Redwood. Sequoia. Bristlecone Pine. Joshua
Tall. Burly. Old. Unique.
What do you say when you are in the presence of these trees?
Four of some of the most iconic trees in the world inhabit one swath of the western United States and while their ranges do cross state lines, all four trees are found in California. From the Redwoods in the north, the more central Sequoias, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines of the eastern White Mountains and the Joshua Trees of southern California’s Mojave Desert, it is amazing to think that over the past month we travelled down an arc that had us encounter each of these amazing plants.
Fortunately for us, that arc also brought us within range of some dear friends and family. Our visit to northern California enabled us to stay with John, Michelle, Dylan and Cassidy Rutledge at their beautiful home (with a crazy driveway) and enjoy family life and explorations on the amazing landscape and beaches of Marin County. Celebrating John’s birthday on the beach at Point Reyes National Seashore was a highlight as was being joined there for the day by Megan Keiler and Tom Hudson who made the trek north from San Jose. This westside ‘Simsbury Reunion’ made us all feel a little better about missing (again) the annual Quogue Reunion that happened a few weeks earlier. Additionally, we were able to have a wonderful dinner with Ann, Andy and Tori Mathieson before heading southeast to Yosemite.
As Yosemite deserves its own post, the key for now is to thank Adam, Rachael and Ben Ramsey for making the journey east from Palo Alto to see us in Yosemite. We unfortunately missed Abby but were able to see some pictures from her riding competition that happened the same weekend. From exploring ‘the Valley’, to scrambling up Lembert Dome on the Tioga Pass road, to a wonderful dual birthday dinner for Amy and Rachael at the Ahwanhnee Hotel, we got a much needed dose of family before racing across the Sierras on Sunday afternoon to outrun a storm that dumped 2” of rain in the Yosemite Valley and more than a foot of snow across Tioga Pass (which is now closed for the season).
Our experiences in Yosemite, the Eastern Sierra and the deserts of California and Nevada will be documented in better detail later but this arc of travel has made all of us much more aware and thankful of those men and women whom had the tremendous foresight to work to defend, protect and preserve the groves, forests, mountains, rivers and deserts within which these special trees inhabit. These areas are much more than these four iconic trees and yet focusing on them allowed for ecosystems to be preserved and protected.
This fall we have seen the expansion of the United States during the 19th century as going through a series of stages, and, unfortunately, these stages are repeated nearly everywhere in the west: exploration, exploitation, domination, and, belatedly, preservation/conservation. While the last two terms are positive, these groups and individuals were fighting upstream against a culture and society that was decidedly moving in the opposite direction. These people saved what they could and while the damage had been done, it wasn’t irreparable. The struggle to conserve and preserve continues today and what we have learned above all is that we must all be stewards now and stand on their shoulders to complete and expand their life’s work.
After Bend, we spent several days in Corvallis with Shannon Finley, one of my closest childhood friends, and her beautiful family. Our children had’t seen each other in several years and had never really gotten to know each other during our previous short visits, but you would have never known it. Grant, Ash, Ethan and Ayla palled on up and had the best time all weekend from mountain biking at the terrain park, playing ‘Bloody Wolf’ in the dark of the night (with their parents might I add), bouncing on the trampoline, hiking, and just simply playing outside with the neighborhood kids. Delicious food, wonderful connections with Shannon and Geoff, and especially finally seeing where Shannon and Geoff live in Oregon made the weekend so very enjoyable.
Our next destination was to the southern Oregon coast, and while Crater Lake National Park wasn’t quite on the way, we still made it a priority to get there. While it was the boys and my first trip to the park, Ryan had been there years earlier when working at Klamath Falls and had visited the park when there was over 270 inches of snow on the ground in early December. Situated at over 7000 feet in elevation, Crater Lake is a natural snow magnet accumulating regularly more than eleven feet a year. While the lake had not received any snow yet, the water looked spectacularly beautiful with it’s bluish green color somehow magnifying the crisp, cold fall day. It’s hard to imagine what the Klamath Native Americans must have thought when they witnessed the original volcano exploding a little over 6000 years ago, but needless to say the end results are truly a wonder to the eye today. Grant, Ryan, and Ethan decided to end their visit to Crater Lake by biking down from the rim and I happily obliged them by driving the car in the 42 degree weather, picking them up several miles down the road slightly chilled but happy nonetheless.
Leaving Crater Lake late in the afternoon meant that we did not get to the coastline until after dark, however, we had heard some great things about the little town of Bandon and were ever hopeful to get some fresh seafood for dinner. As luck would have it, we pulled into town at 6:56 PM and when most everything seemed to have already shut down, Ethan and I made it to the only crab shack that still had lights on by 6:58 and successfully got our order in before they closed at 7:00. We hungrily devoured some delicious clam chowder, crab cakes and fish tacos at Tony’s Crab Shack- a cute little restaurant/shop located right by the harbor that I highly recommend to anyone visiting there. This day could be the longest day yet of the whole trip as we still hadn’t made it to our final destination of Cape Blanco State Park, the furthest most western point of the continental USA, so we loaded back into the Bumble, started driving further south and a couple of hours later, well into the sleeping hours of the night, finally heard and saw the Cape Blanco lighthouse. Playing in the sand, biking to the lighthouse, walking/running/biking on the beach, searching for salmon, watching the waves roll in, basking in the fall sun, and finding whales right off the coast was a magical way to end our last few days in Oregon. I would happily come back for more when we can.