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