Jun 1, 2009

Trinity Tranquility

Merlin in the DaisiesMerlin’s best friend is Norma Jean, an energetic Border Collie who lives around the corner. They share neighborhood walks, play dates, and beach outings. She is Merlin’s personal trainer. Her people are building a retreat in the northern Californian wilderness on the South Fork of the Trinity River. They’re way off the grid, using river flow to generate electricity and satellite internet for wi-fi. Norma Jean raves about the river and sleeps for days when she comes home. She invited Merlin for Memorial Day. So, long weekend wilderness road trip.

Merlin is always packed for a road trip, his Planet Dog travel bag by the front door. He oversees the pouring of five days worth of kibble into his traveling dog food bucket. He calculates how far we’re going by the number of freshly filled water bottles. Ensconced in the backseat between toys and towels, Merlin is poised to be away. We’re off.

Daisy ChaseWe’ve been warned it’s a six hour drive, with the last hour down old logging roads. North from Marin, we cross the California Coastal Range and slip into the central valley furnace. Merlin rides with his nose out the window, expecting cows as we turn north at Vacaville (yes that does translate as Cow Town). Rolling brown hills are punctuated by an occasional outdoor paintball range. It’s as if this I-505 corridor hasn’t been discovered yet. Or it’s from the future with wind farms and solar paneled office parking lots offering shade while collecting the relentless sunshine. We imagine solar panels sheltering mall parking lots and other auto wastelands. Couldn’t everyone in California be passive solar, collecting smart power while keeping cool? A solar carport in every drive.

Merlin and Norma Jean Fish We turn west at Red Bluff into the Beegum Creek Gorge. This is wild river running country, through U.S. Forest Service and BLM Land. Comparing trusty AAA paper maps with Merlinmobile TomTom GPS, we plunge off pavement onto what we hope is the correct logging road. Surfing the ruts, we drive just fast enough to stay ahead of our dust. Merlin tracks deer out his windows. A network of unmarked logging roads lace the wilderness. The GPS keeps repeating, Turn around when possible. We shake off a shiver from a previous road trip in Utah which descended into icy snow and darkness, glad it’s almost summer and we’re carrying 5 days of food and water. The meandering forest road ends with a hand written sign: MERLIN! Norma Jean is down here. The driveway opens into a daisy filled meadow. We’re greeted with wagging barks and fresh lemonade. We’ve arrived.

Dog SaladMerlin is thrilled to see his best friends from home. For the next four days, Merlin stands in the river with a big smile. Norma Jean splashes about nipping at water sprites. One afternoon, neighbors arrive for a pot luck feast, adorning Merlin with a daisy chain necklace. Norma Jean endures being covered with flowers and called Dog Salad.

Norma Jean SwimsNatural time flows through us, restoring, relaxing, renewing. The river splashes and laughs over rocks and logs, flashing diamonds. Turquoise and emerald light shines from the swimming hole, tumbling submerged sunlight. Balanced River Rock Norma Jean swims. Merlin wades. People drift between staring into the sparkly flowing water and balancing rocks, inspired by British environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy and Bay Area rocker Bill Dan. Lounging at the river’s edge, we surrender to gravity rather than defy it.Merlin and Norma Jean in the Daisies





Trinity tranquility.
Thank you Norma Jean.

Trinity getaway: 770 miles.

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