Sunday, January 18, 2015

Farewell, California!

 After nearly two weeks on the Lost Coast Trail, Jerry, Brooke, and Davis gave me and Freebird 
a ride from the southern terminus of Usal Beach over to Highway 101, from where we would 
return northbound. We planned to get to Crescent City, and from there we would hitch 
across the border into Oregon. After completing the Lost Coast Trail, we thought 
we were ready to leave northern California behind.

It was a warm Labor Day of about 100 degrees, and the highway was crowded with traffic. All of the drivers were frantically zooming past with the destination of returning to their homes, so that they could continue on with their daily routines of work and/or school. We walked up this narrow highway, seeking for a suitable pull-out at which to stick out the thumb.

Then along came Carly and Jasmine, who didn't hesitate to stop for us. They made room for us in the back seat, and then we were off, heading for Arcata. Carly was going to school there at Humboldt State. Jasmine, a former classmate, was visiting Carly from Oregon. They had just completed a women's workshop for the weekend that provided plenty of vegan health food, which they were tired of eating. They were craving some meat and greasy foods! Upon arrival in Arcata, Freebird and I were hungry too and joined Carly and Jasmine for a dinner of burgers and fries at a local bar.

Jasmine was returning to Oregon that evening and welcomed us to ride along with her. She would drop us off at Crescent City along the way. After dinner Carly took us to her place near Eureka, where Jasmine's car was parked. Here we met Miss Kitty and several dogs.

Picking blackberries with Miss Kitty.

Miss Kitty tried desperately to squeeze in the car with us, but she needed to stay behind with and take care of Carly. We said goodbye to Carly and dove off with Jasmine. As the sun was setting, we were heading for our final destination, Crescent City. We arrived that night, Jasmine leaving us at the Burger King parking lot. We went into Burger King to fill up all of our water bottles, and then followed the city lights to our beloved campsite along the beach.

The following morning, we were pleased to find that the sun was peeking through the fog. Sunshine in Crescent City? With the exception of the first sunset we saw there with Kit and Masha, the area was often very socked in with fog.

The fog cleared, and for the first time we could see mountains behind Battery Point Lighthouse. 
We admired the views of the harbor, perhaps never to be seen again by us. Then we walked into 
town to do some much-needed laundry and resupply our food.

 After doing laundry and meeting some locals there, we were planning to cross the street over to Safeway to buy some groceries. Instead we somehow wandered over to Wild Rivers Market. At its entrance, there was a group of musicians playing folk and blues music. Passersby were dropping cash into a guitar case at their feet. By request they played for us some Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.

Colton, who I learned was also from Fort Wayne.
When the group were finished playing, they were heading over to the clear waters of the Smith River to go for a plunge and cool themselves. That's where Elliott of America's Best Value had recommended that we visit, the last time we were in Crescent City. Now we were being invited along. We had planned on leaving California that day, but plans are never set in stone. Why not 
stay one more night and share an experience with this beautiful group of friends?

They waited for us while we purchased some food from Wild Rivers Market. 
They too had some things to buy and stopped at a few places before we left town. 

I observed that they were taking the money that they had just been given, and turning around to buy food and to leave just enough for gas money. No fears of the future, only absolute certainty and trust that everything would be provided. They were truly living a life of freedom, and doing what they were passionate about. These musicians had been travelling around for awhile, panhandling and performing gigs along the way. Their next gig was approaching quickly in Ashland, Oregon.

 Cooper's van in which we rode also served for them a place to camp. Leaving the city limits and heading for the hills, we listened to New Orleans jazz tracks, as everyone energetically sang along.

We parked at the entrance to Myrtle Beach and raced down the trail to the Smith River's cool waters.

Across the river, we jumped off of the cliffs and sunned ourselves on the warm rocks.

 Cooper didn't go swimming with us, but was content to do her own thing. Instead, she was teaching herself how to fish. I admired her mentality and her willingness to just be herself. She stood there silently on the banks with an innocent, genuine smile, caring not at all whether or not she actually caught anything. She was just happy to be, and that was all that mattered to her.

She and her friends camped elsewhere that night and would return sometime in the morning. 
Freebird and I found a spot on the other side of the river. After dinner, a bobcat bedded down 
for the night about thirty feet uphill from us and looked down upon us in curiosity.

A hearty breakfast the following morning - oatmeal with blackberries from Crescent City!

One last view of the Smith River and Myrtle Beach before an attempt to catch a ride.

Along the warm highway we stood, for hours, not getting offers. Around lunchtime, a compassionate man from a local glass company stopped just to give us a 6-inch Philly cheese steak and a package of Pepperridge Farm Boston cream pie milano cookies. After savoring this delicious meal, another man stopped for us. He had to make a run to the local convenience store but said that he could return for us. Out of intuition we refused. For at least one reason we had to wait.

Good thing we waited, because our musician friends returned! Cooper and Colton offered us some fresh blackberries which they picked that morning at their camp. Then we watched as the four of them chased each other down the path, about to go for another jump into the river. Happy to have seen our friends one more time, we knew for certain that now we were ready to leave California.

This time, a ride stopped for us right away. His name was Charlie, and he was heading to Crescent City! We joked, "No, we can't return there again! Will we be trapped in Crescent City forever?" Of course we knew that Charlie would be passing the road that led into Oregon. He dropped us off at Highway 197 and drove away to the town that we were now leaving behind. We had stayed many days there before and after the Lost Coast Trail. We adore Crescent City and all of its 
residents, but now it was time to cross into Oregon.

It was a bit frustrating, standing along 197 for hours, trying to keep cool. Thankfully there was some shade. None of the passing drivers expressed interest in picking us up, or if they had entertained the thought, they were just too scared to try. But we knew that really we were waiting for the right person. Then along came Bill, and we knew exactly why we had waited so long. Our visit in the state of Oregon would begin with so many special and memorable moments, thanks to Bill.

Well, California, it has been an incredible two months. When I reminisce about all of the loving and compassionate people that we met, the joys and sufferings (which in reality were all joys), and the incredible natural beauty, I will think fondly of all those experiences. 

Farewell, California.... and hello, Oregon!

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