If I was something in a former life, I think it would be something nomadic. Some herder who followed the animals as the seasons changed. A gatherer who went towards the next harvest. A trader always crossing continents to move goods. A drifter stopping long enough to refuel and rest before moving on to the next town. There is something about a journey that helps put me at ease in ways I don’t understand. The ease doesn’t always come during the journey–it is often an after-effect. It helps me remember things I may have forgotten, gets me in touch with a part of myself that can hibernate if it spends too much time in rote routine. Something in a journey pumps life into me, makes me more me.
On Saturday, Allyson and I went to the Offshore Grill for breakfast together before I set out. The plan was to drive down highway 101 along the Oregon Coast, down into California to spend some time among the redwoods, then going back up through Ashland and the I-5 corridor until it brought me back to our home on the North Coast. The plan was set up to be loose. No itinerary on which towns I would stop in on which day. As few reservations as possible to pin me down to be at a certain place. I would go at the speed that felt right and stop at any place that interested me. I would find a place to sleep for the night as I came to it, without a lot of research and planning. This trip was to be made more on intuition.
I told Allyson goodbye with a full stomach. I gassed up the Civic and filled the tires with a cold breeze swirling. When I got back in the car, I took some moments of silence to pray some sort of blessing on the trip, to get my head, heart, and spirit in the right place. I turned on a podcast and hit the road, one of the most beautiful roads possibly in the entire world.
Highway 101 is often carved out of the side of a mountain on the edge of the mighty Pacific Ocean. There are so many stop-offs, so many scenic views. It is a buffet full of post card and calendar views. I took time in the Newport area at Yaquina Head. I hiked to the lighthouse, to the beach covered in smooth, round, dark rocks. There was an island just off the shoreline where seals were resting. It was sunny and breezy. If I kept walking and moving, my body would be warm enough for short sleeves. This seems like one of the motos from this trip, to keep moving enough to keep the body warm. I kept going south, pulling off at Heceta Head,where there was also a lighthouse. I had not planned on this trip being an Oregon Lighthouse tour, but they made for a nice regular stopping point. They distance they were spread out along the coastline is also a pretty good measure of when I felt like getting out of the car and stretching. It helps that they are often set on beautiful capes that stretch out into the Ocean.
My trips along the coast of late have been day trips limited to the time it takes to get to the destination, to eat, walk around, and then get home at a decent hour to rest for the responsibilities of the next day. I had more days on this trip, more time to linger and explore, more time to indulge the urges to wait and see what might happen next. I set on lava outcroppings next to the ocean, I stood next to creeks listening to their sounds, I watched the sun set at Heceta Head as several others planted their tripods or pointed their phones, elbows straightened. We all wanted to hold onto this, we thought we might capture something to keep is we photographed it. I had time to both look and to take the picture. I traveled farther south, stopping at a campsite. I then realized they took cash at the box, and I only had cards, so I pressed farther. I stopped at a cheap motel in Florence for the night. These quirky roadside motels would be my choice accommodations for much of this trip.
I continued my leisurely pace the next day. As I made my way farther south, the Oregon Coast began to look more and more like my memories of the Northern California coast. The rain and wind were powerful, so I was glad this day was going to be spent on the road. I pulled off at a viewpoint in Port Orford that looked out over a beautiful ocean inlet with Humbug Mountain across the way. The wind was blowing so hard that when I got out of my car, it pushed me. I got back in and just watched. The world seemed inhospitable and cold. But, it was still beautiful to witness. My next stop was along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. I chose it to stretch my legs, and I didn’t realize I was getting out at a spot I had seen in pictures many times, full of rugged natural arches with ocean water crashing underneath.
In the parking area I noticed a couple strapping on backpacks, I assumed prepping for at least a day hike maybe more. I set out onto the trail opposite them to explore long enough to stretch out my body. I wanted the trail to lead me closer to the huge natural arch fortune had brought me to, but it was going away from it. As I made my way back, I saw the couple from the parking area on top of the arch out over the ocean. Their trail took them down there. I looked at them, deciding if I wanted to go down there myself. The girl was seated with a camera looking like she was planning to film the boy. He pulled out a canister and opened it. Some sort of smoke began to pour out, almost like a smoke bomb. As I watched more, though, I recognized that he was probably spreading someone’s ashes and it only took the wind on a day like this to spread it. I felt content then to be where I was. To share this moment with them from a distance.
That afternoon I would arrive in Crescent City California, the rain still pouring. I checked in at the Curly Redwood Lodge Motel, for a very decent rate. It felt like I was checking into the 1960s, and I liked that very much. I was in California. The next day I would set out into the Wilderness. I would be returning to something within myself too. Something I had forgotten.