Saturday, July 5, 2014

Still itself


I do like the light here.

"Here" is the boundary of the Lost Coast, where Highway 1 bends inland. When I was a kid, the Lost Coast was a mystical thing and nobody went there, except when someone did and you could read about it. Now with the Internet everyone knows. Nothing more to discover.

Someone has even scrawled "Usal Rd" in spray paint on the pavement, with an arrow. Usal Road, the little opening to the real Lost Coast, the road that looks like a driveway. Don't miss it! By reputation, a little too steep and rough for most cars, motorcycles, and definitely road bikes. Don't take it, either. Here it is, all mystery laid bare.

Despite the fame, Highway 1 still feels rather remote out here and there aren't a ton of cars to deal with. Maybe not as quiet as the old days, but still rather quiet. And the light is beautiful, so I take a photo.

The afternoon has been tough. Hot and hilly, starting at Avenue of the Giants and through Garberville. Head wind along the Eel River. Slow going between miles 85 and 124, when at Leggett the turn came to go west on this rather famous stretch of highway. Another cyclist was spread-eagled there on the grass, his bike waiting against a tree. Cooling off.

Then came the 4.3 mile climb to the ridge. Which went rather quickly. And now I'm on the way out to the coast, which feels good. One more climb to go. A steep one, as I recall.

The light has a dimensional quality - all the trees seem like sentient beings, like us. The light amplifies them, brings them closer, illuminates their myriad and subtle colors, shapes, textures. They're right here with us. In fact, we're outnumbered. Catching that on film, an impossible task.

I take the photos anyway to show the moment, a fragment of the experience. Trusting that it will be possible to quilt it all back together later. With a feeling this ephemeral, this fragile, this rare, it has to work.

After the last hill (2.3 miles, steep), there's the impulse to look back with wonder, like all the other tourists, at the crumpled old hills that defeated the road builders. Giant things that haven't gone anywhere, haven't compromised.

What draws us to this place is not just the light, nor the trees, nor the challenge. It's something we haven't ruined yet. We don't belong here.

It's still not for us.

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