Sunday, March 17, 2013

Los Angeles and east . . .

View of the I-210 from Getty Center
We slept in Pasadena last night after one of the more exciting driving days I've experienced: frequent freeway slowdowns, bumper-to-bumper traffick, high tostosterone drivers, and at least one stretch limo, all barreling along at plus 70 miles per hour.

At one point, Allen changed his mind about which exit we needed, so I shifted across three lanes at speed in heavy traffic. Thank goodness people respect turn signals here. This picture doesn't do justice to the numbers of cars on the freeway, nor to the fog/smog we drove through.

But we finally arrived at the Getty Center, a sprawling art complex atop a hill, to spend the next three hours wandering through the exhibits, seeing paintings so familiar they seemed like old friends and discovering a few new artists whose works we'd never seen. Then back to the freeway for another hour of driving and supper at a little Japanese restaurant right next to our hotel, the sushi so fresh I would go back for breakfast -- if they were open. Today, we head for the desert and home to Tucson in two days.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Down the California Coast to Monterey . . .

Tropical Fish, Monterey Bay Aquarium (Camp 2013)

Two days here in Monterey to visit the Bay Aquarium, 3 hours of pure bliss, wandering past fish tanks from floor to ceiling, tropical fish, crusty crabs (not us!), and frilly, floating jellyfish.

We found the biggest surprise in the seahorse exhibit. Here we saw newborn seahorse babies, as small as a fingernail. Here we met for the first time, water dragons, including this Leafy Sea Dragon. At first, all we could see was a splotch of a small green bush. But then it moved, and we could see three unusual creatures, each about the size of my hand, each with tiny yellow eyes, drifting and floating together.

Two Leafy Sea Dragons (Camp 2013)

Tomorrow is a driving day down to Oxnard. I don't think we'll see any sea dragons along the way. But we will see these great green rolling hills of California, dotted with scrub oak, flowering cherries and apple trees, many vineyards, and larger and larger suburbs as we head towards Los Angeles.
May you have a good week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Redwoods . . .

Today we drove through Jedidiah Smith National Park to see the redwoods.

I maneuvered past potholes on an old, narrow gravel road that turned to dirt. Still used for two-way traffic, the road boasted occasional turnouts. I drove hesitantly down this narrow road, backing up once for a fire truck in the middle of nowhere.

Once we got to the grove, not only were the trees immense, but despite other visitors, the sense of peace was profound.

In 1850, when logging started, there were 2 million acres of old-growth redwoods. Today, we have less than 5% of these wonderful trees, or about 100,000 acres, of which only 40,000 acres are protected.

We walked around a small loop, past waist-high ferns, sun filtering to the forest floor, to admire these trees that live much longer than we do -- the normal span is 400 to 500 years, though some reportedly live up to 2,000 years.

Though we can't hike the backwoods trails as we once did, the sense of peace remains.

Crescent City and south . . .

Sunset at Oceanfront Lodge, Crescent City (Camp 2013)
Made it to the ocean. We're here in Crescent City, and it seems we're following a trail of mermaids along the way. The ocean is that calm inviting blue of northern California that invites us to walk along the beach, but 'tis far too cold to swim.

Crescent City has that look of recovering from some dreadful economic disaster. I didn't realize the impact of the tsunami from 2011. We're seeing boarded store fronts and closed shops, not much road traffic. This small coastal town stretches out into the ocean and is most vulnerable to tsunamis, suffering millions of dollars of damage when the waves came last time.

Construction crews are rehabbing our hotel even as we enjoy the views. Last night we had an amazingly fresh fish (salmon, swordfish, and hallibut) for dinner at the Chart Room perched out on a spit by the bay. We found one pier crowded with honking, smelly sea lions who somehow had made their way over the rocks and up on the pier. Below, on a second, floating pier,  Harbour seals chummed next to the sea lions at the end of the day. Next stop, the redwoods!

Harbour Seals (Camp 2013)
I almost forgot about the mermaids. I'm guessing if you live near the sea, this siren is never far away. We found three mermaids here: one outside, a large wooden carving with the mermaid riding on a shark with very large teeth, and two inside, both guarding the small bar.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Traveling Past Multnomah . . .

We're on the road again, driving slowly south from Spokane, past hills still coated with snow, down to the desert in Tucson, where my sister sips morning coffee on her patio, wearing shorts in 80 degree weather.

The morning was clear enough, once we dropped down from the rolling hills of eastern Washington, that we caught the tip of Mount Hood as we entered the Columbia Gorge. Then, just as we got used to hills covered with pines, we rounded a corner, and there she was revealed fully:  Mount Hood.

Mount Hood from McCall Point (Wikipedia)

We stopped at Multnomah Falls, and I wondered what those first travellers through the gorge must have thought at this pair of falls from tip to base measuring over 600 feet. Starvation Creek is near, so that gives some indication. I had forgotten that a 70-ton boulder fell from the top of Multnomah Falls in 1994. No one was injured, but this wasn't the first time rocks have tumbled down these great falls. I wonder what native peoples thought of these falls so long ago.

This story from the Wasco traditions tells how Coyote wooed a young woman. Repeated gifts do not lead the young girl to say yes, but once he builds the falls and a private pool for her, the grandmothers weigh in. The story  doesn't end with 'happily ever after' -- it ends with an admonition that we listen well to the story and to nature. 

I've changed the heading here, for Africa was last year's trip, though the memories yet challenge me to write more. And a trip across Canada promises a rich summer ahead. Once, along the Columbia Gorge, I saw the stone carving of She Who Watches . . . she who protects all who travel. I wish you well on your journey.

Source: Wikipedia Multnomah Falls.