Walk to San Francisco Week 4: Klamath to Mendocino

I’m walking from Seattle to San Francisco. Check out the landing page for this trip here. Donate to facing homelessness here!

Day 24

I spent most of the day getting to Crescent City to go to the doctor. The bus stop was an unlabeled bench where everyone who walked by would tell you the bus schedule. On the bus, many people were excited to see the ocean and go to town for that week or month. Mothers placed their children optimally for ocean views.

A man sat next to me, who had dirty hands and a reflective jacket. He said he’d crashed his car and had spent two days sleeping outside to get to somewhere he could borrow another car and a phone to sort it out. He told me his wife was struggling with mental health issues and was homeless, and he was moving with his son to Seattle.

My doctor visit was efficient, and the doctor was extremely nice. I got back off the bus in Klamath at 4pm and walked into the redwoods again. They really are impossibly huge! They looked mystical as it got dark, and I was alone on a nearly traffic-free scenic road. I danced around as the light changed and stopped to sleep inside a large tree after a couple of hours, which 5 of me could have slept side by side inside.

Day 25

The next two days, it mostly rained and I had become restless. The first day, I walked 45 miles to the edge of Arcata, with little event aside from Stellar’s Jays and more cool trees. I listened to almost an entire audiobook and passed through one town, which had good food and very expensive lodging.

On the side roads to the next town, I passed a lot of uneventful suburbs, drunk people wandering the street as I walked into the night.

Day 26

I walked through Arcata and then Eureka, marveling at the beautiful architecture and wanting to eat more of the food than I really could at the moment. I got very fancy pudding and coffee and then kombucha at a second cafe.

The towns were charming, but big enough that small talk didn’t come as easily and some people seemed slightly suspicious of me. When I said hello to him, a young man sitting on a sleeping pad outside the library asked if I was ok. “Yeah,” I said, surprised. “How’s it with you?” He said he was good and smiled.

The ocean was white and moody. I saw more birds at a wildlife refuge. After 31 miles, I got to my Airbnb and decided to catch up on sleep now that I had to worry less about making the next town. The room was luxurious, but I only saw the owners for a moment. I had gotten the off-season price for a lovely room with tons of fuzzy blankets and snacks. I drank tea and wrote post cards.

Day 27

I woke up in those fuzzy blankets with the light streaming in a small window, a nostalgic feeling. I ate pancakes at a local cafe and then walked around 26 miles through the redwoods. They were still beautiful, and I read all the history and nature signs and pamphlets. I decided to take the next couple of days slow because I was getting a bit sore, and it was nice out so I was planning on camping.

I followed the “auto tour” pamphlet mile by mile, hiking short trails and looking at flood wreckage and high water lines. When I saw a sign for a campground, advertising cold beer, hot coffee, and a gift shop, I was excited for the prospect of a bathroom and maybe some hot tea and maybe even a $5 tent site or something.

When I got there, despite the large field no one was using for anything at all, the woman told me “it wasn’t the season” so I couldn’t purchase a campsite. While I talked to her, another customer, who reminded me of the mother in The Shining, kept interjecting about her hitchhiking adventures and how she “used to be crazy too.” The whole time, her daughter was pulling on her sleeve yelling “mommy” incessantly. I just really wanted to sit down because I was sore, and after being alone all day, three people talking at the same moment was overwhelming. I did a less than average job of explaining my endeavour and listening to her, gave her a sticker and looked for a place to hide among the beautiful trees instead.

After 3 random people stopped their cars seemingly just to warn me about meth addicts in Garberville, I settled down to sleep. In about 20 minutes my hands started itching intensely again. I was so frustrated and alone, I just screamed into the trees. Eventually, I laughed about the situation, slowed my breathing, and willed myself to sleep.

Day 28

I woke up surprisingly refreshed and walked several hours through more homesteads destroyed by flooding. After several hours of chilly weather, I was excited for a smile and a cup of coffee at the only coffeeshop. I got the coffee, but the guy sneered at my wet money, and when I mentioned homelessness, the air in the room kinda died. The regular customer left; the barista went outside for a smoke break.

A little later, I stopped in Miranda, where I sat in a diner, ordered a veggie burger, and chatted with the owner. They were getting ready for the wave of students from the high school across the street during their lunch. “Don’t worry,” she told me. “They know I have my eye on them.” They were loud but reasonable for teenagers, negotiating which pizzas to split. Feeling better, I walked the rest of the 25 miles to the motel, where I was very excited to meet Westy after this lonely stretch.

Well, almost. A cop pulled over halfway through a little 2 mile section of freeway I had to walk. It’s illegal to walk on the freeway, so he cordially drove me the mile to my hotel, admitting the law was nonsensical and complaining about the crime in the area, pointing out problem areas. The motel was not that nice, and the owner was comforting crying children while she checked me in, but she was kind enough and gave me detergent for my laundry.

Westy and I had dinner and caught up. I was so excited to have a friend. It was interesting how even compared to the cold and the poison oak, the hardest thing emotionally about this trip has been the parts where there were few people and the ones I did meet didn’t seem happy.

Day 29

The next day we found an alternative to the freeway, and started on our way. We were excited to climb hills and make friends with horses. The route was scenic and wonderful and only slightly longer. Everything seemed to be looking up until I got a call from the motel saying Westy wasn’t allowed to leave his car and they were going to tow it. I had been told we could, and we were the only guests in the empty parking lot. I was begging the woman to let me pay a parking fee or something when a man pulled up in a truck and fake-kindly offered to give us a ride off his “private road.” There had been no signs indicating this. “Okay,” I told the woman on the phone. “We’ll come back.”

We rode in the back of the truck until the edge of town, where he said he didn’t want to get in trouble by having us back there. Despite my frustration and suspicion about this man’s motives, riding in the back of a pickup reminded us both of childhood. We walked the couple of hours back to the motel, we drove past the freeway part, and I walked the last few miles to a motel while Westy drove. I felt like no one had smiled at me for days, except Westy and a young man that morning with a backpack who had asked us if we were looking for work. I walked between 15-20 miles, not all in the right direction.

Our room was beautiful though, and nestled in redwoods. We sat at the attached pub where hotel employees drank and talked to each other, and we shared every bar food one could possibly want. But the people at this (also empty!) hotel also inexplicably wouldn’t let us leave the car for an extra day.

Day 30

Westy went to drop the car off and then bike to see me. I walked for a few hours by myself, up and down fun hills on a winding road with very little traffic. Eventually I met him, he hid his bike, and we walked toward the coast together. It was sunny, and the woods were peaceful. Eventually there was a small, almost enjoyable rain shower and then we reached the coast.

The rocks off the coast were dramatic and the ocean sounded lovely. The rain let up and I was finally able to call my parents. We wondered if we’d see a sunset, and made it to Westport after 32 miles just before it under a newly clear sky. We shared a Tasty Bite and watched the sun set and then went to a pizza place for dinner.

It was crowded so we shared a table with a retired couple who was on vacation. I loved that they had such love for the places they tended to visit frequently, which also included Mt. Shasta. They talked about their favorite spots to visit and the pasta sauce they always picked up in bulk on the way home, because it was their favorite. They left and when we went to pay, the server told us they’d bought our pizza.

We picked up the bike and fell asleep in the car to the sounds of the ocean.

Day 31

We slept a little later than I normally would, but I still started walking a little after the sun came out. Westy drove half the distance of my day and biked back to meet me, and I walked while listening to birds and smelling the smells of eucalyptus trees and ocean air.

I smiled when I saw him biking up the hill with a perfect pastoral landscape behind him, then we stashed the bike again and walked a few more hours to Fort Bragg. We were both in great spirits. We took a boardwalk into town and then had a leisurely coffee. I took advantage of having someone to share chocolate cake with for a second time.

I gave him a long hug before he left and bought a few groceries, where I stood in line with another person recovering from poison oak. A man I walked past picked a flower from a bush and gave it to me. I put it in my hair. I was getting tired of camping and not sleeping well, but this was a very expensive vacation area, far from my standard $50 motels. After churches didn’t answer the phone, I tried calling a fancy hotel and got a huge discount, so I booked it.

I walked through continued sunshine and coastal views and spring flowers. I ate a baguette sitting on a fence and watching the sun set. I took a bath and did some yoga before bed.

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