"The Hapa Haole Journal"
Monday, November 27, 2006 6:22 PM
The HHJ: The Road Not Taken
After spending the night at Rio Dell, California then deciding to spend another
because it was Sunday and I wanted a day to rest and do laundry, I
decided that I could have my cake and eat it, too.
Running back up to Ferndale, I took the King Range Road, properly the Mattole Road, and, having already seen a good portion of the scenery,
decided to have some fun driving it as fast as I could. Straightening
out the curves by driving in the opposite lane whenever I could see far
enough ahead to do so, a technique I learned from a friend working at a
race track a long time ago and practice whenever it's safe to do so, I
seemingly raced along.
Seemingly, because I knew I wasn't going as fast as I probably could, not attaining much more than 45 mph before having to slow down to
20 mph for the switchback curves, preferring the feel of previous cars
I've driven compared to this one.
Seemingly, because around Capetown, another car passed me from behind, coming from nowhere.
Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.
I slowed down to admire the mountain scenery that was new to me, the
mostly clear sky, uphill and down, rounding each curve to see more
ridges ahead until, suddenly, the ocean appeared only feet away.
What a shock.
It was totally unexpected, nothing to indicate or prepare one for the startling closeness of the water after the miles of mountain road.
I slowed to travel the reasonably straight road at 30-35 mph to enable
me to soak up the view which ended all too soon to go back through the
At Petrolia, the road closely
followed the Mattole River, giving different, yet still picturesque
water views crossing several bridges some of which were one-lane.
At Honeydew, I continued south on the Wilder Ridge Road which actually
turned out to be smoother than the Mattole Road. After bearing left at
the fork, I realized that I was going farther away from the ocean and
connected my eTrex Legend GPS receiver to verify the road I'd taken.
It was the wrong one.
So, I backtracked to the fork and recognized that the road to the right
was the gravel road that the people in Ferndale on Saturday had called
over to Petrolia about for me. It was Kings Peak Road and would get me
closer to Shelter Cove than the road to Ettersburg.
It was a good gravel road without the few potholes about which I was
warned. However, there were lots of steep switchbacks keeping my rate of
speed between 5-15 mph.
Then, there was a fallen tree. It's a good thing my car is small enough
to squeeze around it.
Then, the road got narrower, barely wide enough for a pick-up truck. So
much so, that if I encountered another fallen tree, I'd have to back up,
not having enough room to turn around.
I did not like the thought of having to reverse up those steep
Then, some of the road, a tiny portion, really, had broken away, making
the narrow road even more so.
It was just getting worse and worse although still being all the while,
a good gravel road.
The final straw came at the water crossing. Obviously rain run-off, it
was shallow enough that I could plainly see the gravel beneath, only a
couple of inches deep, undoubtedly too shallow to reach my rims.
Besides, I could always get out and check it with a hiking staff.
The problem was that I didn't feel like it. The issue
was that of priorities: one being to follow the coast as closely as
possible and another to spend as much time as possible by the water.
With spending the night at Garberville being my target, staying on Kings
Peak Road would severely limit my time at Shelter Cove to the extent that
I'd be doing it in the dark and what's the point of that?
So, I sat and contemplated the run-off and what it represented. How many
more water crossings were ahead? How deep and fast-flowing are they? Are
there more fallen trees that I may not be able to get around? How many
hills would I have to climb and how steep are the switchbacks? Would the
gravel road get worse - less gravel, more potholes?
Comparing my position on the GPSr and how long it took me to get there,
having my cake and eating it, too, was no longer a viable option. I
backed up to a wider place in the road and turning around, went back to
follow the Wilder Ridge Road to the Shelter Cove Road.
It was much faster with small, shallow potholes that were easily dodged.
Then, the fog rolled in and crept up the mountain. Eventually, I passed
the point where it intersected with Kings Peak Road. It looked good and
it was wide. Hah! I already know from experience what the upper portion
The resort town of Shelter Cove was enveloped by fog and sitting in my
car by the ocean was different from anything I've experienced in a long
time. Land, sky, and sea all merged into a single plane without
differentiation. I could have driven onto the ocean or gotten out to
walk on the sky; it was all the same. A rock out in the water cast a
shadow into the fog making me think to take a photo, but I didn't. All
that white with only a shadow of a rock seemed more artsy-fartsy than I
want to achieve with my photography at this time.
Besides, the fog was cold and clammy and the interior of my car was warm
and dry. Digital "film" is cheap, but creature comfort won
After some time, I headed back up the road to spend the night at