Goodbye, California, Hello, Oregon!

Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, OR
February 6 & 7, 2018

After two months, I am out of California. God DAMN but it is one long ass state. When I first got there I hated it but now that I’m leaving I am sad to go and hope I can come back. Hell, not only do I want to come back, I am more than halfway considering a cross country move, should a miracle occur and Cali real estate prices drop to NC levels. I surprised myself at how much I came to really like it there. From South to North: I didn’t spend much time in San Diego, but the zoo was amazing. I liked LA a LOT. People who make jokes about it are wrong and I will correct them in the future – I mean, it is a world class city and there is a whole lot to love about it. FFS you can grow citrus fruit and giant cactus in your yard there, what is not great about that? In NYC you’re lucky if you can keep a geranium alive. I LOVED the central coast. Morro Bay is perfect. Cambria is perhaps even more perfect and ELEPHANT SEALS. I love San Francisco but yeah, so does everybody and, like most of the state, it’s too crowded for me. The northern coast, though, is amazing – oh Anchor Bay Campground, oh Gualala, I love you – and then when I got into Humboldt County I was all, ok, yeah, this FEELS like home. This is comfortable. I like it here. In other words I liked pretty much everywhere in California except, I guess, Calico Ghost Town and Big Bear Lake and it’s not really their fault about the roads or lack thereof.

_MG_8596California is strange though. It is crazily expensive and yet things are not fixed up – the state parks, for example, are a mess and yet they cost the earth to use. There are malls and stores everywhere and yet the parking lots are tiny and full. The roads are falling to pieces here and there and yet the parts that are fixed up are fixed up to, like, 22nd century standards: unearthly perfect. And to quote old Neil singing about the South, tall white mansions and little shacks, although there aren’t many little shacks left: the poor people live under bridges or in cars. The contrasts, which I grant you are everywhere in America now and more shame to us, are somehow more striking in California, more stark, more inescapable. When you have to be rich to live in a trailer park – and if trailers cost $200K and up, as they do in CA, then yes, only the rich can afford to live in them – then there’s something real wrong, America.

_MG_8561But! Let us move on! We have left California and driven into OREGON, where you are immediately greeted by huge green signs saying WEED. Excellent. The drive from Trinidad, California to Brookings, Oregon is beautiful. It takes you through the Redwoods and, okay, I take back everything bad I said about the Redwoods. I get it now. I took the Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway today – which is a fantastic drive I could not recommend more heartily – and it OPENED MY EYES about the Redwoods. It was way, way better than the completely misnamed Avenue of the Giants. It was fucking amazing, like, okay, a cathedral of trees. The light filters down like you’re in church and the moss on everything softens the sounds and the surroundings are just as green as Jurassic Park and you start to feel like you’re in Tomb Raider and there will be a temple to loot just around the corner. And then as you walk on further through the hushed green and the mammoth ferns you start to think about bears. And mountain lions. And Bigfoot. And crazed serial killers who have been roaming the woods for years now, just waiting for a lady with blue hair. And then somebody shouts something incomprehensible not far enough away at all and you walk back to the car with dignity and alacrity. Phew! The deep woods! I really like the deep woods actually despite my occasional cowardice and I am quite blown away by the greenness of these Northwestern ones. I mean, I would have told you I knew moss and ferns – we have moss and ferns in WNC, I would have said dismissively, awesome moss and ferns – and I would have been wrong. The moss and ferns here are unreal. They are PROS. They have taken mossing and ferning to new levels. They make North Carolina moss and ferns look like amateur night.

_MG_8546Also, there were elk! There was an entire herd of elk right by the road in, I think, the aptly named town of Elk Prairie. I suspect that perhaps they get fed there, though, because it just seemed. . . a little off that they should mysteriously all be hanging out right by a bunch of signs for ELK! SEE THE ELK! And that sort of thing. No matter! I took a few pictures although I didn’t get any of them bucking around, which several were doing: these were frisky elk. Yes, they were frisky and there were a LOT of them and I was standing by the truck with the door open and I was not super close BUT you know, I was not that far away either. I was a little nervous and so I didn’t get quite as many pictures as I should have. Oh well. ELK!!

_MG_8712Now that I am in Oregon, the state parks are back to reasonable prices. This park, which is undergoing a lot of construction, is $32! In New Mexico I would think that was highway robbery but in California it would be like a crazy fever dream. It would be great here – there are many trees! The (gorgeous, rocky) beach is right there! – except that it is on the highway and by on the highway I mean my campsite is somewhat like parking in a travel plaza. Hello, truck! There’s an old man with a long white beard on a scooter sitting on the highway across from the park entrance. He was there yesterday too, I guess it is his thing. He waves and smiles and shouts and thumbs up. I am baffled, but, okay, it is also sort of charming? I don’t know. I have a strange feeling that I’m going to move here – I know, I think I’m just tired of traveling. Everywhere I go now becomes a possible end destination, but on the other hand, LO, this place is affordable. It is the first affordable place I have seen in so long that I am a bit overcome. And it seems to have all the necessities, like a brew pub and an enormous supermarket and fabulous beaches and, hmmmm, it is under some serious consideration now. Just as I thought, the minute you cross the California state line – which is less than 20 miles away – the gas prices drop, the real estate is cut in half and they have plastic bags at the supermarket again.

_MG_8730This morning I spent a couple of extremely happy hours shooting the beach – given our hideous era of violence, that just doesn’t sound as amusing as it used to, now does it? Sigh. Photographing the beach. I say amusing things to myself about that – world’s foremost wave photographer! Re-illustrating Jonathan Livingston Seagull one beach at a time! – and that sort of thing. But oh I love it. The beach is always changing. I have gone on a tidepool binge – I am fascinated by the tiny little worlds and so I’m shooting them with the fisheye. I have a lot already; there will be a lot more. There are tiny moss and fern worlds too! I actually shot the one on the left at Patrick’s Point and I like it – I am calling it Womb of the World for _MG_8483extra pretentious points and I think you should buy it. Everyone should buy it! It’s a feminist icon! Or something. My fisheye lens is an utter pain to work with but I think I’m slowly, slowly getting it – it’s really not designed for this sort of thing; it’s a Lensbaby fisheye and I suspect they thought only people with crop frame sensors would be buying it. These people, who are thin and hip, would then use it for fun filled engagement shoots in Tokyo or Brooklyn. Too bad, Lensbaby! Instead it belongs to a weird old lady who is hanging off rocks over tidepools trying to get closeups of tiny crabs. I like the way it makes a full circle but then there is so much black around it it renders a histogram useless for exposure – you have to put everything on manual, otherwise it’s all overexposed – and it does end up being a small image when you get rid of all the black. Yet it was like $300 which at the time I thought was terribly expensive and I vacillated over buying it for months. Now of course I am all, gonna get me a thousand dollar Canon fisheye yesssss, but I’m not, really.

No more lenses! I did buy a pair of rubber boots at the grocery store, though and that’s a legitimate photography expense. My feet about froze off in the tidepools this morning and if I’m going to be doing this all the way up the coast, as is still more or less the plan, then I need something more than Crocs. Tomorrow, on up the coast! Onwards through Gold Beach! More Oregon! More state parks! And more beaches!

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