Sprockets was more than ready for another Road Trip. And so were we.
“Ready for New Territory?” I smile at Sprockets, imagining him snorting and whinnying and pawing the ground in anticipation.
We don’t get very far, however. Not initially.
“Shit. I forgot the pump,” says Big Dog, just as we pass the West End Road exit on 299. We have to go back to get it or there will be no kayaking.
Moments later, we are back on 101, then on 299, headed towards Willow Creek. The only place cool in July is the coast and as we drive away from it, into the interior, the mercury starts rising. The hot air brings with it a scent that I identify as chestnut flowers although there are no chestnut trees in sight. Maybe it’s the smell of the other flowering trees. I must look it up later.
Up, up, up, down, down, down. The road twists and turns its way to Willow Creek, Gateway to Bigfoot Country. The big statue of Bigfoot reminds visitors of that, as does the sign on Route 96, the Bigfoot Scenic Byway.
It’s interesting how many cultures have their own version of Bigfoot. The natives of the Pacific Northwest all had their Bigfoot, or Sasquatch legends. In the Himalayan region, they have Yeti. Orang Pendek lives in Southeast Asia, while Yowie is an Australian Bigfoot. And the interest still continues! Even as recent as 2014, there was another claim of a Bigfoot capture.
I don’t know the history of Bigfoot in these parts, but in 2005, a Bigfoot fan talked about tracking one in the Happy Camp area on a radio show. Happy Camp is on our route.
The town of Hoopa is right in the middle of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Do they have a casino, too? We don’t see one or any signs for one.
Past Weitchpec is the Yurok Indian Reservation that straddles the Klamath River as it heads down towards the town of Klamath and the Pacific Ocean, but Route 96 goes up along the river that comes from the Klamath Lakes. Towns along here are tiny, some are just groups of houses. One of the “larger” (but still tiny!) towns is Happy Camp. There’s a park and recreation area so we park there and take a little dip in the Klamath to wash off the dust and sweat. (No Bigfoot sightings, however.)
“Wow, the water’s really warm!” It’s surprising how warm it is. Not a good thing for the fish. The rocks are coated in blue-green algae. Slippery, slimy. But the water still feels nice and fresh.
It’s not much farther to F and A’s home in the town of Klamath River. Actually, there doesn’t seem to be a town at all, just a few dwellings dotting the road here and there. Was one of them a store? Mostly, it’s just forest – the Klamath National Forest.
F was Big Dog’s longtime friend. They both escaped to Vancouver together when they were drafted and they both returned to the US together, to share a house in McKinleyville while Big Dog was getting his undergraduate degree from Humboldt State University. Big Dog talks a lot about Phoebe, the cow they had then, and who only F could milk.
“Frank had a giant blond ‘afro’ and when Phoebe caught sight of it in the kitchen window or across the field, she would start lowing.”
All the residents of that house (there might have been 6 or more, including all the girlfriends) had fresh raw milk. There was even enough for a professor or two. All until the day Phoebe got into the grain and ate herself to death.
Today, F does not have much hair. Or mobility. He has MS which has gotten progressively worse and he is pretty much confined to home now. Regardless, he is in great spirits when we arrive at their home.
“He needs to be in an air-conditioned environment,” explains his very young-looking, pretty wife A. The cool comfortable house is a relief from the Very Very Hot outside. It’s an old pioneer type home and very appealing though I can’t imagine how A deals with F’s condition in this sort of house. But she seems to take it all in stride and whips up a BBQ salmon dinner for us.
Sprockets is parked in their yard and that is where we sleep, or try to in the heat. The side and back doors are open for ventilation (note to self: I must make another mesh screen – one is not enough) but it doesn’t cool down until about 3am and then we can finally get to sleep…until the birdsong wakes us up a few hours later!