Monday, August 20, 2007

Travelogue III: Two Bridges to Camp

Sunday, August 12, 2007: We woke up in Auburn, California, which is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We missed seeing the Sierra from I-80, because we made the drive from Reno to Auburn at night. I really regretted that, because the Sierra was formed by the building of California by suspect terranes, and I wanted to see some of the terranes. But, we were closer to where we needed to be and planned to take a drive through Oakland, Bruce's hometown, before proceeding on to Bolinas, where the COTE Cyote Tracks Camp was to to take place. The drive to Oakland started in the foothills of the Sierra and then we quickly descended into California's Central Valley, a unique landscape created by a change in subduction zones toward the end of the Mesozoic period. I-80 crosses the great Central Valley on the Sacramento river delta, which is actively building, and then proceeds through the Coast Range from Vacaville into Oakland. The Coast Ranges started by the subuction of island arcs in the Franciscan trench just off the coast of northern California, in Miocene time (26 to 20 million years BP). When the trench met the oceanic ridge where new crust was forming, the trench and ridge became inactive and the North American and Pacific plates met along a right lateral transform fault, the famous San Andreas Fault. When the fault swerves left, rocks jam up against thrust faults, and that forms the Coast Ranges in California. I say "forms" because the San Andreas is active: the North American plate is moving west and the Pacific plate is moving northwest, so there is still friction along the fault and the mountains are still rising.

Oakland, California is built on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. The commercial district and the Port of Oakland (largest container port in the world) are on the flat shore, and the town rises into the Oakland Hills, part of the Coast Range. The area is faulted like nobody's business, and the Hayward fault runs through Oakland.

After negotiating Sunday noon traffic from I-80, our first stop in Oakland was Fenton's Creamery, because Bruce insisted that this was an Oakland tradition. The parking lot on Piedmont street was full so Bruce, a pro at parallel parking--"Hey, I'm an Oakland boy!"--parked up the curb on a narrow side street.

Bruce said that all rules are in abeyance when you go to Fenton's, so N. had the Jumbo Banana split for lunch. It contains three pounds (yes, pounds) of ice cream, but N. managed to eat most of it without help. The picture is proof that I am not exaggerating!

Bruce and I split a Jumbo Mocha Almond malt, which left room for us to split a tuna sandwich on San Francisco Sour Dough as well.
N. was not hungry for the rest of the day! :)
We had just enough time after Fenton's to drive around Bruce's childhood neighborhood. Up and down the hilly, narrow streets we went, and we saw Bruce's grandma Sarah's old house, his first house and his second house on Clarendon Crescent. I was glad Bruce was driving Henry--who seemed to be a "Supersize Red Truck." I realized then and there, that most people probably do not drive full-sized pick-ups with standard shifts if they live in the Bay Area.

Then it was time to drive N. out to Bolinas, which is on the coast, north of Sausalito. We alloted ourselves two hours to get him there. It was almost enough.

First, we had to cross the famous Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. They make you pay to get into San Francisco on any of the bridges, but you can get out for free! So we had to wait in line to pay our toll, being that we are outlanders and did not have the automatic toll reader. The picture was taken as we approached Treasure Island on the first part of the bridge.

Then we had to get off I-80 and wind around the city streets in San Francisco, on Highway 101. The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge is from Van Ness Avenue, but we had to twist and turn on a few other streets as well. Although there was no toll to cross the Golden Gate going north--they really do let you out of San Francisco for free--it was a Sunday afternoon and it took nearly an hour to get to and cross the bridge. I took the picture as we were stopped on the bridge approach.

We still had time for our five o'clock arrival at the Commonweal Gardens, but the directions we got did not say that staying on highway 101 meant twisting through the streets of Mill Valley. We ended up going straight where we should have turned and we saw the sawmill at Mill Valley, before stopping to get directions from a local who was walking her dog. That got up back to the intersection and we then stopped at a taco place to get more comprehensive directions. The girls there happily told us how to get there.
A short conversation:
Girl: "You'll think you are going nowhere, but keep with it. The people from Bolinas don't want people from here to find them. They take down signs. There will be no sign to Bolinas."
Me: "Why is that? Are they stuck up?"
Girl: "No, they are the original 'flower children hippies.' The authentic thing. They think the rest of us in Marin County are stuck up."
I was having my doubts at this point. What is this place I am taking my son to? I mean, I don't really know these "authentic hippies". But I said nothing to Bruce and N. and we pressed on.

After winding our way slowly and in traffic across the divide and around Mount Tamalpias, we finally made it to the camp. It was beautiful. Bolinas sits on a spit of land that juts out between Bolinas Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The camp was located among oaks, eucalyptus, and pine in a valley on the shore. No wonder the native "authentic hippies" don't want the tourists to find it! They'd be innundated.

We were a few minutes late, but when I tried to explain why, Rick--the guy from New Jersey who runs Coyote Tracks just said, "You're not late. Everybody seems to be arriving now." And I realized that they were running on a version of Jewish Standard Time. Perhaps called "Naturalist Standard Time?" Whatever. In any case, on time obviously meant "whenever everybody comes." Getting N. "registered" was really informal, too. It mean explaining to Rick how to do N.'s meds, loading his stuff onto a hand-cart and standing around smelling the eucalyptus while N. got started on making some rope. I was impressed by the gentle directions being given and the low-key but focussed approach by which N. was being taught. Finally, we just drifted away, since we were hungry and needed a campsite.

We drove on up Highway 1 to Olema, where we found the Olema Farm House. Very good pasta and not too bad of price considering that we were in Marin County. And then we went looking for a camp site and encountered the realities of the California lifestyle. In New Mexico, when you want to go camping you just drive onto the National Forest, find a campground, drive around it until you find an open spot, occupy the spot and pay at the self-pay station. This has been true any place we have camped in the intermountain west as well as other parts of the country. Not in California. There you must make resevations to camp weeks in advance and follow a complicated set of instructions to register and pay. California is over-crowded and over-regulated, and, as we discovered, over-priced. It cost $40.00 for a tent-site at the campground near Olema. For a tent-site! One night. They did provide wireless internet access and a shower, but who needs wireless if you are tent camping! It was pretty and a short drive from the coast, but still!

California: regulations up the whazoo! Traffic. And really expensive camping. Well. California. Nice place to visit but make a reservation. And expect to pay.

Posted from Sedillo, New Mexico! We are home.

No comments: