TRAVELS WITH GREASE AND PADDLE
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Going to California, Back on the Blog
With bellies full and the Fried Piper brimming with Thanksgiving leftovers and some strange grease from behind a super market in Talent, Ore., we crossed the state line into California. Shortly thereafter, we saw a Hummer, a dangerously fast driver and were panhandled by a grifter. We were also stunned by the beauty of the redwood forest of Northern California and the coastline surrounding Crescent City. California: the best and worst of America.
Our time in Oregon was eventful, and we apologize to readers about the lack of writing or photos. Trips to the coast, city time in Portland, and Thanksgiving in Ashland with several Haines friends were big highlights. Bryan “Millagio” Miller hosted us for the holiday, and made great rosemary mashed potatoes for the feast. Natcho contributed filo dough stuffed with ricotta/chantrelle stuffing and homemade jalapeno poppers, and Matt added sweet potato pie and cherry pie made with pie cherries from Paradise Cove, Alaska, canned this past summer. Sue Miller hosted fourteen people, including Bryan “Y.T.” White and Chris “C.P.” Pintozzi. Thanks Sue.
We arrived in Crescent City, a town devastated by a tsunami in 1964, to find flat surf and grey whales offshore. We paddled out at sunset and were sandwiched between a huge moon and the setting sun. The whales kept their distance, but their breathing punctuated an otherwise silent dusk.
We slept in an enchanted grove of redwoods, sans tent, with moonlight filtering through the giant evergreen trees and making for a most memorable night.
We awoke to the hammering of a pileated woodpecker and sipped tea (forgot the coffee at Miller’s) and ate some power-packed hot gruel cereal before embarking on our biggest stretch of whitewater yet: the gorge of the Middle Fork of the Smith River.
Incredibly clear and beautiful, the river meandered through forested hillsides and rocky bluffs for several miles before dropping into a gorge of polished rock. We picked our way through rapids, scouting every one, and running safety on several (where one of us stands downstream of the rapid with a throw bag in case of a swim). Oregon Hole was the biggest rapid of the run and we both managed to avoid the big hole and get propelled through a chute of turbulent water. Several more good-sized rapids kept us sharp and we finished our paddle as dusk neared.