Thursday, July 13, 2006

Happy Campers - Salt Pt. State Park

You might remember how I slacked off in the driving department during the move. Now that we have gotten rid of the UHaul and traded it for our jazzy, new car, I am happy to drive. ; )
Towards the end of our four-day, 4th of July holiday weekend, the day after we purchased the new car, we planned to take her out for a spin. Cam had investigated several roadtrip options. Before hitting the highway, we stopped at REI to look into getting some hiking boots for me. After shopping, Cam said, let's grab our camping stuff incase we decide we want to go camping. So we quickly drove back home, grabbed the essentials and were off.
Cam wanted to make sure I was comfortable driving the car and also knows that as much as I love Hwy 1, the curves make me a bit queasy after an hour or so as the passenger. So I got to drive the first stretch of our trek north. I'd never been to Salt Pt. State Park and frankly, from the name, wasn't that excited but from the position on the map and Cam's enthusiasm, I was up for giving it a try. It is hard to take pictures that do the scenery on Hwy 1 justice while driving but I thought these shots of our smiling faces as we look out the window were pretty effective at conveying our happiness and exhilaration.
When we arrived at the park, we were surprised to find this campsite open. The blue through the trees is actually ocean. We were a bit worried about being cold at night that close to the water but were willing to give it a try.

A trail, that was supposed to be less than a mile long and take us to the beach, was very close to our campsite. We started down the trail and almost immideately saw this HUGE woodpecker, sort of a live version of Woody. There were also these impressive Blue Jays with black caps and this tiny bird that has a call I loved. We saw one singing and his tail did this little peep, peep, peep motion in conjunction with his call. It was fun to be able to visualize him whenever I heard the call the rest of the weekend.

Later, at Mt. Tam, I bought a "N. California Backyard and Trail Birds" deck of cards and think I may have identified two of the birds we saw at Salt Point. I think the Blue Jay was the Steller's Jay and the singing bird a California Towhee.

What I just read reminds me that the cap on the Jay is called a crest. The Towhee's description says their song is used primarily to attract mates. I like they way they describe their call, "The song, delivered from an open perch, consists of the bird's typical chip note repeated three or four times, followed by a descending and decelerating trill." Sounds right to me.

I'm haven't been able to confidently identify the wood pecker. Our deck of cards has three woodpeckers, the Nutall's, Acorn and Downy. All of them are large but none of them are pictured with the prominent red crest we saw. The Acorn Woodpecker is a possibility as it is the largest and has a mostly solid black back. I just don't remember any yellow on the one we saw and it doesn't really look like the bird in this picture. Although, I just read something calling them clown-faced. Maybe.
So, we tromped around quite awhile on that first trail. It was a pretty trail that doesn't seem to get much use but it kept seeing to end without actually taking us to the beach. We foraged around some and almost plowed through but decided it would be better to circle back and try again. We followed the road for awhile and found another, well-maintained trail that took us through lots of interesting looking trees and past come pretty water and rocks.

The walk to the beach on this trail was easy. It was all down-hill. It opened up to this grassy field leading to the ocean.

More breath-taking views.

Captivated, serene Cam.

and Mary.
and more wind. Seems to come with these brilliant, blue days.
That evening, Cam built a toasty fire. We roasted spicy brats and made smores. Since Sam wasn't around for us to be bad influences on, we enjoyed poking at the fire quite a bit. The red-hot coals always captivate me.

We sat under blankets (I mean, I sat under the blanket. Cam said he was, "Fine. Really." I have such a chivalrous husband. I'm lucky.) We warmed our feet and hands near the fire and stayed up to enjoy the heat as long as it lasted. We tried to watch the stars but the moon was nearly full so we didn't see too many. I was happy for the moon-light though. Finally, we crawled into the tent and zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags. Again, I had the blanket. Thanks, Cam. We were worried we would wake up in the middle of the night freezing but the next thing we knew, it was morning.
We packed up quietly and quickly and hit the road. We saw more deer and even some goats (tagged, farmer's goats) near the road as we wound along. We decided to stop at one more beach before heading away from Hwy 1 to the more direct but less scenic Hwy 101. The early-morning light made everything seem so peaceful. After enjoying the view for awhile we got back in the car.

It look like we just needed to take this tiny road between Hwy 1 to Hwy 101 and we'd be able to zip back to Chicago in no time. But, I have yet to learn that these tiny roads in scenic California are not always the straight, flat back roads of Kansas and Iowa. This one, weaved left, then right, then left again, through dense, lush, beautiful, old trees, past herds of cows we had to stop for because they were on the road, up and down incredible hills and valleys, past a lake and a vineyard. After well over an hour, we came to Hwy 101 and made good time the rest of the way home. Cam was able to call his mom and wish her happy birthday before she went to bed and I snuggled up on the couch to rest and recharge. These outings are both thrilling and tiring sometimes. Tomorrow, I leave for a week-long one to Myrtle Beach.

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