A reflection on Thanksgiving, 1984

Ah, 1984. Van Halen’s album of the same name. 501s. Cassette tapes. Shoulder pads. Bad hair. I, of course, wore hats.

Ttrmt2-fmJmcxpS6JOVtuRZ2Voe2STV4oQ18dqB1UBsDad and me (I’m on the left/not the older guy), Kings Mountain circa 1986. Photo credit Greg Lincoln

Thanksgiving morning. Early, EARLY Thanksgiving morning. It was for all intents and purposes still Wednesday night. It was d-a-r-k and we were already headed south along Highway 1 in Dad’s car. Between naps punctuated by bonking my head on the window, I stared blearily out at where the ocean would be visible once the sun rose in an hour or two.

My Dad loved hiking. He loved being outdoors, exploring. He loved us kids. He spent his teenage years growing up in Redwood City and spent most of the rest of his life on the peninsula. Most of the time he eschewed shoes, electing instead to walk barefoot pretty much everywhere when he wasn’t at work.

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He knew everything. I don’t say that derisively or with any sarcasm. The guy knew everything. And he loved spending holidays with us this way: Get up much too early, hike all day, come home and feast, go to sleep exhausted.

So, there we were in the car, barrelling south from Half Moon Bay, CA in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving ‘Day,’ 1984. My brother and I were barely conscious. It was dark, my dad was driving us south to hike from Waddell Creek Beach inland to Big Basin State Park, where we would have lunch and then head back, working up our appetites for turkey dinner.

The Google internet machine shows that that hike is 10 miles from the Ranger Station in Big Basin to the ocean where we started the hike.

Did I mention that it was 1984? Yeah. There was no internet. There was no GPS. That meant that trip planning was a bit of an arcane and labor-intensive exercise.

You could buy paper ‘7.5 minute’ topo maps at the United States Geodetic (now Geologic) Survey. Yes, you read that correctly. You had to go TO the USGS to get the topo map you wanted. You had to know the Lat/Long of the area you wanted, match that to a legend that showed the region and THEN find it in a bunch of drawers. And then you had a map. Bright side? Once you found the right one, it cost about 3 bucks.

That week, Dad had run out of time before coming to pick us up and hadn’t stopped at the USGS in Menlo Park to pick up the  map of the area where we’d hike on Thursday morning.

That’s alright, he had said. “I used to ride my motorcycle with the guys up that trail when we were just out of high school.” They started in Woodside, headed over to Gazos Creek, rode back to Woodside through Big Basin and down Skyline. He knew right where we were going.

We sat in the dark and wished we were still in bed.

Getting out of the car I began shivering immediately and thought we were going to die. It was bone-chillingly cold, windy and dark. The first 45 minutes of the hike it was dark. We were underdressed, but we’d brought our jackets. ‘Sun’ll come up and you’ll wish you weren’t carrying that jacket, son.’ He liked to call my brother and me, ‘son.’ He knew everything. We left the jackets in the trunk.

Hours later and we were still hiking this beautiful trail. I don’t necessarily remember thinking how beautiful it was at the time, but at least by then it was warm and there were trees. I was glad I’d left my jacket all those miles away. We shared a banana and a tangerine between the three of us for breakfast. Every once in awhile, Dad would say, ‘Ohhh, this looks familiar. It’s gotta be right up here somewhere.’

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This went on for another 2 or 3 hours as we legged out what we’d learn later was the inward, 10-mile leg of the hike. It’s gotta be right up here somewhere.

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Upon reaching the much talked-about grocery store in Big Basin State Park (where we had envisioned gorging ourselves), there was more disappointment.

The store was closed.

Because it was Thanksgiving.

Dad had cash in his wallet, but not much change. There was a soda machine that of course only accepted coins (damn you, 1984). Dad got 55 cents (or whatever it was) put together and we shared an Orangina from the soda machine, found a drinking fountain to fill our (one) canteen and started back. Back down the ten miles of trail to the ocean, to Dad’s car and eventually, to a turkey dinner that would be ready to eat at about 11:30 that night (once we got home and he started baking it in the oven).

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Yesterday, I hiked a good chunk of that same Waddell Creek/Skyline to Sea trail. My hike was ‘only’ 8 miles of the 20 we Lincolns hiked that day all those years ago. These photos are from yesterday’s hike along that familiar trail and its many memories.

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I sit here 31 years later, paging through these photos and thinking about my Dad and that marathon hike. He passed away the Thursday before Thanksgiving in 1992, on November 18th. Since that year, the holidays have been a downer, though recent years have started to reverse that trend.

Looking back now, as a dad myself, I’d like to think that he knew exactly how far we were going to hike that day and that the lack of preparedness was intentional. I’d also like to think that Dad knew that we would still be talking about that day all these many years later and get a kick out of the memories we all made that day.

I thought I remembered that this bridge where I turned around yesterday was 3 miles in. Nope. It was 4 miles according to my handheld GPS. I caught myself muttering, It’s gotta be right up here somewhere.

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Franklin Point, California Coast, in 3 visits

Staring out the window of my Dad’s old Ford pickup when I was a kid, there was always this one bit of scenery that commanded my attention. There were dunes – row upon row of them – between the highway and the ocean. Those dunes marched along the shore silently in their majestic, unwavering ranks.

I imagined getting lost in those dunes. Playing hide and seek, discovering a cache of hidden treasure left by pirates (that was exposed by the wind just as I walked past), being a soldier taking part in the invasion of Normandy.

The dunes along this section of road are covered with long, wavy grass that billows and flows in the wind in mesmerizing patterns. The largest of these grass-covered dunes resembled a sleeping cat to me. I mentally called it ‘Shorty’ after Dad’s rotund feline housemate.

I realized not too long ago that I never once stopped there to explore, play hide and seek, look for buried treasure.

A month or two ago I decided to make this place a destination. I was happy to learn that those dunes hide a stretch of beach roughly a mile long. The beach ends abruptly at the rocky point. South of the rocky promontory there lies a rugged stretch of coastline, a protected cove or two and some wonderfully beautiful and sparsely traveled country. Between the highway and the shore are those dunes I mentioned at the outset. They look much less imposing from the safety of a speeding car. Once you’re out on the trail, though, their size, breadth and the forces required to build them becomes apparent very quickly.

Over the past several weeks I’ve made 3 hiking/photography trips out to the area: One from the north along the beach starting at Gazos Creek, one from the south, parking on the west side of Highway 1 across from Rossi Road, and one sort of in between at an unmarked dirt turnout alongside the highway.

I hope you enjoy the result. No buried treasure so far, but I’m going to keep looking.

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Pigeon Point, California – from Golden Hour to Milky Way with X100T

Got out to play this week with my X100T and a couple of film cameras over at the coast.  I remember fishing here with my dad and brother back in the 80s and, as usual, we caught absolutely nothing.  Still, it’s one of the places I enjoy visiting or just looking at fondly as we make our way up and down the coast these days.

I really lucked out with the weather as the fog and low clouds that sat above the coast when I arrived soon blew out, leaving perfectly clear skies as golden hour came and went.  Because it was a new moon and I’d been wanting to shoot the Milky Way, I stuck around and am happy I did.  Optimally I’d have shot this with the X Pro 1 and 14mm, but those bits were safely stowed in my camera closet at home.  Next time.

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Fireworks in the City as seen from our balcony…and the aftermath

Quite the show last night.  Starting just before dusk, there was a huge fireworks show between 18th and 19th on Bryant.  At first it was an annoyance as we tried to finish watching a movie, but eventually I warmed up to the festivities and got out the XE-1, 14mm and tripod and made a couple of 40 second exposures.



You get the idea, minus the teeth-chattering explosions.

This morning I took a walk around the block with the X100T on the way to Starbucks to take a look at the aftermath.  All in all it could have been a lot worse.  Happy birthday, US of A.

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The Bluffs above Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

I spend a lot of time at this cypress grove above the beach at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

I’ve walked here with Jen, with the kids, all 4 of us together, by myself.  It is both a destination and a waypoint on our treks down the coast for the day or for brunch to our hometown of Half Moon Bay.  For some reason I never knew of this place until Jen showed it to me a few years ago.  She called it one of her favorite haunts from when, as she puts it, she was an angst-filled teenager.

A few weeks ago on a different visit, I lost and subsequently found my keys about 150 feet from the spot where this photo was taken.  I only found them after retracing my steps around the quarter mile or so loop I’d walked around the grove.  When I did ‘find’ them, it was as much by accident as was losing them in the first place:  I stepped directly on the keys while framing a shot after having given up my search and was forlornly waiting for Jennifer to arrive with the spare.

The light here is always different and is often breathtaking. Some features have disappeared – the ring of fallen trees shaped into a corral has been taken down. Several trees are marked for felling. The foliage ebbs and flows with the seasons.

It feels like home.

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Point Reyes and Drakes Beach

Finally!  A blog entry!

I spent last Sunday on a solo trek out to Point Reyes and visited Drakes Beach for the first time.  The weather was incredible for ‘Winter’ at what felt like 70+ degrees.  Then again, Winter means very little here to those of us in the Golden State.

I arrived in the late afternoon to get the lay of the land and scout out where I might want to shoot as the sun set and the light grew softer.  Once the show starts (i.e. the light softens), there’s precious little time to work, particularly in contrast to how long it seemed to take for the darned sun to get low enough in the sky for things to start getting interesting.

I came away from this day alone refreshed and almost satisfied with the images I’d made.  I hope you enjoy them. Drakes Beach Last Light split stripes rush Drakes Estero

Road Trip to Bodie and Mono Lake with XE-1, X Pro 1 and that Magical 14mm

We took a lonnnng road trip yesterday – left SF at 7:00 a.m., returned (and promptly fell into bed) after midnight.

Bodie was fantastic. The road once the pavement ends is, well, not fantastic, but well worth the dust and bumps to get where you’re going. The amount of ‘stuff’ around is just astounding. We had a nice, thin layer of high clouds that cut the light enough to soften some of the shadows and made for nice shooting conditions during our visit.

We left Bodie with enough time to get to Mono Lake to catch the sunset. The last time I was there was October of last year during the fall color season (the Aspens are almost entirely bare now across Highway 108 and down 395) and there were hordes of people all traveling the same route and descending on Mono Lake’s South Tufa area for the sunset. I am not exaggerating when I say there must have been 75 people piled up at one spot to shoot the sunset (and I was one of them, albeit peripherally).

This time it was maybe 15 people total, ourselves included.

The sun dipped behind the mountains just after we got down to the beach – so much for our timing – but the after-sunset light show was otherworldly.