The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

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Salt Point State Park Again, Part Two of Two – Beach-combing Supreme

Salt Point State Park has plenty to explore.

This July trip I focused on the Pygmy Forest/Rhododendrons and the  stretch of beach from Fisk Mill Cove to Horseshoe Cove.  After a day in the trees  I ventured down to the beach.  Six miles of coast the park protects.  I’d explored all but these (aprox.) two.

Parking off Hwy One I headed across the bluff top to the water’s edge.  Scant trails move through the north end of the park.

This park was part of a huge Mexican Land Grant ranch that eventually split into smaller parcels.  The local economy changed to lumber. Several lumber mills sprung up along the Sonoma Coast in the mid 1800’s. Tanoak, Redwoods and other hardwoods were cut, milled, and shipped out via schooners.    Once the sawmills shut down (by the 1870’s) grazing livestock returned.

Found this marker (a headstone?) of Andrew Fisk, who died at age 42, and his daughter Clara Belle Fisk who died as an infant.  I’ve been hunting for online info on him to no avail.  Nest time I’m up there I’ll sleuth Fort Ross Park’s extensive bookstore for a book on Sonoma Coast history.


The day’s journey started down below this vantage and poked along the coastline, past the farthest point of land viewable, with a couple trips up top to avoid impassable sections of beach.

Catching low tide there were pools to scout:

Beaches yield much treasure:

Unfortunately, much trash litters them as well.  I wonder how old this wheel is?

This point was impassable by beach so I found a safe scramble to the top.  Of note, there’s a wee bit of climbing to be had here via bouldering and a few short, bolted routes I’ve read about.  Rock’s friable.  Looks scary to me.

Speaking of bolts, remnants from the lumber mills and quarrying can be spotted:

A local:

Though the water tempers hot summer temps, it’s still dry up top in July.  Hardy flowers add color to the bluff tops:

I think this may be called Horseshoe Cove.  Upon closer inspection, I found a group of seals hauled out on the rocks and swimming the protected water.

Just a few of many:

I watched from a distance, making sure I didn’t alarm them or change their behavior.  Since then I’ve added binoculars to my hiking gear. Wish I’d had one then.  Abalone shells littered the rocks.  They flourish in this area and must feed many seals.

Scrambling north along the wave-worn beach’s sandstone rocks, with no coves to protect, the waves became more animated and dramatic.  I made it around that point and had to exit back to the top.

Wove my way through the grassy bluff top back to the car.  Surprisingly, no ticks found me through here.

I like it up here.  The grass sways in the wind, rhythmical, sometimes I just sit and meld in a spell.

Winter’s in full swing and now’s the quiet time to visit this park. Weather’s more harsh, windy, rainy but that’s just a part of learning the land.  I’ve a four-day off stretch coming up.  Just might return and venture farther north.

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Salt Point State Park Again, Part One of Two – Pygmy trees and Elusive Blooms

Before I take you up to the Pacific Northwest, I’d like to share July’s trip to my favorite (relatively close) road-trip spot, Salt Point State Park. I frequent it.  Just a couple hours away, solitude can often be found, especially mid-week.  My third time there (?) it still feels fresh.  Here’s why:

The Cazadero Hwy. forks north off the Russian River, making for a pretty departure off Hwy 116. There’s a sweet little stop in Cazadero I recommend called Raymond’s Bakery.   Shortly after this landmark, King’s Ridge Road departs to the right and the Cazadero Hwy becomes Fort Ross Rd.  to the left. Santa Rosa Cycling Club describes a loop ride involving King’s Ridge Rd I aspire to.  It’s burly…I’m not.  They call it the “crown jewel of North Bay cycling roads.”  There are some remote places out here, huge ranches, 2200′ peaks.  Obscure enough, Googlemaps wouldn’t map this route for me to link to.

A happy girl I was as I lolly-gagged along the twisty roads, through tunnels of oaks:

Past summer’s crispy, yellow hills:

Fort Ross Rd. eventually bisects Meyer Grade Rd/Seaview Rd.  Here it slopes steeply to the sea, passing land once used by the Russian settlers of Fort Ross for farming.  I’ve walked through their orchard with you in a past post.  This visit the old trees bore fruit.

Made it to the shore in time for sunset. A must.  Woke the next day with two goals in mind:  The Rhododendron Preserve and the Pygmy Forest.

The Kruse Rhododendron Preserve is just up the road from SPSP.  Five miles of hiking trails wind through second-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, tanoaks and oodles of rhododendrons (in spring). It’s lush, quiet, and peaceful, almost eerily so.  Greens of every hue flood the eyes.  The park service has pruned the under story extensively to allow the profusion of rhododendrons.  Unable to make it this spring, with held breath I entered the preserve.

Cathedrals of Redwoods loomed above:

The best of the three (yep..three…I was thankful for them) blooms I spotted:

Not sure of this plant but I’ve seen it around. So delicate, so pretty!

I must return in April or May next year.

Next adventure of the day took me through SPSP’s PYGMY FOREST.   Much of Northern CA’s coast marches up in steps called Marine Terraces.  Uplift and changes in sea level formed an “ecological staircase.”  Each terrace is about 100,000 years older than the one below it.  Distinctly varied soils, plants, microbes and animals inhabit the different terraces.  Some have clay and iron-rich, thin layers of soil which starve plants of nutrients, stunting growth.  Add in poor drainage, resulting in pooling tannins from the trees, and you have a recipe for wee-trees.

Logging’s destroyed many Pygmy Forests.  Some I’ve found mentioned are: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve near Fort Bragg, Russian Gulch State Park, and Van Damme State Park near Mendocino.

The 5 mile loop I chose heads uphill through damp redwoods, ferns and a pungent litter.  That all changes. Seemingly suddenly I stepped into a bonsai shop filled with dry, stunted trees.  Mostly bishop pine and cypress, the forest appears barely attached to the thin, rock-hard buff colored soil.

Miniature Bishop Pine:

Further up the trail/hill, the terraces become more familiar, with thick undergrowth and tall trees.

Looping downhill, the trail a former road, one can see how the road slices through deposition of sands, forming some of the terraces.

Salt Point State Park’s Pygmy forest is a fascinating walk through layers of time.  Being my favorite local road trip, a winter’s foray will surely happen soon.

The following day, the water’s edge I explored. More on that next post.

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Salt Point State Park – Part Two – Of Ravens and Rocks

Waking to this does a body good:

Recall the backroad drive to Salt Point State Park.  Camped in the ‘overflow’ area.  A fire-ring I did not have but hey, what a view!

After a slow cup o’ Joe the day’s objective began.  Along the bluff top trail I ambled to Stump Beach Cove and back. The day started out cool and cloudy.  The sun burned through and lit up the afternoon.

In a previous post the northern section of this trail I described.  It’s less popular, more wooded, feels more secluded.  Still, a fine walk this section is.

Most of the trail’s on open bluff-top as shown above.

Some passes through hip high scrub.

I contoured the coast (mostly) exactly and dipped up, down, and around the rocky promontories and beaches.

This portion of the trail showcases the Tafoni rock formations the park’s known for.  Sandstone is shaped by waves, wind and water run-off.

Once a productive sandstone quarry and timber shipping port, signs of this still exist.

Decaying, old metal eye bolts:

Once you spot one chunk of rock with drill marks you begin to see them all over the place:

Found the perfect butt-shaped rock to plunk down on, knit, and have lunch.  Just happens to be next to an arch:

That’s a dishcloth.  They’re like crack.  I’m nesting for a new apartment and can’t seem to stop knitting them.

A loud “cronk!” abruptly ended my knitting meditation. One shiny, inquisitive raven sat above watching.  Soon, a second joined.

Fascinating birds.

Other beauties noted on this hike…

Spring color:

Interesting lichen:


Layers of sedimentary rock pushed up on an angle, ah those crazy plates:

Stump Beach Cove (named after a man, not actual stumps) was the turnaround point. It’s a fine beach, good combing, a little creek runs over one end joining the ocean.  Watched some Osprey fishing.


I don’t tire of this place.  Soon the rhododendron will bloom in the neighboring preserve.  That’ll necessitate a return!



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In Search of Red and Gold in Sonoma

When setting out for AZ two weeks ago (more on that later) I knew there was a chance I’d miss the fall colors in wine country.

Last Sunday I headed to Sonoma in hopes of spotting some colorful grape vines.

Maybe an hour away (barely), the route through Petaluma avoids the big highway route. A windy road through rolling hills passes farms and vineyards, providing a beautiful drive.  Sonoma’s tucked into the valley famed for CA grapes and wineries.  Now…I love a good glass of wine.  Admittedly, the label’s illustration usually determines which I choose. I’m pretty clueless.

I do know that vineyards can be beautiful places,  enchanting me on my first trip to CA in 2008.

The fall-colored vines were still there. Just a tease:

And more:

Oh the splendor!

I strolled around the main Plaza. 8 acres in size it’s the largest in the state and modeled after a Mexican town Plaza .  The Mission San Francisco Solano, built in 1823, marked it’s birth.  This was the farthest north and last built of all 21 CA Missions.

Though I didn’t enter the Mission or the Museum State Park (saved for next time) I did learn from a kind museum docent at the old hotel that the Bear Flag Revolt occurred in this Plaza, spawning the CA Republic, free from Mexican rule.

Across the street sits the Blue Wing Inn, an old Adobe structure that’s seen many uses including a post-mission era residence, a gold rush saloon, lumber store, a book store, apartments and others.

Saved by the State Park System, it sits all closed up. Much money is needed to repair and restore the building. That’s something the strapped CA State Parks System just doesn’t have.

The local theater, love the colors of the facade:

Speaking of colors, those brilliant fall colors were what my eyes were pulled to all  day:

This one’s from my neighbor’s yard so not in Sonoma but it sure fits in with the post:

Red’s my favorite color.

Return to Sonoma this winter, I will. There are pretty hills to hike and hot springs to soak tired feet in.  Plus…those museums to check out. All so close!

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Salt Point State Park – Walking With the Birds

Let me start off by sharing an important camping tip:   paper towels will work as a coffee filter in a pinch.  Add more coffee to make up for the thickness.

Hey…when you’re desperate …


I found the Salt Point Trail and walked from Fisk Mill Cove to Stump Beach and back.

These coves once bustled with Aleutian seal/otter hunters (Russian fur traders enlisted them) and lumber schooners taking the redwoods away.  Now, it’s peaceful and quiet save for the sound of waves on rocks.

Talk about variety! The hike started in a straw-colored grassy meadow, took me through several mossy, fern-covered ravines, over wooden bridges, and through a dense pine forest.

Looking down at (I think it was) Fisk Mill Cove once I walked through the woods and looked back. The northern CA coast is rugged. Finding places where man has no control over the landscape, I think, is important for one’s sense of place in the grand scheme of things.  Here it couldn’t be more obvious.

A stand of Bishop Pine with their wind-shaped slanted tops gated the open bluff top.

Walking along the ocean bluffs puts one pretty close to soaring birds, sometimes at eye-level as they ride the thermals.  Most of the trail was along an open meadow.  Here’s where the birds flew alongside me.

A couple beaches beckoned. I scrambled down to one when a shiny object caught my eye. My first intact abalone shell!  It is the prettiest thing, iridescent green and pink.  A treasure.

One of those beaches:

Tafoni means “cavern” in Italian.  This phenomenon the park is known for.  Being sandstone, the water and winds shape the rocks into beautiful, organic forms. Some resemble bowling balls, others are more pocketed, folded, honeycombed and cavernous in form.  This sandstone contributed to the construction of San Francisco’s streets and buildings in the mid 1800’s.  Eyebolts, drillholes and other remnants of rock quarrying (is that a word?) can be spotted in/near Gerstle Cove.

Tafoni from a distance:

Up close:

See the white marks on the lower portion of this boulder? That’s climbers’ chalk.  People boulder here, perched above the surf.  What a location!

Another boulder with chalked up problems on it:

Looking back at the thick forest  I’d emerged from:

The trail through the woods, being quite overgrown, took some attention to follow:

Spring will be a great time to return with the flowers (both on the bluff and in the Rhododendron Preserve) and the waterfalls two creeks make when tumbling down to the beach.  They were more of a splash a this dry time.

After I finished hiking, since I forgot my headlamp (recall the raccoon incident mentioned in my last post) I drove to the little market store. Passed this fella on the hwy and we met up in the parking lot.  I’ve forgotten his name (Michael, maybe?). He’d been biking around the US (meaning along each coast, across the south, and across the Canadian border.) His home being Santa Cruz, CA he was looking forward to reaching it.  He’d been gone two years. What an accomplishment! His wee dog trotted along and jumped into the kid trailer when it needed a rest. A very entertaining sight, I admire the guys gumption and hope he made it home safe and sound.

Meeting unusual people, walking level with the birds, finding your first abalone shell, and having to make coffee in paper towels are what road trips are all about.  That and beach knitting. What could be better?

Next week I start a big trip. More on that later.


Calistoga, CA: A Girl with Messy Hair Visits Healing Waters

Finished my first week of night shifts, was eager for a road trip since it’s been weeks.  Left the day after what I’m calling “recovery sleep” (that being the day after three nights of work.)  Drive was fine but once hitting my destination, CALISTOGA, CA, I was SO tired.  So, I made like a good little car camper and grabbed  a spot in the BOTHE-NAPA-VALLEY STATE PARK, about 10 min shy of Calistoga, threw the pad and sleeping bag on the ground in a lovely little grove of trees and napped.  It was wonderful, a nap, in the sun, the park to myself. 

Here’s the map of the route:  (Insert choice cuss words) Map won’t insert at the scale I chose.  You can interact with the map on this screen, zooiming in and out and moving it around. )


 Passed by DAVIS.  Would like to venture into the famed, bike-friendly college town while out here.  Drove through wetlands, farms of nut-trees near Winters, along the twisty Putah creekbed, along the curvacious coast of “Lake Berryessa” (a reservoir), past beautiful groves of oak, dropping into the famed NAPA VALLEY.   Noted some trees blooming. Here, a confectionary haze of pink.  It’s been dry and unseasonably warm in No. CA, per the locals. Are the trees being tricked into early blooming?

Near Winters, CA

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My pass through Napa and Sonoma in October was lit up by earthy red leaves. Now the vines are bare.   Some vineyard had  yellow flowers filling the rows of vines, I believe the flowers are called BUCKWHEAT but I’m not sure on that.  It glowed between the stark, black vines.


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Got out for a leg stretch in Saint Helena, a littel town just south of Calistoga.  Walked along Main St.  peeking into shops much too frou-frou-chic for me.  

The flowers!  Must stay warm here through the winter.  (Was sunny but with a long-sleeve-fleece-top bite to the air that day.)  A few pretty pics of flowers:


Pansies, one of my favorites.  I find it ironic the derogatory term “pansy” is associated with a hardy plant that survives chilly winter temps. 

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Primrose and Cyclamen:


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 Some sort of blooming tree. That pink!


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Not sure what this is.  It’s a shrub of sorts.


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After my nap in the sun, having just a few hours until dark, I poked around the little town of Calistoga, small and neatly contained amongst tree-lined streets with a mixture of gingerbread houses, 70’s style, upscale ranches, brick bungalows and stone cottages.   They must have more B&B per capita than anything I’ve ever seen. 

An adorable houses just off main street:


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Look at this sight! 

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The cook/waitres at the not-too-greasy-spoon I stopped at for breakfast  (more on that) told me it once was a mansion, then a hospital, then purchased by someone who let it fall apart.  Locked up in a legal quagmire for years (decades, it sounds like) the city finally got thier hands on it with plans to restore and make some use of this grand structure.  What a job, though.  I’ve always fantasized about restoring a home…on a smaller scale.   ; )

 Camped that night, still with a sleep-deprivation hang-over.  Went to cook supper and realized I forgot two vital cooking items:

  • My fryingpan
  • My can opener

No convenient, Trader Joes Beef Chili for me.  Rifled through the food box, grumbling, wondering what else I’d forgotten. 

Ever scramble eggs in a saucepan?  It’s a challenge.  I had breakfast for dinner, the only stuff I could make without a can opener.  Not bad, though!

What else did I forget? 

  • My flip-flops for the hot springs.
  • MY TOILETRY BAG!  Yep…no toothbrush, no comb, no other necessities.  Hit the grocery for the basics and wore a hat the next day.   Skipped a wine tasting beacuase I was too embarassed of my ungroomed state.  Next time. 

After breakfast at the cafe I headed for a hike. What a gorgeous day it was shaping up to be. 

This fella takes bike esthetics to a new level.  He was on the main street:


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Drove up hwy 29 to ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON STATE PARK for a hike out Table Rock Ridge.  Aparently, RLS himself honeymooned in an abandoned mining shack, here, penning notes which became parts of his famed works.  What a honeymoon!  She must have been one cool chick to tolerate a honeymoon that involved camping in a shack. 

The view east, toward the Sierras, once on the hike:


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Interesting ice crystals in a patch of snow I came upon (to my surprise.)  They remind me of the crystals baby Superman was in when his parents put him in the space pod (to send him to Earth)  before his planet blew up.  I forgot the name of it. 


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Once at the overlook,  Here’s a view to what I think are called the PALISADES, a spine of rock just visible in the back:


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Self-portrait of moi with “I forgot my toiletry bag” hair:


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To the southish, Napa Valley below:


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The Manzanitta were starting to bloom:


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Soaked at Calistoga Spa and Springs after the hike.  I love hot springs.  The dreamy, safe-feeling cocoon of warmth, the pleasure of just soaking while reading a good magazine.  Would return for that.  Then, had to head home.  Thought I would stay one more night but just wasn’t feeling recovered from that first week of work.  Still tired and not quite myself. 

Saw this site on the way back just west of Davis.  It was so odd I had to post it here. 

I saw a black plume fly up a dirt road and into these trees.  There were hundreds of crows (Ravens?)  Upon closer inspection I noted the ground littered with black shells.  Must have been walnuts or some sort of nuts from the trees above.  Such scavengers!   Rotten, black, crusty nuts.   Was one of those sights I may never forget, esp with the sun setting in the background.


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I’ve been seeing a lot of  sights I may never forget these days.