Ever since I was a tiny tot my family has made the annual trek to Fort Bragg. When I was a kid, it was during nut and rice harvest, when the orchard and the fields all around our house turned into a cyclone of dirt. My grandparents sealed up the house – my grandma put towels under the windows to keep out some of the dust – clamped the old can o’ ham to the back of the ’66 Impala, and set out on Hwy 20 for the coast.
The trailer in itself was a big enough thrill for us kids – a regular Barbie Doll house, with all the little fixtures. Everything but a toilet. four hour drive with no bathrooms! So my grandfather had this old lard can, like the ones he used to tote his lunch to school, and he’d pull over for us and we’d jump into the trailer to use the lard can, trying not to spill it as we carried it out to huck alongside the highway.
We stayed at MacKerricher for the flush toilets, boy howdy! And, of course, the proximity to the beach. We’d spend a couple of days tooling along the beaches, bringing home lard buckets full of black sand and sea shells, watching birds and sea animals. Then my grandpa would take us over to the Skunk Train Depot and put us on the train. He drove to Willits to pick us up, and back to Glenn County.
My grandpa loved camping, and my family likes it now too, but four hours away is too far for us to camp, we like a motel. We’ve stayed at various places in Fort Bragg, some I’d recommend, some I wouldn’t. The place we’ve been staying the last few times is situated at Pudding Creek, with easy access to the beach, and a quick bike ride from both MacKerricher and Downtown Fort Bragg. It is situated along an estuary, which turned out to be a birder’s haven.
A blue heron was on duty almost around the clock, standing over the water, occasionally spearing something and shaking it down his throat. When he came closer to the room, I could see his hair-like plumage – a regular rock star, he liked to shake his shiny locks. His almost constant companion was a single white egret, a hard worker who was always spearing the water with his long beak, coming up with little crabs, frogs, tiny fish – it takes a lot of that kind of stuff to fill out your rib cage. At times these two seemed to encroach on each other – the heron always won. And, on the last morning we were there, I got to see him drive out an intruder – another heron! That was an eye-opener. The resident heron spotted the interloper and immediately stiffened up his posture. He raised his wings up over his head like a dad trying to scare a room full of trick-or-treaters, and he charged the second heron. Yeah, if I was in that marsh and that guy came at me like that, I’d be all knees and elbows Babee, and so was the intruder. He immediately lifted himself off the marsh and headed for the salt water estuary on the other side of the highway.
Then there was the kingfisher – I have never seen such a big one. He had a funny chirp like a woodpecker, and he flew back and forth from the estuary dam to the beach by our room, chirp-chirp-chirruping his way around the pond. When another kingfisher appeared, he harassed it until it went away – this pond is a prized territory, full of food.
Instead of just hiking the beaches, we had brought our mountain bikes. I don’t mind telling you, I’m wiped out just from dragging my bike in and out of the motel room! Biking on the beach is something else. You know sand is way softer than the red stuff we got here, there’s almost no traction sometimes. The trails, where bikes are allowed, are narrow little single track with high sides – it’s like walking a tight wire, with bends and turns, and hey, don’t ride off that cliff! It was some workout, the last few days, my shoulders and chest have ached from dragging myself on those handlebars. But, I feel great, last woman standing!
Now I’m back. Yes, home is where it’s at. I started getting seriously homesick on the third day away. Not just because of my dogs, but because I’m a Chico person – the fucking north coast hippies started to annoy this shit out of me! I hate the smell of Patchouli. Believe me, my husband and I could have moved to Fort Bragg years ago, the time was right for my husband to make a lot of money laying down rug there. Houses were way cheaper, we could have had a farm. But we couldn’t leave Chico, the roots are too deep. At a party with friends last night, I got so emotional, I announced I was going to run for City Council in 2014.
I learned a little something from Nature this weekend – when you love something, you fight for it.