Redwood Diaries II

Dates: September 25-27, 2015
Campsite: Standish Hickey State Recreational Area
Crew: Your Author, Jude
Photographs: Flickr: Camping with Jude


4:55pm Saturday
Awake at 5:30, on the road by 7:00, Ukiah by 8:45, camp by 11:00. If you would have told me those were my milestones for today, I’d have slept longer. Once again, we are damn near by ourselves here. Only 2 other sites occupied, and we can neither see nor hear them. But we’ve met them, at the swimming hole. We took two trips there today.

When we arrived, it was LEGO building time. A long tradition between Jude and I. He sits patiently for the X hour drive with a fresh unopened LEGO box on his lap. Only when we get to the campsite is he allowed to tear into it. He builds LEGO while I build our campsite. Well, this time we had 4, and 2 of them were mine. So there we were, 2 boys snapping together precision plastic parts, drinking our drinks, snacking on prosciutto and cheese-it’s, listening to Andrew Bayer.

We took a walk about to the watering hole and to charge the Luci lights. We hid them out in the middle of a meadow in full sun. We just have to remember to fetch them on the walk back. No sooner had Jude eyeballed the swimming hole than he suggested we head back, get some lunch and get our suits on. So we had a short walk about.

Followed by a mean game of battleship. He insisted we play a game of battleship before we went swimming. It’s odd, but when he was younger, he aged at the campsite and became a little bit more of a man. Now today, when he’s naturally transitioning up into manhood, here at camp in all the nicest ways he seems to regress and act a bit younger than his 12 years.

Good lord the Green Car is sofa king happy right now. For years she’s been relegated to the step child second fiddle commuter car. She’s like Levee. Once the center of attention; the alpha. But then came a spunkier funner cat named Jeep that put in a corner as a punchline. Well ok her eating habits helped do that. But like Levee, The Green Car perhaps thought her best days were behind her; that her road tripping days were over. Certainly never to go camping again. She’s the car that got me & my shit to Black Rock City 4 times, took us to Carp and back dozens of times, I think she’s even been to Phoenix. At 148k miles, she thought she was done. And yet here she is: Under the redwoods, having swallowed everything we stuffed into her, engine purring the whole way, getting great mileage, with not so much as a hiccup. Yea, I personify my cars. So what? Just realized she and Jude are the same age. The Green Car might be going thru puberty soon.

The host here at this campsite, she looks like Jeffery Tambor. And I don’t mean a lady-fied Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent. I’m talking the Tambor bloodline is strong and this woman is his 1st cousin. I can’t look at her too long without busting out a HEY NOWWW! That is all.

There are a variety of phrases that if heard whilst camping, you’re either in good experienced hands, or up shits creek.
“Oh I can easily get those coals started right back up in the morning”
“There should be toilet paper already in there”
“This will totally be enough wood to last us”
“We’ll be fine, there’s no way raccoons can get the lid of that cooler open”
“Flavorer almond milk is totally just as good as the chemically Coffee Mate stuff”
“I would like to get home Sunday before sundown”

We dined on pineapple hotdogs and 2 different kinds of beans. Everything came together when the fire goes up smoothly. I know it’s cheating to use those wee fire starter logs. I do. But dammit if a whole segment of the evening isn’t taken up by tenting & tending kindling, tearing & rolling up the cardboard wood box, then washing the soot from your hands, I’m ok. Fire & forget.

Looks like Jude got tired early. He was in he tent in his bag all quiet and having a council with the LEGO guys. It was only dinner that got him out. Maybe it was the (sudden) onset of dusk here in this redwood valley. Again, he’s a little kid today. I’m sure a darkened headphoned screening of Mad Max will put some hair on his chest.

Fire starter is the bomb. You can take that Eagle Scout badge and shove it up your juxie. Or start YOUR morning fire with it. Instead, I’m having Jude light the bag here and here and moving on to coffee, thankyouverymuch.
Pop tarts over a camp grill is something every school aged child should (a) watch their hungover father prepare and (b) try at least once in their lives. Once, ha.

Mad Max went over quite well last night. He was incredibly focused on the whole, pausing every so often to ask questions about Millers dystopian universe, me having to go back in time to discuss the 1979 Mad Max to explain Hardy’s Max’s flashbacks and hallucinations. I think those are about the most salient connection the current Max has with the previous movies: his wife & child from the 1st movie. Also the wind-up music box from Road Warrior. There may be more.

He seemed to get and perhaps appreciate MY pausing every so often to point out the use of practical effects over CG. He’s there one that noticed that the fingers on Furiosa’s mechanical arm were twitching in same unison as the fingers on her natural arm. My son, as of tonight, may have a life-long crush on Charleze Theron.

The best thing about camping with the Green Car is not having to play a blasted game of Tetris in order to pack the camp up. With the jeep, even with the big cargo box and just 2 people camping, it took a patient hour out of the day to not only get everything in, but to do it in a way so that you could access some subset of it en route. With the Volvo, she just swallows everything on one layer without having so stack. I know the smaller cars are the way to go the closer we get to Max Max style fuel situations, but I am now even more convinced that a family like ours must have as a requirement a vehicle with gobs of cargo space.

Redwood Diaries I

Dates: September 18-20, 2015
Campsite: Standish Hickey State Recreational Area
Crew: Your Author, Charlotte
Photographs: Flickr: Camping with Charlotte


8:20pm Friday
Having been kinda tense the whole drive up, it’s hard to put into words the feeling right now. At a stunning camp site, right on the banks of the eel river, with proper facilities, and NO ONE around. And not a minute too soon: we pulled in as the sun was going down. If this place was a bust, we were on the road north an hour more to a hotel in Garberville. No Bueno at night on THAT road. But here wee are, settled in (mostly), with the tent all set up, a fire going, and beverages either being poured or refilled.

9:16pm Friday
Which isn’t to say this trip has been without its mishaps. Nothing the car camping kit can’t patch. But just true WTF misses. Like, socks for Charlotte. I put them in the pack pile. But where are they? So she is wearing the 1 spare pair of mine. Big puffy sweat socks 7 sizes too big. Then, keeping on the foot front: flip flops for me. Which means I’m without footwear around camp unless I go barefoot (too cold) or put my whole sock & shoe rig back on. And a score of other little things I’ll write down to never forget next time: cutting board, whiskey glass, fire starter, etc. And then there is the doubt surrounding whether or not to bring our bikes. Could have done that, easily. Too many unknowns back at 495. But now here, it’s a pretty bike able site. Sprawling even.

Dinner of spiral pasta with chunks of Hebrew national diced in with garlic seasoning. Simplicity at its core.

10:23pm Friday
Tented in. Cleaned up, food shit locked away, fire logs deconstructed, game of go fish done, whiskey poured and slumber around the corner. To the sounds of wind pushing 3 ton redwood limbs against each other. Beyond that the rustle and additional white noise of the Eel River about 200 meters below us. Not one single car has passed our site. I’m beginning to thing this place is closed and we just haven’t been rousted yet.

May or may not need to head into Garberville tomorrow. Can’t think of why we’d need to. It’s the just cause you can clause we Alexander’s deploy with great success up in Canada. With the DNA of George Carlins stuff routine. Where we pack our shit up and drive all this way to go camping. Get here, unpack and just as we’re settled in, we take a small subset of that shit on another smaller road trip into town for more shit we should have thunked-up earlier or simply don’t need anyway. Well, that’s not true. The 9lbs of ice from Novato is now 4lbs of water. It might last. But it’s the firewood that will write the story for us. I’m sticking with this: not unless we fucking have to will we drive the xx miles north to Garberville.

There will be plenty to do tomorrow exploring around here. The river, the entire (empty) grounds. There’s a shitload of things to see a short drive from here. Maybe THATS what gets up up to Garberville. (See? Real-time justification of my own arguments). The road between here and there is perhaps the most storied stretch of 101 in the whole state. And my personal favorite. Legend of Bigfoot, Avenue of the Giants, Confusion Hill, that malt shop in Myers Flat, the strange train. And hello: a round of fancy beverages at the Benbow? See what I’ve just done there, Alexander?

9:18am Saturday
Oh my god the dreams. Holy mother of baby Jesus the dreams. Crazy doesn’t even come close. Waking dreams that have me spun today. Paul Dano in jeri curl and a TRON mask. Aunt Peggy getting an unholy DUI crashing into a dozen plus cars. There may or may not have been a small woodland creature INSIDE the tent last night.

11:44am Saturday
Lunching with Charlotte. Her: noodles. Me: hotdog. We just got back from a hike and found a proper swimming hole. Water seems good temp. So we headed back to eat and get our suits on. Earlier, we drove up to the ranger kiosk to pay. Only now are we starting to see other humans. Ranger said watch out for skunks. Now I’m thinking that small woodland creature was in fact a skunk. And my hissing and waving my pillow at it, while for hours relocated to a fever dream, may actually be a miracle that we didn’t get sprayed. I mean shit: when YOU step over the sill of a tent that’s dead-silent with the door half-zipped shut, then get shooed away violently by a hissing mammal 5x your size, aren’t YOU going to have issues scrambling back out the same way without evacuating your anal glands?

1:58pm Saturday
She did it. She jumped into the south fork of the Eel River. It was much colder than either of us anticipated. Brought the GoPro and a couple of sodas. The miss on the flip flops is really a bummer. Would have made the swimming totally different cause of the rocks on the shore. Slow and tender walking. Got back here to discover at least 2 more cars arrived and set up camp. No one directly next to us though.

Tried again to play Battleship, but again the system of recording hits and misses just stumps her. Finally flipped her board around and she had recorded the string of aircraft carrier hits I called out, but at totally different coordinates. Imagine playing Battleship with a dyslexic. Yea it’s like that.

2:19pm Saturday
Stoney moment digesting maps, drinking m’beer, watching Charlotte make castles out of the dark, dank camp sand, listening to Bon Iver. This is mine. This Moment. This is what I remind myself I deserve when I’m spread thin in the default world. Be a whole lot cooler if I had my flip flops.

9:21pm Saturday
Finally broke. Hours ago. Did my best George Carlin and drove out with some of my stuff to 101 to head north for more ice. But we hadn’t even made the left before we noticed the Peg House 200 meters away: an antique gas station turned general store. With a pitch perfect SOUTH PARK monster truck school bus out front. This mirage claimed to have everything we needed and a bumper crop of shit we didn’t. Clearly emblazoned in neon: ice. And beer. And bookstore. And souvenirs. All boxes we checked by the time we paid. So, technically yea: we left camp for additional supplies. But I think there’s a distance clause we could invoke.

So back to camp we went. With fresh horses and renewed spirits. A couple more dice games and a shit ton of cheese its. And just when the length and breadth of the day started to take its toll, Charlotte gets the wild bug up her butt to go exploring. So off we went up the Big Tree Trail. And there she was boasting of her energy. And on that I checked my Fitbit: 13k steps today. And still she kept going. A walk amongst the redwoods. A stand that could really compete with Muir Woods. In some stretches. Temperature fluctuations of 20°+ depending on which side of the canyon we were on. And just like that, she decides she’s done and wants to head back to camp.

10:02pm Saturday
This camp site rocks. No arguments brooked. Has everything. Abundance of sites, most of which are worthy on their own merits, over half with new shit be they tables or critter boxes, dozens of miles of well tended nature trails, trash cans everywhere, dish faucets every 4 sites, proper well-lit facilities with flush toilets, provisions and sundries just a 1/4 mile away from a camp amongst the redwoods. In a different life, I could see myself spending many consecutive days here either writing another novel or hiding out from authorities.

After so many years of primitive camping, I guess I’m just smitten. I mean, I knew the KOA sites were like this. But you traded so much for that. The pure solitude offered by Usal Beach will any day trump those other lowest common denominators. But this is an odd ball. We’re out here WAY out here and even on a Saturday night in September there’s only 2 other sites occupied down here. And perhaps 30 quality redwood slots just lonely.