12 of 12 for August 2009

3 Sep

A bit late with this one since the 12th coincided with day 10 of my epic cross-country road trip. More on that later.

Devin, Madeline, Brynie, and I woke up early on the 12th at our couchsurfing hosts’ residence in Portland, Oregon to hit the road. By this point in the trip, we had all become accustomed to the necessity of getting up early and sleeping in the car. We headed west from Portland towards the Pacific Coast, and then picked up Highway 101. Our target: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California.

The people in Oregon were arguably among the most interesting we encountered on our trip. To put it simply, there are a lot of hippies there. We spotted this car somewhere as we drove from sleepy coastal town to sleepy coastal town. The setting reminded us of Maine (Brynie had to remind herself that we were driving down the coast, not up it), with a bit less charm.

With our luck, we arrived in the Pacific Northwest during the first days of cold, cloudy, and rainy weather they’ve had all summer. Although many of the seaside vistas were shrouded in fog, the coastline still had a mysterious, epic allure. All I could think of was The Goonies.

When I spotted a sign for a viewpoint of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, I had to pull over. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was barely visible through the fog, so we were about to get back onto the road when a couple at the turnoff said to us, “Hey, there are whales over here.” So there were! I can’t say what kind they were, but we enjoyed the fortunate sighting.

You can make out the Heceta Head Lighthouse in the distant left if you squint.

At the very same viewpoint, we turned and faced left to see this popular bathing spot for sea lions.

Further south along the 101, the rugged coastline gave way to an vast swath of undulating sand dunes. We made a stop somewhere in the Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area and walked a short trail to the dunes. It was bizarre to emerge from the dense, lush Northwestern forest onto a landscape that more closely resembles the Sahara. The sand stretched so far that the ocean wasn’t even visible.

Madeline couldn’t resist rolling down one of the dunes. She was cleaning sand off herself for the next few days.

Miraculously, the clouds finally dissipated as we began to approach California. Actually, the sunshine was short-lived, as we continously moved in and out of thick fog, but it was nice while it lasted. I took this shot of the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge heading into Gold Beach. The Coast Highway in Oregon has a number of stunning bridges from the 1930s. The Art Deco lover in me was ecstatic.

As we turned the bend upon this vista, the car let out a communal gasp. The photo does little justice to the scale and beauty of these behemoths. This is why the Pacific Coast Highway is arguably the most scenic drive in America.

Before entering California, we reached some kind of border checkpoint — Agricultural Inspection. Our apples and bananas were a-ok, so the Golden State let us enter. Once over the state line, we noticed that the drivers suddenly became more aggressive. Hmm. It was getting late at this point, so the evening light shining through patches of clouds made for some interesting lighting.

This wasn’t our first night driving after sundown. We had gotten to our campsites after dark on several occasions due to car trouble, excessive picture taking, traffic, etc. What made this time different is that there was no apparent reason for us to have reached the redwoods so late — we were entirely on schedule. The only possible explanation: Google’s estimated driving time was way off.

We reached the entrance to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park just as the very last remnants of sunlight were fading away. The drive to our campsite was at once impressive and frightening — the road was lined with massive redwoods, trunks easily 10 feet in diameter, towering a good one or two hundred feet in the air. The trees needed their own reflective markers because they jutted slightly into the narrow road. The posted speed limit of 45 was remarkably unsafe (especially with our terrible headlights) — even at 25, it felt like we were racing across Endor on speeder bikes.

Unfortunately, the darkness meant that I couldn’t get any good pictures of the incredible Redwoods. I just got one shot looking towards the night sky with my tripod at our campsite, but none of the highly visible stars came out. The smell in the air was incredible. We were greeted by a huge dragonfly of Jurassic proportions. The Redwoods turned out to be one of my favorite places on the entire trip, but all of my photos are from the 13th.

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One Response to “12 of 12 for August 2009”

  1. Megan 6 September 2009 at 00:10 #

    Finally Greg!!

    It was so good seeing you again and meeting your friends…

    Until next time, yes?

    Has school started yet for you?

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