Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Northern Coast and Avenue of the Giants

Max and I have started checking the boxes on what we hoped to see in this state before returning to Ohio. Suddenly we have to decide exactly what are "must see, must do" before we leave (I have a couple of restaurants that you'll hear about before we leave), But the big stuff is the BIG TREES. I'm going to miss these BIG TREES- these ANCIENT TREES. I'll miss the Bay and the fog as well- but I'm really going to miss these trees. And I wanted to drive the coast north and south. So this was our trip north. This trip took us about 200 miles north, much of the way on the coastal highway 1 as it winds along the Pacific Ocean. We stopped on occasion to look at and photograph the scenery where the view was spectacular. But to be honest, there is no way to capture the beauty of this coast line. It just has to be experienced in person. Here are pictures of a few of the places we stopped on the way.

Highway 1 didn't quite go along the coast quite as far as we wanted, so we had to take a trip over the coastal mountains back to U.S. 101 to get around some particularly rugged coast line. There did appear to be a dirt road that would have taken us to our inn at Shelter Cove, but it was not recommended for RV's or other large vehicles. So we opted to take our Civic on the paved route which was a little longer, but probably a whole lot quicker.

Our home for two nights was the Tides Inn at Shelter Cove-
( http://www.sheltercovetidesinn.com/ ). The inn itself was quite adequate, (it was comfortable enough- but it didn't go much above comfortable- except for the view- and that was definitely over the top), but the location and view was spectacular. The door of our room opened onto a small deck that was about 20 feet away from a drop off down to the shore. Consequently, we slept with the window open and listened to waves crashing on the the rocks all night long. Below are some pictures taken from our deck.

The Inn was a nice place to stay given our desire to be by the ocean, but our real reason for going this far north was to visit the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and drive the "Avenue of the Giants". This Avenue is the route that was used prior to the making of Highway 101, which is a major route north for the western part of California. This two lane road winds for 30 some miles through sections of old growth redwoods forest. It is estimated that most of the trees in these forests are between 400 and 600 years old, but some are suspected to be around 2000 years old. You can see from the picture below why this is called an "Avenue of the Giants". There were times when the road passed within 12 inches of a tree that was bigger than any I had ever seen in Muir Woods just outside of San Francisco.

The Redwoods lived side by side with the dinosaurs- but the Redwoods survived but the dinosaurs didn't. At that time the Redwoods lived all across North America and Europe. Now the Redwoods grow only on a narrow strip of 40 miles wide on the west coast from 15 miles in Oregon to the Big Sur south of San Fran.

There is a sadness when I look up at these living beings- these magnificent trees and know that 96% were logged to become singles- and decks- The wood is soft- so it isn't useful for much- but it is fire resistant- so the logging companies cut down 2000 year old trees for roofs and patios! It was Reagan who said "You've seen one Redwood and you've seen them all." So before the destruction could be stopped 96% of all old growth Redwoods were cut down. (But in case you think this is blast the Republicans- it is Theodore Roosevelt who said "I feel most emphatically that we should not turn a tree which was old when the first Egyptian conqueror penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates...into shingles." )

The Save the Redwoods League invited J.D. Rockefeller to visit the Redwoods. He immediately gave 2 million dollars to preserve these magnificent trees. I am grateful! It is Theodore Roosevelt and J.D. Rockefeller are my heroes.
Below are some pictures taken in the Rockefeller Grove. The Rockefeller's were some of the first to contribute money toward saving these trees from becoming shingles. The Rockefeller Grove is said to have some of the oldest and biggest remaining redwoods. The tallest in the forest is around 370 tall, but its location is not public. Max is standing next to one of the trees in the picture below, so you can get some perspective of their size.

She is also in this picture taken of a different group of trees.

The next picture is of a tree that fell in 1991. The wind is the only threat to these trees and this giant fell after being hit by another giant that fell into it. All of the fallen trees are left where they hit the ground and allowed to very slowly decompose back into the forest. This tree should be gone in about 400 more years. The scientific name for this tree is Sequoia Sempervirens- loosely translated to "ever living". Though the Redwood does have cones (a single old growth redwood tree will have 100,000 cones each year), most of these are not fertile- and most won't find the right conditions to germinate- these trees "reproduce" rather by a clone- an identical match that grows from the root from the base of the tree (when a Giant dies, there is often a "ring" of young trees that grow up now that there is sunlight and room to grow- this is called a "Fairy Ring". Thus the same genetic code is passed to this ring of trees at the base. Thus the "ever living" tree. So it is reasonable to believe that some of these trees actually have the same genetic code as a Redwood living at the time of the dinosaurs!

As we walked through this forest, we were all alone. There were two other cars in the parking lot when we arrived and one of them was leaving. We never did see another person until we were almost back to the car. Walking among these ancient giant trees in complete silence was an experience that I don't think I can properly describe.
Along the trail we came upon any number of trees that had fallen. This pictures shows why the wind is the only threat to these trees. Their root system is small when compared to the size of the tree.

Here is that same tree from the side as it is becoming nourishment for the forest growing around it.

We happened upon this tree about 1.5 miles into our walk. We couldn't see the top of it in the canopy of trees near it, but it must have been well over 300 feet. If you click on the picture you can see me standing in front of the tree with my arms spread. This tree must have been close to 18 feet in diameter. I want to talk a bit about this canopy of the Redwood. The Redwoods survive despite the shallow root system because of this canopy- this giant intertwined network of branches that create stability for the GIANTS- as well as a world quite separate from this life below. THERE ARE PLANTS AND ANIMALS THAT SPEND THEIR ENTIRE LIFE IN THE FOREST CANOPY! In this world there are rodents and insects that live their entire lives without ever coming to the ground.

As we ended our day in the woods, we still had to drive back over the coastal mountains to get back to our Inn. But before we leave the BIG TREES we must talk about the "tourist"interest of the GIANTS-
Now I have to tell you- we did not drive through the tree- Don was outraged- even as he is with watching wild animals pace in small places in zoos. The idea that a giant hole would be cut into such an ancient tree so that cars can drive through did not settle well with our Don- he did allow a picture of the sign- for educational purposes only!

It was a beautiful clear day and we had hope for a sunset on the ocean. I must say we were racing the sun and the drive up, over and down those mountains was a bit of an experience. Max kept quiet, but her knuckles were white as we rolled down the mountain through numerous switchbacks to get back to the ocean. I know it is hard to believe but I did not say anything- not once- not one thing- as we raced up and down these coastal mountains. But it was worth it. We were about 30 minutes ahead of the sun set, and it was spectacular. And it was this spectacular!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fort Point and More

The entrance to the San Francisco Bay is well defined by the Golden Gate Bridge which was completed in 1937. One of the adventures that most tourists (including yours truly) partake, is walking across the bridge. In fact I even ran across it once in a "fun run" while attending a meeting here. But the entrance to the bay has long been defended by a number of military forts and installations put in place in strategic positions to keep enemies out. In fact, Alcatraz was a military fort built there to defend the bay long before its short history as a prison. As tourists walk across the bridge they usually look at San Francisco in the distance, or down at the water and the ships that pass under the bridge, but if you happen to look down just before you leave the bridge, you will see the top of Fort Point. This fort was completed around 1860 and was armed with 102 smooth bore cannons that sat on top of and within the 7 foot thick walls of the fort. You can see from the following picture that the bridge was built right over the fort. In fact the design of the bridge was adjusted so that the fort could be preserved. We had walked to the Fort a while back- but the building was all secured so we didn't even realize we could go inside. This was our lucky day. The winds near the bay are pretty vicious in the afternoon- so we had some idea of the life of those living in the fort. We were able to walk through the Officer's quarter's- quite an interesting museum.

Max and I discovered this fort while walking across the bridge, but never really visited it until recently. We took a walk along the bay from the Marina to the bridge and noticed that the doors into the fort were open so we ventured in. We were quite surprised to find that this is a National Historic Site and part of the National Park Service. It is very well preserved and a very interesting place to visit. The following picture is at the top of the fort which had cannon emplacements all the way around it. They indicated that the range of the cannon was such that they could hit any ship trying to enter the bay.

Below is one of the 10 inch smooth bore cannons that was originally put in the fort.

An below is a picture of the casemates where the cannon were placed on the lower levels. Each casemate had a hole through which the cannon could fire.

This cannon wouldn't have much effect on this container ship passing under the bridge, but when this fort was built, the ships were made of wood.

And I am forever amazed at the kite surfers that "play" in the bay. We often see these kite surfers out in the middle of the bay in the shipping lanes being pulled by their kites and the winds that blow through the "gate". I really think these guys (and we do see an occasional gal wading into the Bay with board and kite- so maybe we're watching a gal?)- Anyway I think these surfers are absolutely crazy- to ride on top of a surf board with a sail- weaving in and out behind a huge container ship- oh my goodness- we did wish I'd remembered the binoculars! We were even more amazed to see these two shown below going over right next to this ship so they could jump the waves that the ship was producing. We couldn't tell how close they got, but it looked like they were within 20-30 yards of the hull as the ship passed by. Keep in mind that there is almost always a swift current flowing through the "gate" in this part of the bay and the water temperature is in the mid-50's.

On our walk back to the marina, we passed something that we constantly see here in San Francisco. The scenery and views that this city provides is constantly being used as a backdrop for wedding pictures. This couple happened to be a rather mature pair of women who stepped out of their limo for pictures with the bay behind. This is San Francisco. Sometime we think we'll just do a picture blog of all the weddings (and more often pictures of the wedding party) as we walk around San Francisco. But this couple was different- older- and both women. The first we've seen in our wanderings!

And finally, along the walk back to the marina is a group of sculptured globes, each depicting some theme about preserving the earth, fighting pollution, and slowing global warming. Cincinnati had its pigs, Chicago had cows, Toronto had moose and I'm sure there were many other cities that raised money using art forms of local interest. San Francisco actually had hearts that we often still see here and there around the city. But this display was actually started in Chicago and is currently on display here in San Francisco. The project is called "Cool Globes" and if you "google" it, you can read all about it. Originating in Chicago the summer of 2007 it is traveling to Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego and London this year. We stumbled on it by accident! And we are loving what we stumble on quite by accident!

These next pictures are for Clare (and any other fan of Chihuly). We did make a trip to The de Young Museum and they are featuring a large Chihuly exhibit.

Don doesn't like Chihuly- first- he doesn't like the work- and then he became absolutely hostile when he read that Chihuly sued a man that had begun designing and producing his own works- in the Chihuly style- and the article carefully pointed out that Chihuly hasn't actually done any production work in years. As Don mutters (over and over throughout our meandering through the exhibit)- what would have happened if Monet had opposed other younger artists using his "Impressionist" style after they had worked with him. Now if you're wondering where I fall in this discussion- well mostly silent- I do agree with Don- but I did enjoy the exhibit. I used my little Sony camera- no flash of course because you can't use flash in a museum. But I love the pictures- Do remember that the exhibits filled whole rooms!

These boats were side by side- full size wooden boats- and my favorite exhibit- especially the way it was all reflected on the black floor. If you left click on the picture you can enlarge it and see the details of the blown glass.
As Max said, I don't think much of Chihuly or his art form. But my opinion of his art form is personal. I think it's rather garish and not very innovative. He has done essentially the same art ever since he began. It's just been more of the same with little variation. Moreover he reportedly hasn't even been in his studio for almost 20 years. It's a factory to make "his art" and he isn't involved in the production. But my real issue is with his opinion that he owns making big garish glass pieces. He did take one of his ex-students to court to stop him from making glass pieces similar to his. Should the world only have one impressionist or one cubist? Chihuly is a jerk.
But the real surprise of this trip to the museum was when I was rambling through one of the permanent exhibits- yes- a permanent exhibit in a San Francisco museum in the Golden Gate Park- and found a good size exhibit of Rookwood Pottery from Cincinnati! I think They had about 10 different pieces on permanent exhibit! I was so very proud! My hometown!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cincinnati and More and More and More

I just deleted Don's first paragraph by mistake- I keep saying- "it was a mistake", "it was a mistake"- but I don't think he thinks that's enough- so I'm going to try to remember a bit of of Don's first paragraph- maybe he'll add a bit more- by the way he is still grumbling about this even as I type.
So the entry paragraph goes something like this. Don returned to Cincy the week after Labor Day weekend. The trip was a big combination of work- meetings and more meetings- and then a bit personal obligation- trip to cardiologist and pacemaker specialist- and then a little fun- time with families- so he'll just cover the fun part- the time with family (too bad he didn't take pictures in the cardiologist etc- but we'll just have to miss that part of his trip).
Oops, I found that paragraph after all- somehow it moved to bottom of the page all by itself- so here's Donny.....
September has certainly been an interesting month. P&G called me back to Cincinnati for some meetings right after Labor Day, so I did get to catch up with children and grandchildren. I think my first revelation was a reintroduction to heat and humidity. Walking off the plane onto the ramp was when it immediately hit me. Good old Cincinnati heat, humidity and haze. We just don't experience that kind of weather in San Francisco. We have definitely been spoiled this past year.

On the positive side, I did get to spend some time with Michael and Liz who are taking great care of the house and then see Mary, Kevin, Taylor and Samantha. It is amazing how kids grow when you give them food and water.

And I got to see Semper. The old boy is going on 14 years old, he's almost totally deaf, and his eye sight is getting worse, but he still has energy to get around and he still knows who I am.

Now we're back (well I never left- but Don is back) to San Fran. The trip to Cincinnati was way too quick, but I was glad to get back to cool and dry California. Upon returning, Max and I participated what I hope will be a once in a lifetime experience. Here in San Francisco is an annual event call the Fringe Festival (http://www.sffringe.org/ not to be confused with a website with the same name, but is a .com). This year it consisted of 48 original one act plays (limit one hour performance) that were being presented in 10 different "alternative" theatres. By alternative, I mean a room with some chairs and lights. Anyway, we were invited by some friends to attend an evening of "theatre", which of course, we accepted. The general consensus is that out of the three we were going to see, one might be good, one might be average, and one could be awful. Well, we failed in our expectations and saw one that was was awful and two that were not quite so awful. But the people we were with were delightful, and we had a good time nonetheless. I think probably one thing this little night out (and I agree with Don- the plays were mostly a bust- but the company was fantastic- and the plays gave us plenty of laughs- not intentionally)- But one thing for sure this little outing made me homesick for Cincy and the great plays at the Playhouse- and we will be back- soon.

I know you're getting whiplashed- but we are leaping one week forward to September 12th. Friday evening, we were delighted to have Will (of Brandy and Will) spend the night with us. We love company! And certainly having Will visit was a real treat. Brandy came earlier in the summer and we really thought Will wouldn't be able to fit it into his schedule. But his new job brought him right to our front door. Will was working in Santa Cruz earlier in the week and came up to San Francisco before flying out on Saturday morning. We took him to our favorite "guest restaurant", the Cliff House, and then returned back to the apartment for an quiet evening. Will is working for a government contractor that is developing new search and rescue capabilities for the Air Force. Since Will was a Combat Rescue Officer before leaving the Air Force, he is exceptionally qualified for this job. Unfortunately it meant that he spent some time in Monterrey Bay (actually in it, not on it) where the water temperature was down in the mid-50's, brrrrrrr. Don didn't mention that Will spent the time in the Bay riding a jet ski- yep you got it- riding a jet ski. He spent the night on our visitor sleeper sofa, we fed him a great breakfast and sent him back to the airport for his flight back to Las Vegas.

On Saturday our good friend Steve Sizemore come over for dinner and Max fixed one of her absolutely wonderful meals. She fixed an appetizer of crab dip (real Dungeness crab),
Well I do think this crab dip needs a bit more explanation. I found the recipe in a new book I bought of "Best Recipes from Northern California Inns"- the recipe actually lists a 6 oz can of canned crab- but I had been eyeing the fresh Dungeness Crab at the fish counter for weeks. I just couldn't help myself- at $33 a pound- and I still couldn't help myself- I must find more self control- but I have to say this little moment of weakness paid off (not in any monetary sense)- but what a taste treat. And we now know how to cook fresh crab. To cook fresh crab meat (Don did this part) you cook in a strainer over boiling water for 5 minutes).

And for the dip:
6 ounces crab meat- I only used 4 oz- my contribution to tightening the belt; 1/4 cup mayo (use the real stuff- not low fat or miracle whip), 1/4 cup of sour cream (I used creme freshe- I had it in the frig and it is very similar): 1/3 cup green onions (from the Ferry Building farmers market), a bit of roasted red pepper- the recipe calls for pimento- a 4 ounce jar but I thought that sounded like way to much- 2 tsp of lemon juice, 1 tbsp of lemon zest, 1 tsp of minced garlic, and salt/pepper to taste.
I didn't quite use that much mayo and creme freshe- I didn't want it to be wet- since I was using fresh crab I wanted the crab to be the biggest taste of all- So I mixed everything but the crab and pepper together- and then VERY, VERY gently added in the crab and pepper so the crab didn't break apart too much.

And I served with crostini- sliced baguette brushed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and heated in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or so. And I had to use my new serving dishes- so we had olives as well!

A caprice salad with tomatoes from the farmers market, a shrimp, roasted pepper from the farmers market, and baby artichoke hearts- baby artichokes are not "babies" at all- but rather a different type of artichoke- and as with the crab I looked at them for weeks before I took the plunge- and they are wonderful! (fresh artichoke hearts, not canned) pasta.

I'm not sure that Don quite understands what really happens when he casually says that he thinks he'd rather have Steve come to dinner at home rather than going out to a restaurant- I go into overdrive- I am on the march- the books are out- the lists are made- and for this one it just happened to fall on Saturday- the day of the famous Farmer's Market (the one that ALL the Food magazines list as one of the top 5 in the whole country- and now I have an excuse to drag Don- grim faced on the bus to the market.

I was sitting across from Don- and most of the trip- on a very, very crowded bus- all three of the women were talking on the cell phones- I could hear the conversation- but could only understand one- the other two were in different languages- probably Chinese- and not sure the other. It was Russian. There was also a Spanish conversation going on next to me.
But the Market is so wonderful- especially in the land of long, long growing seasons.

And I think that Farmer's Markets- certainly this one- is rather like a museum- or botanical garden- and I like to study each stand- and it's assortment- Do I need mention that Don does not share my enthusiasm- and looked rather pained through most of the experience- But he did help carry- the tomatoes, the red peppers, the avocado, the peaches, the raspberries, the pluots, the green onions, the garlic, the green beans, the fingerling potatoes, the artichokes, the dates (not dried- but fresh from the tree or bush or whatever- Did I mention that you go from booth to booth sampling fruit and spreads. Oh it is so very exciting. And everything is cash only.

We ended with a fantastic buttermilk/coconut/lime pie with fresh raspberry topping. It was wonderful.
(Note- in real time- at this very moment- I'm trying to finish this blog- and Don decides it is time for Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show"- now I love "The Daily Show"- it is sooooo funny- And I do find it my most reliable source of news- so I'm suppose to finish the blog- and watch "The Daily Show". But we've come to an understanding- "The Daily Show" is on pause- I've promised to be quick" And Don is just watching any news- programs that I do not find distracting at all!
It's not that Don was so enthusiastic at the idea- just the eating. In fact I distinctly remember him saying (more than once) "why do you think you need to make this pie", "I think you're getting carried away", "Steve really doesn't want you to fix this much food". I wasn't listening. In fact I didn't include his input into the menu decisions at all. And he really didn't think a BUTTERMILK PIE sounded like such a good idea. But it was good! In fact, it was REALLY GOOD!
But first the crust- and of course my inspiration is always my mother-in-law (I want all our prayers to be directed to Tulsa where my dear mother-in-law will have her fractured hip repaired tomorrow in the early AM):

And then you whisk together (I used my counter top mixer- but you could do it by hand)
1 1/2 cup of sugar; 3/4 cup of sweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 cup buttermilk; 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tbsp flour, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/2- 1 tsp vanilla; juice and zest from 1 lime. Pour into pie crust (I brushed with egg white to seal so wouldn't get soggy).

And bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes- until center is set.

Then cool to room temperature. I served with raspberry sauce.

Now if you think you're tired reading- you ought to consider for a moment how tired I am writing- But we're not done yet! Finally, in need of some exercise, we headed north up the coast to Tomalis Bay for some hiking. This trail was about 3 miles through some dense undergrowth with a cool canape of mixed foliage. We had never really hiked in this environment of trees. We were close to Tomalis Bay, but not much above the level of the bay, so the foliage was dense and the temperatures cool. These Live Oaks were spectacular with their twisted trunks and limbs forming a somewhat surreal, other worldly look.

One really nice aspect of the hike was that the poison oak had already turned a nice shade of red, so it was readily visible and avoidable.

As I looked at the poison, it dawned on me that this might be as close as I'll get to fall color this year. Not much color. Just a tiny big. But next year...