Interesting times on the road since we left Corvalles. First up, a hidden collection of hot springs we uncovered, populated by a naked guy who looked like John Hurt and a naked guy who looked like Tony Soprano. Second up, a bar near Diamond Lake where we got talking to three young guys who were working on some ant-infested campground toilets nearby. They said we could camp next to their caravan and they’d ply us with beer and breakfast – that sounds creepy but it honestly wasn’t. They let me hold their hunting rifles while they regaled us with various carpentry anecdotes from around the Midwest.
The next day we attempted to climb the notorious Mount Thielsin, a 3000 metre monster with an almost vertical spindle on top that resembled ET’s finger. A bloke from Alaska had recommended the climb back in Portland, describing the ascent as “unequivocal.” Unsure what he actually meant by this but convinced by the conviction in which he said it, we set off through the trees under a cloudless blue sky. Above the trees it was a different story. Thick clouds rushed in rapidly and within minutes we were down to “shower door after a particularly hot shower” levels of visibility. We carried on gamely but soon it became apparent that the clouds were darkening and the wind was starting to make that whistling noise usually associated with disaster and suffering. So we made the rather mature decision to descend. Enjoying a warming coffee in a nearby café, the manager informed us he knew of a group of guys who have returned to summit Thielsen for the past 6 years without success, so that softened the blow of our first proper mission failure.
Since then however, it’s been a merry succession of successes. California greeted us with sunshine and we made haste for the giant redwoods on the coast. These trees are simply ridiculous. Gathered together like enormous statesmen from another world, they seem to inspire the same reaction (and neck pain) in every human – silent upward-facing gawping. Some of these trees are 370 feet tall. Saint Paul’s cathedral is 365 feet tall. They make the trees in Dunnottar Woods look like water cress. After camping on the beach we made our way along the misty shore, headed inland along the base of a canyon lined with fern (or a fern gully if you will) and then back through the redwoods. Pretty insane contrast there.
We’re now in an extremely shady motel in the odd town of Arcada. It’s basically the town from Back to the Future but populated entirely by hippies and hobos. Our next door neighbour just opened his door as we walked past stark naked with a spliff the size of a pine cone in his mouth. Some hippies in the square offered us vegetable soup and bread for free because “people should feed people,” which was a lovely sentiment and far lovelier than the soup in question as my stomach cramps will attest to. We spent the money we’d saved on watching Interstellar at the ‘Minor Theatre’ (America’s oldest purpose built cinema apparently) which was stark raving bananas but we loved it.