Most Excellent Adventure – Part Two.

After a couple of days exploring San Francisco, we decided to explore further north. Unfortunately, the next few days were predicted to be hot – 110F 38C – in the internal valley so we changed our plans. No lollygagging about in the Napa valley.

Instead we headed to the coast, up to Fort Bragg. It’s a bit of a drive, up the 101 and then over on the 20, but we could stop in Jackson State Forest and explore the redwoods.

A surviving redwood, with our rental car for scale

We stopped at a rest area for lunch where there were logging artefacts and some of the worst pit toilets that I’ve seen. The redwoods that have regrown form circles about the one that was removed. Many of the trees that return aren’t redwoods, but douglas firs, so we’ve done a great deal of damage.

 

A logging steam engines from the 1920’s.
The road to Camp One

Camp One is a right turn, most of the way to Fort Bragg. You follow a winding dirt road back to a parking lot. There’s a short (1 mile) and long (3 miles) loop up the valley. We took the longer loop to stretch our legs. It’s a bit of a climb on freshly cut trails, but well worth it. The header image shows one of the redwood stumps from this walk.

Regrowing Redwood Forest
The Harbor, on the way up after dinner. Django’s is strait in front of us

Fort Bragg is nothing much to speak of. We stayed at the Hotel 6, which had the dual advantage of being the least expensive motel and an open room. It was a choice between eating at a glorified fast food place or going for a walk. We, of course, chose the walk and found Fort Bragg harbor to the south. Live music echoed up and we made our way to “Django’s Rough Bar” for some excellent sea food, live jazz, and good beer. It’s named for Django Reinhart, the two fingered guitar maestro and the rough bar at the harbor mouth.

Angry Bastard, an excellent bitter

The next day we’d head down route 1, stopping along the way at the Jug Handle State Nature Preserve and Point Cabrillo. But more on that later.

For what it’s worth, I’m selling photos at Shutterstock and Alamy.

Elkhorn Slough Wildlife Refuge (State of California)

Another digression, between Monterey (we actually stayed in Marina, but more on that in another post) and Santa Cruz, we visited the Elkhorn Slough State Wildlife Refuge. It’s a great place for birds, in November through early spring, but less so in summer. Still we counted about 15 species, including a couple of new ones for the life list, so I’m not complaining. Rather I’m thinking of an excuse to visit at a better time.

The Center building itself. It wasn’t this nice when I visited about 8 years ago.

The refuge, an old farm, is maintained by the state and in great shape. They will lend you excellent binocculars (Eagle optics), and the rangers are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.

A view of the slough from the South Marsh loop

There are about 5 miles of looped trails over a range of habitat. However, it’s mostly slough, mudflat, and open fields with some oak woods mixed in.

A copy of the trail map that they hand out at the center.

Speaking of oaks, California is in the midst of a slow crisis of sudden death oak fungus, so it’s important to clean your shoes when traipsing about.  They also had us brush off any possible seeds from invasive species. Poison oak isn’t an invasive species, and it is present in the refuge (the birds love the berries). One interesting difference between the western variety and its relatives in Georgia is that the California poison oak was already turning red and losing leaves. Still you should be careful about it – unless you like itchy patches of blisters. (Using soap and water within an hour or so of exposure is usually enough to remove the oils.)

Burning off Eucalyptis

However at this time of the year, the non-avian wildlife is worth a serious look. In addition to lizards (mostly fence lizards) and a gopher snake that stayed put for an intimate photograph, there were rabbits, seals, and sea otters. Sea otters!

A curious Gopher Snake.

I repeat sea otters. At least two of them (both surfaced at the same time) and possibly three of them. There is a power line that crosses over the Parson’s Slough overlook. An Egret rookery is at the far side of the slough where it crosses. The sea otters were playing in the incoming tide more or less directly under the wire. There was also a curious seal, who would poke his nose up, now and then.  I have to admit I didn’t believe that sea otters came in the sloughs, but I was wrong and the ranger was right.

Our day started out sunny, but then the fog and chill (54F, 12C) rolled in, hence the fairly grey photos.

For what it’s worth, I’m selling photos at Shutterstock and Alamy.

What the heck is going on with this blog?

Hiding my ugly mug behind the camera.

I’ve been trying with various degrees of failure to establish myself as an indie-author. Hence all the literary pointers and similar cruft. Meanwhile, as they say, I’ve had a camera in front of my face since the dark ages (when you processed your own film and made your own prints (and mixed your own chemicals, yum.)) It seems that my photographic and travel posts are the most popular. So that’s what I’m doing as part of a massive re-branding. (At least I don’t have to wait for the iron to get red hot.)

Tule Elk on Point Reyes.

Something of a digression, but we just walked the Tomales point trail at Point Reyes National Seashore through the Tule Elk preserve. This species of elk was nearly hunted to extinction and reintroduced to park about 40 years ago.

Fine, neat, but so what.

Most of the hikers on the trail, and there were more than we’ve seen on any other trail in the park, missed the elk completely. We saw at least 21 and possibly as many as 26 (there was a large herd that was hard to count, my best estimate was 20). There’s a trick to it, well two tricks actually:

  1. Skill and knowledge
  2. Patience

The first step is to find the elk. Being prey animals, even though they’re the size of small cows, they tend to hide away. We  saw three heads on the top of a ridge in the distance. Were they elk? Well, out with the binoculars. Yup, elk.

Further on, to get out of the wind (Tulome trail is very windy. The Park Service quietly understates ‘even experienced hikers may find it difficult’.) we took a diversion to hide behind a pile of rocks. There was a small cluster of similar little dots in the distance. Again, out with the binoculars and quelle surprise, a herd of elk, not 100 meters from the path.

Elk as little dots in the distance.

So then it was just a matter of walking to the closest point on the path and waiting. While a fair number of people walked past, chatting about this and that, we watched the elk.

Elk backs with the Pacific Ocean behind them.

At first, they were blobs in the distance.

They walked closer and soon our patience was rewarded.  People kept walking past without noticing the animals. Shame.

Two elk

 

 

These pictures were made with a 200mm lens, which isn’t a particularly powerful telephoto lens.

For what it’s worth, I’m selling photos at Shutterstock and Alamy.

The Start of a Most Excellent Adventure.

We decided to try exploring the West coast for a number of reasons. The most pressing being to see how the trees I planted while working for the city of Salinas were doing. Well, not really, but it’s been a while and, quite frankly, we wanted to see somewhere we haven’t been recently.

We started off by flying into San Jose, which is a smaller airport than SFO, but has the advantage of being much easier to get away from. We booked a couple of nights in Antioch – near the end of the BART yellow line with plans of exploring the city. (FYI we stayed at America’s Best Value Inns there which is cheap, clean, and decent.  Hazel’s drive in, just down the road, is a fantastic little restaurant if you’re in the area (bring cash – they don’t take credit cards).) If you do this, it turns out there’s no parking to speak of at the Antioch station. Drive to Pittsburg Bay Center and park there. (You also avoid a transfer).

A street in Chinatown.

We explored Chinatown and had excellent dim sum at the Imperial Inn before walking to Telegraph Hill (the Coit Tower then pier 51).  The trick to finding good dim sum is to look at the clientele. If they’re mostly Chinese, you’ve found the right place. We picked up salted plums and various Chinese candies that aren’t easy to find in Atlanta. If you walk a few streets West of the tourist area, you can find the Chinese grocery shops. There English is a scarce commodity, but the vegetables and fruits are authentic.  There’s also a tension between the mainland and Taiwanese Chinese. Several of the buildings pointedly had either the PRC or Taiwan flag displayed.

 

Unfortunately the heat followed us, it being 85-90F (30-32) instead of the more normal 60F (16). So we decided the best thing to do the next day (with inland forecasts of 35-38 (100-108) was to take the ferry.  We started at the SFO ferry terminal (near the Embarcadero BART stop) and took the ferry to Sausalito.

 

 

 

The natives posed for a practice shot with my mirror lens. It’s OK, but the resolution isn’t up to my normal standards.

The ferry ride costs about $6.50 each way (use a clipper card, and keep track of your balance). It’s the cheapest way. There’s a bike over the bridge and return on the ferry route that looks fun, but you have to be prepared for it. (We weren’t.) Sausalito is a bit of a tourist trap, so we walked around and admired the yachts. Most of the yachts weren’t being used, and some could be had quite cheaply – if you don’t count the work you’ll need to put in to make her seaworthy.

Sailing by the Golden Gate

The yachts are entrancing, but I’d need a lot of practice to move up from a sailing canoe to one of these.

More sailing.
The skyline, including Alcatraz

For what it’s worth, I’m selling photos at Shutterstock and Alamy.

Aarhus

From Amelia:
More field research. Aarhus is hosting a summer school in crystallography and I tagged along as an ex-crystallographer. It was refreshing, especially compared to my dear university. GSU is in the first circle of hell for academics. (probably even lower than that -R).

A scene in volume 3 of our regency spies will occur in this city.

Aarhus itself is a fairly modern city, with nominally friendly Danes. Most of them speak English because my Danish is non-extant. Danish itself is interesting, because the roots or the words are clearly evident when written, and almost impossible to hear when the Danes speak. A large part of English comes from old Norse, with the word endings, conjugations, and declensions stripped away.


This shows a section through the old town. A half-timbered building and a bicyclist.
Beware of bicyclists; they will run you down and they ride in dense packs, big dense packs, big dense fast packs. Most of the time, at least, they follow the traffic rules.

One difference between Danish and English buildings is the use of pastel colours.

Right now they’re having a big music and beer beer, festival. Danish popular music is an acquired taste. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard “smoke gets in your eyes” in Danish. The (white) singer had Louis Armstrong’s gravelly voice down pat. We left when he started in on “It’s a beautiful world.” Danish rap is best left to the imagination.

The featured image shows the aftermath of an M32 sailing race in the harbour. The water on this part of the Baltic is flat. I suspect that’s not always the case, but right now I could use a sail canoe on it without problems.

She’s sent me a few more:
This shows Aarhus in 1850 – not too long after the period of the book we’re writing. The church is still there, but apparently it’s all built up since then.

Another from that boat race. Oh, and she likes the beer.

Dunster Loop #Exmoor #UKwalks

I’ve been queuing up a series of walks – mostly about 10 km (6 miles for us colonials), and this is the second.

This started out as a “pub walk” from the house we hired in Wootton Courtenay – and we did get to one, about seven miles in. After several missed turns and places where the map … deviated from the trails on the ground.

This shows our GPS trace overlaid on the most current Ordinance Survey map. These differences made it a bit interesting.

I covered the first part of the hike on an earlier post where we hunted a local pub. So you can read that post for details. We take this walk up at the village of Timberscombe.

Saint Petrock’s church in Timberscombe

We headed uphill on the wrong road, but eventually found our way to where we could see Dunster in the distance.

Dunster’s there, somewhere.

If you get to this carved bird (the buzzard), you’ve gone too far.

Some of the local landmarks have a decidedly sci-fi name. Is Gallox bridge in Gallifrey?

Gallox Bridge
Inside the Stag.

We stopped in the Stag – which is an excellent pub – and let two sweaty, dirty, and tired hikers enjoy their pints inside. It had a guitar in the corner so if you were a better player than I am, you could entertain the crowds (or if you were a better runner you might escape the disapprobriation.)

 

 

The path heads uphill, of course, from the town. It winds its way past St. Leonard’s well (Shades of Blackadder) along a ridge.

St Leonard’s well. Locked, but making the footpath mucky for the last thousand years.

There is an excellent set of views of Minehead from the exposed ridge. The sun is shining on Butlin’s holiday camp.

Minehead.
Minehead in the distance

We also wanted to look for this weird feature – seen on google maps.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing special.