Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Coast, the Creek and the Confluence: My Final 1974 Redwood Journal Revisit

Redwood National and State Parks is special for many reasons but for me it is the parks' unique combination of spectacular redwoods, rivers, wildlife and coastal beauty that burns it into my memory. In this third and final revisit of my 1970s redwood summer journals I share with you three special places: Footsteps Rocks on the Coast, Nickel Creek, and the Confluence of the South Fork with the main Smith River, which is just east of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. 

Journal Entry. Footstep Rocks, Redwood National Park

An exceptionally blustery afternoon. The ocean is tempestuous. The seabirds are seeking shelter. Great masses of water are tossed against the glistening rocks. A young harbor seal is struggling with the heavy surf—its dark glistening head bobbing up between the waves. A flotilla of immaculate gulls soar on braced wings overhead riding the strong wind downhill. They are so beautiful against the deep blue of the sky-dome—the edges of their bodies burning with the full radiance of the overhead sun. They appear one by one over the looming brow of the northernmost of these rocks. They disappear northward closely following the forested shore.

Pigeon guillemots come reeling around the precipice with flaming-red legs dangling. The Postelsia sea palm is taking quite a beating—a sprig just went flying before a wave. The clear water trickles off the sparkling rocks as a cormorant flings itself off a rock downwind. A spray of seawater is blown across a rock in a spray rainbow.

My 1974 Kodachrome slide of algae draped at low tide

A few times a week I would guide a nature walk down the trail from the Crescent Beach Overlook parking lot crossing Nickel Creek to Endert's Beach to catch the low tide and give folks a chance to explore the invertebrate wonders of the intertidal world. On September 4, I walked up the creek by myself and found a quiet spot to listen and observe.

Journal Entry. Nickel Creek near Trail to Endert’s Beach, Redwood National Park

Water—running water. Flowing in rippled sheets disturbed by water-striders and tumbling leaves. Flowing though small gaps like molten glass. Relecting the sky between the filigree of branches and leaves and revealing the clarity and repose of the sorted pebbles beneath.

Large maple leaves fall to this liquid glass to drift across the pool and to be stopped before the next small cascade in a jam of leaves. Beautiful traceries of leaf skeletons are left on the bottom. Shadows flow across the rounded forms of the fissured and hollowed rock-bodies while mosses fill the cracks and spill over their brows. Silken breathing threads connect branch to branch and rock to rock.

Winged beings flit through the shafts of sunlight that move with the swaying alder canopy. Rings of darkness and light emanate from the ripples distorting the boles of the trees and mixing the deep browns of the trunks through the yellow-greens of the foliage. Ferns drape in graceful arcs above the water and cast delicate shadows on the rocks.

The air is still, cool, and serene. Leaves bow silently. The water surface is shimmering with the joy of being and sings it lulling song to me.

My 1974 Kodachrome slide of Crescent Beach covered by logs washed down
the rivers from upstream redwood logging

Though on U.S. Forest Service lands just to the east of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, I include this final journal entry as this confluence is quite beautiful and the encounter quite moving.

 Journal Entry. Confluence of Smith Forks, Del Norte Co., CA  

I shall become a rock- a part of this canyon, these palisades. Here I will remain- watching, waiting, listening- unhurried. Mergansers wing upstream between my walls- winging above these waters flowing together into full embrace.

I would wall off this road to better hear the dipper’s clear watery song. I would use these quiet pools as my eyes and reflect faithfully all that passes over them. My life would be the clear, rolling water—my breath the breezes moving through the overhanging grasses. The spruces and madrones will clothe my steep slopes and hold the sky.

Here I would remain— at one with myself.

Cover of my self-published book
highlighting my journal writings and drawings

Where the Klamath meets the Sea: My Summer Home Soaring with the Swallows

1974 Kodachrome slide of the sunset from my Park Service home at the Old Hamilton Hotel-Crevilli House

When I reported for duty at Redwood National Park to serve as a seasonal Ranger Naturalist in the mid-1970s, I was assigned a room in the old Hamilton Hotel-Crevilli House on the unpaved Coastal Road on the bluff overlooking the mouth of the Klamath River. I loved the views up and down the coast and far out to sea. The sunsets were spectacular and at night if the fog had retreated I could see two light houses to the north and the city-like lights of the huge Russian fishing fleet just beyond the territorial waters of the U.S. I enjoyed watching the many barn swallows that nested in the collapsing dairy barns across the road and which soared over the fields and high into the sky. On my days off I would often sit out on the porch listening to Beethoven's Ninth symphony and sketching the swallows as they kept time with the soaring music.

Some years ago the Park Service burned the old hotel and barns, probably to prevent accidents. So these forty-year old memories, photographs and sketches are a link to an irretrievable past.

Here are four journal entries with drawings and photos from my delightful stay at the old Hamilton Hotel.

View south across the Klamath River mouth. My Hamilton Hotel home is at the bottom 
of the circular pastures above the sandspit. The tide is coming into the river mouth. 
The Flint Rock seastack is to the right.

My 2009 photo from a similar spot to my 1974 sketch shows that the sandspit has 
changed greatly since 1974 and the beach now connects Flint Rock to the shore, 
at least during an outgoing tide as in this photo. With the end of the Johnson Dairy Ranch 
operation the clearings near the old Hamilton Hotel site have become overgrown with trees.

At the old Johnson Dairy Barns with botanists
R. Mastrogiuseppe aka "M-13" and "Henry"

Journal Entry. Old Crevilli House, Coastal Road, Klamath, Ca., Redwood National Park

This area is so beautiful! There is an old barn across the road and behind it a sloping field of spring flowers and scattered trees disappearing over a cliff where the surf crashes below. A steady roar rises up from the rocky shore. The waves surge over a sand bar at the mouth of the Klamath River to the north. Much further up the coast the lighthouse at Crescent City flashes and yet further the light at Point Saint George can be seen.

I sat out on the old fence gate behind the barn and watched and listened to the Barn Swallows coursing through the air above, behind, and in front of me. They too were reveling in the radiant love so evident this evening in the light and colors of the day’s end. The flaming crimson and oranges promised a clear day tomorrow.

I lay back on the fence top and viewed the sky and ocean from this perspective—it gave me a beautiful feeling of soaring. I greeted the first stars and walked through the dark barn disturbing the roosting swallows.

My 1974 photo of the abandoned Johnson Dairy Ranch buildings 
across from the Old Hamilton Hotel-Crevilli House

Swallows to Beethoven

Clouds and Swallows

Journal Entry. Old Crevilli Place, Coastal Road, Klamath, Ca., Redwood National Park

Swallows! Swallows climbing to heaven and tumbling to the sea in magnificent spirals. Swallows veering through the air on stiffly-braced slender wings.

The sun is fighting with the somber blanket of fog to bring me life. The swallows are twittering. The clouds roll up the coast as the breakers flow over the sand bar at the mouth of the Klamath. Grass heads flow with the wind. The music, sun, clouds, swallows and my life bring my soul to overflowing. My joy flows from the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks. I want to dance to Life—I want to soar! I am making my wings of experience, of life itself.

My brothers of the sky will show me how to fly. Others of my kind have been there before and will embrace me along the way. The sun is blinding my eyes with its soft pervasive radiance. The clouds are passing by. My eyes are clear. I’ve never seen the sky so radiantly bright. A fog bank hangs thickly over the ocean horizon beyond the old barn.

Cavorting Whales and Swallows

Journal Entry. Old Crevilli House, Coastal Road, Klamath, Ca., Redwood National Park

Foam. Water cresting and breaking over rocks, hidden reefs, whales’ glistening backs, and the sandy shore. Moving water—seemingly coursing in towards the land. Heaving back and forth in swells between rocks. Sunlight sparkling in the troughs. White foam spreading and dissipating. The wind above blowing the gulls and buffeting the grassheads. Pelicans gliding along the tops of the wavelines. Waves stirring up the sand. Meandering skeins of foam parallel the coastline and lie draped around projecting rocks. Swallows chattering as they divide the sea breeze with their scythe-like wings. Sitka spruce climb the gulches to the alders by the house.

The sea becomes more and more blue as it reaches out to the horizon, there to be obscured by the hazy purple fogbank crowned with a light blue that deepens overhead to the zenith.  Where are my spouting gray whales of this morning?

A white-crowned sparrow sitting contentedly on a weathered gray fence—chirping rhythmically and looking about. The air is cool but the sun is warm. My swallows are breathing deeply of life. I aspire to gain their Oneness.

The Klamath flows out to greet and marry with the ocean waves that rush in to embrace her lighter waters. The rocky coast seems so strong; but the sea’s energy and patience is boundless. One must take and the other give.

Flint Rock Head

Cypressus macrocarpa aka Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress, Old Hamilton's Hotel, July 11, 1974

Red Alder, Sitka Spruce and Swallows

Raccoon Tracks on Medium Grain Sand--Moist
among rocky beach down from Crevilli Place

Journal Entry. Klamath Beach Road, Redwood National Park

Evening fog. Mauve mists rolling out to sea, undulating as the waves they clothe. Purple-blue becomes deep red-orange fading into yellow, a delicate green and finally into a celestial blue that deepens upward where the evening star burns through a wisp of high gauze.

The shorebirds call to each other beneath the cloud. The surf is muffled. Spruce, so startlingly silhouetted nearby are obscured by the passing mists which run through their outstretched branches like cool fingers. The sky is so distant and clear—the mist so enveloping, rising, obscuring. The night is settling from the sky. My heart reaches out…my arms are open.

My idealized ranger-naturalist communing with his co-Earthlings and enjoying his nifty uniform and Stetson!

May all Beings be well, happy and Free!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Return to Redwood National Park after Forty Years

In the mid 1970s, I reported for duty as a National Park Service Seasonal Naturalist at Redwood National Park in Crescent City, California. That summer I kept and illustrated a journal which I would like to share with you in this and some following posts. 

These posts were inspired by a serendipitous experience I had in mid-October, 2014 when I chatted with some rangers at Redwood National Park's Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick, California. I mentioned that I had been a ranger here forty years ago. Rangers Carey and Shaina said I should look at some staff photos they had just pulled up from the park's archive. Coincidentally the photos were from the summer of 1974! I said, there's Jim Early and my interpretation supervisor L. Finn. In a second photo I recognized R. Mastrogiuseppe who we called M-13 for his long name. In another photo of the seasonal staff I saw my twenty-five year-old self with long hair and my tinted German glasses from my Army duty there. Here's the photo with me third row back second from the left. M-13 is in the same row second from the right looking towards "Henry" who we named after his doppelganger Henry David Thoreau. Oddly, twenty years later I ran into "Henry" in Belize while watching howler monkeys in another national park.

Here I am with Rangers Carey and Shaina.

I presented them with one of the few remaining copies of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail Guide which I illustrated that summer.

Here's my journal entry written at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Followed by my journal drawings from this grove. 

Silence. The fog has inundated these ridgetop redwoods- drifting silently through the green-crowned spires. Listen! No sound but the softly mewing winter wrens punctuated by a raven’s harsh croak. Now even the wrens are silent. Ahh! there’s the wind being parted by the many fingered spires high above. The rhododendron leaves are shimmering- the ferns gently rocking with the same breath. No hurry here- the seasons come and go. The redwoods remain.

I will follow up over the next few weeks with other journal entries and drawings from this memorable Summer in the Redwoods. I'll end this post with some of my recent photos of Redwood National and State Parks.