stone's throw away from camp. Later that night, I returned to the falls while Melinda slept and shot under the nearly full moon. It was creepy as hell and I felt like someone was behind me the whole time. It was pitch black and really loud, and just an all-around weird experience. The next day Melinda told me that a boy died there about 2 years ago which explained why I felt like I had eyes on me. Probably some ghost looking to push me in the frigid water so I would meet the same fate.
|Burney Falls under moonlight|
While in the area, we decided to visit another waterfall located about an hour away: Potem Falls. The gravel road that lead to the trailhead was a nice scenic drive through the Shasta National Forest. Thankfully, we had looked up precise directions to the trailhead prior to heading out because the trailhead is not marked at all. In fact, there is absolutely no indication anywhere that the trail or falls exists. We've had nothing but sunny skies lately, which makes shooting waterfalls tough, but once again I took what I could get. It was worth stopping and checking out the falls anyway, if only for the short hike through pockets of wildflowers that were home to hundreds of butterflies.
After we had our fill of the chaos ensuing at our campground, we packed up and headed north toward the Mt. Shasta area. We caught glimpses of the 14,000 foot monster while we were staying in Burney, but once we made it to the quaint town of Mt. Shasta we got some awesome views of it towering over the town. After setting up at camp, we drove to Dunsmuir Falls. It was a short little hike right off the highway and the waterfall was really unique. It cascaded over a small cliff inset with little cave. Since the sun was out in full force, I figured that shooting from within the cave would be the best spot.
Once the sun started its downward journey, we headed over to Lake Siskyou, where there was a really great view of Mt. Shasta with the lake in the foreground. The skies never really cooperated that evening, or any other evening for that matter. It didn't matter though, the mountain was probably one of the nicest we've seen on this trip so far.
|Late afternoon light on Mount Shasta|
|Parting shot: Lake Siskyou|
Most of our time in the Mount Shasta area was spent finding areas with nice views of the mountain. We did a few hikes during our stay, one of which was the hike to Heart Lake, which lays nestled in a small area of the mountains directly above the larger, Castle Lake. Our first attempt to find Heart Lake was unsuccessful because the trail became completely snow covered.
|What our trail tuned into|
We decided to visit one more waterfall called McCloud Falls which had three different cascade spots along a few mile stretch. We went to the middle falls area since it seemed to be the most picturesque. We followed the trail to the base of the falls and a huge, deep, rushing creek that separates you from the other side. I wandered around looking for a way to cross and found a large tree that had fallen, making a path to the other side. It was about 30 feet long and very shaky and wet. While crossing, I was pretty sure I was going to fall off but somehow I made it over without incident. I hiked to the base of the falls and starting setting up my camera. While I was sitting there, I kept feeling like I was getting bitten on my back and figured it was a thorn or something, but when I looked down I noticed I had set my bag on top of about 10,000 ants which had now completely covered my bag and lower pants. I'm sure anyone watching me from the other side of the river was wondering why I was dancing around like I had ants in my pants. It was because I had ants in my pants. Once I got things under control, I looked for another spot to put my stuff down only to realize that the ENTIRE area was covered with ants. The rocks, the trees, the grass, everywhere. So I just had to keep my backpack on while shooting which added to the fun of trying not to fall on all the slippery rocks. I found one good spot that was nicely shaded and decided to try and shoot it. The spot I set up was about 10 feet from the falls so the entire time I was shooting I was getting soaked and bitten. I had ants in my ears and hair at this point and the whole experience was pretty miserable, but it's a memory and just another fun story to talk about so I'll take it.
On a side note, we've been doing really well with not eating out at restaurants, but in town there was a place called the Black Bear Diner. We were both dying for a good breakfast since it's been almost 3 months since we've had real breakfast food, McDonald's doesn't count. It was so tasty we went twice and each time I felt guilty until I started to eat. Super yummy and well worth spending some cash on.
We left Mt. Shasta this morning and drove north into Oregon. We have to get our oil changed and then we'll be heading back into Northern California for a few more days. After that, it's back to Oregon!!! Until next time.