Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sept 16 (Day 259) - Change of plans

There have been several recent reports of Pacific golden-plover from the mouth of the Eel River west of Fortuna. Given this, I decided this area was worth at least a 1/2 day of birding today. However, the best tide to bird this spot is low, and the low tide today was around noon. What this meant was that I would have a hard time birding the spot from 11am-3pm AND moving anywhere significant down the road/coast. I was able to find a Warmshowers host not far from Eel River. I took my time getting out of Eureka this morning figuring I would bird the entire rising tide this afternoon. I could then just jump over to the host's house in Fortuna afterwards. I wouldn't cover many miles, but I would hopefully have a nice afternoon of birding and plover hunting.

Sonia handlin' bitniz from McDonald's 
parking lot this morning

Eel River estuary

As soon as I reached the Eel River, the plan changed for two reasons. First there were no birds present from 11am to noon. Second, although light west winds were forecast, the wind was banging pretty hard from the northwest. I immediately decided to fold my hand on birding and instead use this wind to make some decent distance south and east. At this stage of the year, I cannot afford a day where I do no birding and I make no miles. This is likely what would have happened had I stayed at the river. If there were loads of birds there I would have stayed; I don't mind productive and interesting birding even if I don't add any new species. I quickly made the decision that making miles would be a better use of my time today.

With that in mind, I hopped back on the bike and started cranking down Highway 101. Another 6 hours of pedal pushing put me 65 miles down the road at the Garberville KOA where I rendezvoused with Queen Sonia. The wind really helped for the first 45 miles but it switched to the southwest for the last 20 or so. 

Tomorrow is going to be very interesting. Winds are allegedly going to be calm in the morning, but are going to pick up from the south with accompanying rain as the day progresses. Normally this wouldn't bother me, but tomorrow's ride is special for for 2 reasons. First, the ride to Fort Bragg is scheduled for 65 miles and over 5,500 vertical feet of climbing. Much of this will be in the steep coastal drainages that really crush one's legs as one tries to climb out of dozens of them in succession. Second, the back end of the ride will be along the famous Highway 1 that runs along the very rugged and steep cliffs of the California Coast. This is NOT an area I want to be with strong headwinds and rain - it just would not be safe. What I will need to guestimate is if I can beat the winds and rain to Fort Bragg tomorrow. If I can't then I could be forced into a situation where I only do a portion of the ride and effectively lose the day from both birding and riding standpoints. The other alternative is to skip Highway 1 and this section of coast completely and instead follow 101 down through Ukiah. Bird-wise I don't think I am going to miss much by doing this as I could see what birds I could get from this stretch of coast further south. The inland route, while nowhere near as scenic as the coast, would be MUCH easier riding and get me to Petaluma and the North Bay at least a full day (maybe 2) faster than the coastal route. I would also feel OK riding it in less than ideal conditions. 

Sonia and I did find something very interesting in our campground this evening. It is definitely worth the minute of your life to watch this!

OK, I'm beat after this 86 miles (with 3,000 feet of climbing!)
I'm showing you the car version since it was faster to map the 
distance this way. The car function does not generate elevation profiles.

Lastly, I received a number of nice notes from blog readers yesterday and today. It's really nice to hear from some of you. Rest assured that although I may not have the time to respond to every email, I do read them all. They are all incredibly informative and touching. Thank you.


  1. Skip highway 1. Sure, it's scenic, but it's also a distraction; aesthetics are a luxury on a big year. You've already seen a lot of rocky coast, you'll see more rocky coast south of SFO.

  2. Love following your blog. The video was good! BTW, did you forget to add the sapsucker to your list? I only see 549.

  3. Disappointed seeing the video - why make fun of someone who is just enjoying their camping trip?