Friday, August 04, 2006

Camping: Salt Point State Park

I took my daughter Emily and her dog Tawna camping on the coast to California's Salt Point State Park (or here, another good link). It's a 3-1/2 hour drive from Sacramento, which can be straightforward or scenic. We left Sunday afternoon, around 2:30pm. We opted for the more scenic route, which took us through Santa Rosa, along Hwy 166, through Sebastopol, then along the Russian River through Guernville and Monte Rio, to Jenner and the coast, then north up Coastal Hwy 1 past Fort Ross to Salt Point. Emily took some Dramamine before we left and promptly fell asleep, so she missed the boring freeway part of the drive, and woke up right on time for the pretty part of the drive as we left the main highway in Santa Rosa.

We rolled into the park around 6pm or so. We camped in the campground on the wooded east side of Coastal Hwy One this time. The west side campground, which is on a hill right above the ocean, is often very windy. I didn't feel like doing wind this time. The east side campgrounds turned out to be surprisingly well protected, and even on Monday when the coast was very windy in places, there was but a very light breeze in camp.

Emily wanted to do some walking with her dog and look at beaches at the coast. Now, my idea of camping is sitting like a lump in the campground, drinking coffee, reading, and listening to the radio, but because I love my daughter (and she had a good idea, truth be told) we started out at Stump Beach, which is a short drive north of the main campground. The beach is a short hike from the parking lot to a bluff, then down a long set of makeshift stairs to a small beach. The far rock wall is home to a small colony of Brandt's Cormorants who nest on the sheer cliffs, safe from predators.

This view of the cove from the far right end of the beach shows the sheer cliff walls, and the complex geology of the region. We spent some time here at low tide, exploring the rocks and pools.

Next we headed further north up Hwy 1 to the Sea Ranch community. Sea Ranch is a private community of about 5,000 acres perched along the coast, with gorgeous but unobtrusive homes and small enclaves all along the bluffs. Several years ago, after much discussion, several public accesses were created for beach access (since the beaches themselves are not private property, just the land you have to walk across to get to them). We stopped at Shell Beach (I think), and walked the 1/2 mile to the bluff, then down this staircase built into the cliff face, down to the beach.

The views of the beach, and the surrounding area, were just spectacular. The weather was beyond perfect, and we wound up coming back to this beach 3 times, and spending a great deal of time just sitting and enjoying the waves, the birds, and the sun.

At this beach there was an unremarkable large rock sitting in the middle of the surf. This photo shows it at high tide, but at low tide I wandered over to it for no reason in particular. Once there, I noticed it was covered with mussels. Then I noticed a starfish. Once my eyes "knew" what they were seeing, I noticed the rock was COVERED with starfish. Had to be well over a hundred, easy, all intertwined and camouflaged in the bed of mussels. Some of the were huge! The starfish all bunched together in the first following photo are at least 16"-18" across. The mussels ranged from very small, say the size of a quarter, all the way up to the size of a large potato, and some even bigger. Pretty amazing that this little oceanic gem hides in plain view in the middle of a lovely beach.

We staying at the coast till Wednesday morning, when we got up at 6am and raced back to Sacramento so that Emily could get to work by 11am. The drive along the coast down through Bodega Bay at that early hour was gorgeous, and we saw several deer and all kinds of raccoons still out. After getting home, I saw Emily off, showered, checked my mail, then turned around and headed back to the coast for one more night camping.

The weather remained good, the breeze stayed down, and I stayed up late with a roaring fire watching movies on my portable DVD player.

Yeah, yeah, I know, but what better place to relax and watch movies than in a quiet campground with a roaring fire?. Modern life is what it is, deal with it. LOL

I slept in till 10:30am (almost all day for a camper), after hearing raccoons rattling around the campsite at night. They left evidence of their sleuthing on my bag, but other than that, left no damage. The previous night I'd heard the raccoons climbing on the picnic table, so I stuck my head out of my tent, shined my flashlight on them, and the little suckers just stared at me! Didn't scare them a bit, and they didn't wander off till I actually started to get out of my tent, at which point they sauntered off. I could actually sense the attitude. Little thieves ain't afraid of people, that's for sure!

I came home Thursday, after packing up and leaving the campsite as clean as I found it. I could live over on the North California coast, if ever the opportunity presented itself. Till then, I'll enjoy the visits.



sage said...

the northern CA coast is a treat--thanks for taking us along for this part of your trip.

However, I think Guernville is the town a friend and I stopped in several years ago looking for a place to eat and decided we were the only two straight guys in town.

Mike J. said...

Haha Guernville and Monte Rio both are very, mmmmmm, same-sex friendly, if you will. They both have a large gay population, and cater to the gay lifestyle, the fact of which is becoming more and more widely known.

The Marin/Sonoma/Mendocino county/coastal area north of San Francisco has become a bastion of extreme liberalism and lifestyles. They're still cute little towns, though.

Ed Abbey said...

I guess I missed your return by about a month but welcome back. I figured that you had simply given up blogging as so many people I have known in the past have. There doesn't seem to be a button that we can click on to find out "why he don't write?"

Anyway, hope to stop by more often now that you are back in business.

Mike J. said...

Uhm... the e-mail button? LOL....

Yeah, just been going through a dry spell. You ever feel like you're just spinning your wheels? I've been spinning on a wet, oily surface with slick tires.

Ed Abbey said...

With blogging no, but then I've always written. But on other things, I can sympathize.