return to the redwoods – part 3   11 comments

Posted at 4:33 pm in california,history,loss,sabrina,trees

In the last post, I wrote about my thoughts on traveling alone. Of course, I was never truly alone, as Sabrina has been with me on every step of a journey that began long before we left our home in Ontario. I haven’t said much about all that took place during the previous year of Don’s illness, but it was a very difficult time for all of us, including Sabrina. Being a smart and sensitive dog, she quickly intuited changes in Don’s health status, particularly during the final weeks of his life. As his health deteriorated, Sabrina spent an increasing part of her day lying next to him. Eventually, she became so worried that it was difficult to get her to eat, so her health gradually began to fail too. Two days after Don’s death, she was so weak and unsteady that I had to help her get up onto her feet. Over the next six weeks, I tried to get her eating and up moving around to rebuild her strength. However, it was clear that she was grieving in her own way and resisted most of my efforts.

When I first contemplated leaving for the west, I was concerned about Sabrina’s condition. Would she be able to cope with long days of traveling in the van? Could I provide the kind of food she was accustomed to at home? I was a little worried about the logistics of preparing the fresh food she was used to receiving. As the day for our departure drew near, I was still feeling uncertain about how we would manage once on the road. What would I do if Sabrina grew weaker after we were a few thousand kilometers from home? The morning of our departure, as I finished packing, she lay on the ground in front of the sliding side door of the van, refusing to move. Clearly, she was worried about being left behind. I took that as a sign that she too was anxious to be “on the road”. For both of us, I believe that our journey to the west turned out to be the right thing to do as it forced us to move, at least marginally, beyond the sad events of the previous year.

Once on the road, it was interesting to see how Sabrina reacted to each new place or situation. I felt a little bad for her each time we checked into a motel along our route. In the past, Sabrina and I would wait in the van while Don picked up our key at the front desk, then opened the room for us. As I assumed that part of the process, I noticed how Sabrina would rush into each new motel room, quickly searching every corner including looking up on top of the bed. After discovering that it was “just us”, she would flop down, stretch out her neck with her head on the carpet as she gave me the longest of long faces as only a collie can do. I would comment, “Yes, I know.” Those motel room check-ins were among the most difficult moments of our journey and one of the reasons that, whenever possible, I preferred to stay at campsites.

When we reached the redwoods, I was very curious to see how Sabrina would react to what must have seemed a very odd landscape. Along our entire trip, I noticed how carefully she inspected earth and plants. No doubt, her olfactory senses were sending her odd messages about these strange new places. After spending the night at the Burlington campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods, we visited the California Federation of Women’s Club grove before continuing on with our journey. Some of you may remember me writing about The Hearthstone designed by the architect, Julia Morgan, during my autumn 2007 trip through the west. I decided to return to the site in the hope of shooting better photos than on my previous visit. As we walked along the trails of that grove, Sabrina seemed eager to explore and, in her own canine way, expressed awe at the surroundings. Several times, I caught her inspecting a gargantuan mushroom, or gazing up and then back at me as if to see whether I’d taken note of the trees towering above. For both of us, this “new territory” was a good place to explore, far distant from home trails now strewn with countless memory land mines.

After leaving the redwood groves, we stopped at the historic lumber mill town of Scotia. During last year’s trip, I had taken only a few pathetic photos due to rain and a camera malfunction. This time, weather and cameras cooperated well enough to capture a few photos of the unique architecture along the main street. The Scotia museum (above), with its redwood interpretation of the columns and portico of a Greek temple, and the all-redwood Winema Theatre (below) are reminders of those bygone days when it seemed that logging of the redwoods could go on forever. Of course, that notion proved to be false, as evidenced by the many decommissioned mills and abandoned wigwam burners throughout the Pacific northwest.

Under gray skies, we left Scotia, retracing our trail northwards a little before turning east, now bound for Arizona. There will be more about that leg of our journey coming up very soon.

Written by bev on January 18th, 2009

11 Responses to 'return to the redwoods – part 3'

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  1. Bev, when I read about how Sabrina reacted to the different locations, it occurred to me that she must have been adjusting to a new life along with your adjustments to yours. I love reading about your travels and, as always, I love the photography. I’m there with you; your words and your images put me right there with you!


    18 Jan 09 at 6:48 pm

  2. Especially like your photo of Julie Morgan’s Hearthstone. You mention backtracking to drive east somewhere north of Scotia. Did you drive on Highway 36 or 299? My one memory of Highway 36 is that it is a lonely road through the landscape of Old California. Lovely. Remote. The sound of Western Meadowlarks. Sabrina’s gaze is eloquent. Thank you, bev.


    18 Jan 09 at 7:29 pm

  3. When I first started driving the highways in northern California, 101 went right through Scotia and Rio Dell. I had forgotten that until I saw these photos, bev. Now the highway goes around these small lumber towns it’s been many, many years since I’ve seen these buildings.

    It is such a good and grounded thing for you and Sabrina that you have each other. The way you both grieve and offer each other solace is one of those bonds of the heart that sustain and transcend. That photo of her between the redwood trees is beautiful.

    robin andrea

    19 Jan 09 at 11:22 am

  4. Beautifully photographed structures, Bev – the first one especially. All are evocative images – somber and resilient at the same time.

    Good girl, Sabrina.


    20 Jan 09 at 6:43 am

  5. John – Yes, you’re right. Sabrina has had to adjust to many changes too. Fortunately, she’s doing better now – has gained back most of the weight she lost, and is getting stronger too. Not that easy for an older dog though. But the same can be said for an older human too.

    am – I considered traveling east on Hwy 36, but a couple of friends had warned me that it wasn’t a very good road, so I took 299. In better weather, I’d like to explore 36 and perhaps will do so sometime in this coming year. Any road that passes through a place called Hellgate seems worthy of further exploration.

    robin – It’s really interesting to follow the old sections of highway off of 101. In so many places, you can still find old bridges and sections of highway. I occasionally travel with a friend whose family used to travel the old highway on their vacations and we make a point of stopping to photograph such things along the way.

    Wayne – Thanks, and yes, good girl, Sabrina. She’s been a wonderful companion on this journey.


    20 Jan 09 at 10:29 am

  6. Hayfork and its valley are something to see, too, on Highway 36. It’s true that the road is not good. I didn’t realize that I was taking a risk by driving it alone.

    Did you visit the Joss House in Weaverville? I passed it many times without stopping. When I finally did stop, I found some peace there, amazed at the astonishingly clear blue sky above and the mountain fresh air. On that autumn day, it was warm enough to wear sandals, cool enough in the shade to be refreshing.


    21 Jan 09 at 11:27 am

  7. I always liked traveling with my dogs. I have a picture somewhere of one of the best of my dogs, dead more than 20 years now, standing in a parking lot along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her front feet were on the curb, tail up, and she was staring off toward the distant mountains, just like I did. I don’t know what they got out of traveling, but I know they wanted to be with me. And there’s something reassuring about knowing that a living being actually wants to be with me.

    Good Jesse. And good Sabrina.


    21 Jan 09 at 1:46 pm

  8. Bev,

    I just read the section about ‘motel check-ins’ to Keith.

    We’re both wiping tears off our cheeks.


    Give that sweet Sabrina a kiss for us both.

    Give yourself a tender hug.

    Cathy Wilson

    21 Jan 09 at 8:55 pm

  9. am – I’m hoping to be able to travel Hwy 36 sometime in the next year. Same goes for revisiting some campsites off of 299. I didn’t even know about the Joss House in Weaverville, but just looked it up online and will have to include it in my next journey through the Trinity. Thanks for mentioning it. The photo of the altar that I just found looks pretty spectacular.

    Mark – I like the thought of that image — your dog looking out at the scene which you are surveying. I think dogs often take their cues from us. Our dogs have all been great travelers, Sabrina included. Even under the difficulties of this trip, she has been quite game to try just about anything. I’m hoping that, by the time we begin to retrace our route northward in April, she’ll be in much better shape to do a few good hikes along the way.

    Cathy – Thanks for leaving the comment with the poem on my earlier blog post. That was a fine comment. Yes, I will give Sabrina a kiss for both of you. Hugs back to both of you too. (-:


    21 Jan 09 at 9:54 pm

  10. You both sound as if you are starting to turn the bend towards recovery.

    If you need help with finding BARF diet suppliers along your route keep in touch with me. I am on enough Showdog and Breeder lists, that I have contacts in every state that could tell you where to find what you’d be looking for.

    The dogs are such creatures of habit and it does seem to take them much longer to break them. Three months later, every time the dogs come upstairs they run into the office to look for Chris, tails wagging, and come back out dejected. Like you I am at a loss to explain to them that Daddy is gone and won’t be back.

    Safe travels to the both of you,



    21 Jan 09 at 10:11 pm

  11. Shelley – I’m not sure how far along we are on the bend towards recovery. I wonder if we ever truly recover from such events in our lives. However, we are managing and Sabrina is building up strength these days, so I take that as a positive.
    It must be so hard to see your dogs looking for Chris. That’s actually part of the reason that I thought it would be easier for both of us if Sabrina and I just went on the road and broke away from our usual routine. Although this trip has been very difficult in so many ways, in others, it was also so much easier. Take care, bev


    27 Jan 09 at 10:09 am

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