Friday, October 03, 2008

Northern California

Driving on up the coast from San Francisco, the first few hours on the road in the high heat of summer. Passing ruins of ranches on rangeland still used. High clouds above the dry late summer peaks of the coastal range.

Mendocino County: lots of new vineyards in Anderson Valley, but the river's running low, as the new crops are depleting the local groundwater. Not like the wine region in Paso Robles, with its steady flow of ancient water coming across the Valley from the Sierra Nevada. In Mendo all the new growth of wine is a controversial blessing. But there are some good wines coming out of there now. To my palette, the best California wines right now are still from the Paso Robles region; and now the region has its official regional appellation, so they're doing very well indeed.

empty rooms open
to the dramatic sky—
abandoned homestead

And into the coastal range, the redwoods in the canyons and valleys near the Mendocino coastline. Fog and mist start to move between the trees, and along the road. The sun hides its face, and this will be the last I see of the sun till I come inland again. I set out on this journey in summer, and now it's autumn, and the fall mists have begun all along the Pacific Ocean coast.

Russian Gulch State Park, just south of Ft. Bragg. A new discovery for me, a lovely park in a canyon leading to the ocean. On cliffs over the sea, thick kelp beds choke the shore, dampening the waves. I see otters and sea lions and many kinds of shorebirds around the edges of the land.

river mouth tree hangs
over the salted cliffs and kelp—
dark sentinels

pebbles strewn by waves
at the feet of gnarled-oak rocks—
where waters meet

When I pulled up to the entrance at Russian Gulch, the sign said the campground was full. But the ranger said, no, he was just about to open up three primitive sites, and I could have one if I wanted. When I camped, I realized there was a big annual gathering of kayakers going on, and they had most of the campground. Friendly enough folks, but a lot of bright colored clothing and wetsuits and gear and fiberglass boats were wandering around. That evening, I went down to the beach after dark, just to sit. I ended up crashing their party: they were burning a kayaker and kayak in effigy, as an offering to Sea Goddess for safety. More a party than a ritual, but they stood around and remembered lost friends. There was fire spinning, chem glow lights, fire poles, drumming and more; very reminiscent of some similar gatherings I've been to, over the years. A mini Burning Man moment, if you will.

One woman, walking back to her camp later, called out to me out of the darkness, asking me if I'd been there. I apologized for crashing their party. She said, not at all, in fact you're welcome to attend again next year. I gather it's an annual event they've been doing at this State Park for some time.

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Blogger Wicked Wicks said...

Love your photos!

4:31 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, and cheers.

2:35 PM  

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