Gualala and The North Coast of California.

If you go North a little ways of San Francisco, you enter a world of Redwood Trees with the occasional spot where civilization has impinged and collected human habitation.

The coast itself is a powerfull attractant, with its own specialized ambience and weather patterns. One such spot is the small town of Gualala, where we flew up to spend a few days wandering around on the ground to catch the sights and get a feel for nature in this area,

One of the goals on this trip was to visit "Bowling Ball Beach" and see the famous "Bowling Balls" and photograph them if possible. To do this, you have to be there when there is a very low tide - and that has to co-incide with suitable daylight hours so that decent photographs can be taken. These daylight hours are further limited because the bowling balls lie on a beach at the bottom of a cliff - thus they are lying in the shadow of the cliff for the first few hours of the day, against a bright blue backdrop of sea and sky.


128_2868     We take off from Palo Alto and fly North up the bay, passing San Francisco on our left. The Bay Bridge crosses from Oakland (underneath us) and a small piece of the Golden Gate Bridge can be see at the right-hand edge of the picture. It is still morning, so only a small moustache of low-clouds (fog) has collected just off the coast. On our way back it will be later in the day and we will probably see more extensive fog coverage over the city.


128_2879     About 100 miles up the coast, we see Oceanside Airport - easily spotted by the clearing in the Redwood Forest


128_2878     Circle over the airfield to check it out - it is clearly labelled. It is basically a private airstrip with public access - but of course no Tower directing traffic. So we keep a sharp eyed look-out for any other traffic and announce our intention to land over the common radio frequency used for this function - and maneuver into position to land.


128_2880     On final approach, we can tell that this landing will be a Class One ST landing experience. (ST = Sphincter Tightening)

The runway is constructed along a ridgeline that parallels the coast - which is a little over a mile away. This means there will be a cross-wind blowing across the runway. But the runway is surrounded by tall trees. So not only do we have come in slightly high and then drop fairly steeply to touch-down (to stay clear of tree-tops on approach) the cross wind is blowing over the tops of the trees and then encountering a relatively sheltered hole - reulting in some degree of random air turbulence just within the tree line and just as we are passing down through around the 100 ft altitude level and sinking fairly rapidly to touch down early enough to make it onto the runway with plenty of room to stop - before we reach the end.

Just to make things interesting, what we can see from this perspective is that the runway isn't flat by any means. In fact it is slightly concave with a hill poking up in the middle of it.

Friend Saul is sitting in the left seat (pilot in command) and slides it in perfectly with barely a little bit of squirreling... Success! We made it!


128_2883     After dinner and a good night's sleep, we're off to explore the coast.






129_2903     There are signs of habitation on the far promontary, and a curious rock formation that almost looks like it was sculpted by a human.


129_2905     In fact it is probably a rock that split in two a long time ago, and has since been smoothed by sand and wind over time.


129_2907     The houses on the promontory can be seen clearly as we get a little closer.




129_2960     There be Giant's Bowling Balls beneath them thar cliffs according to legend... We will be up early tomorrow morning at low tide to investigate.


129_2968     The next morning we are up early in time for low-tide - and we are rewarded with finding our first Bowling Balls


129_2970     But the trick is to catch them in the sun so that they can be photographed decently. The sun is still low in the sky, and many of the fields of bowling balls are in the shade of the cliffs to the East.

We could wait until the sun gets higher in the sky, but by then the tide will be rising again...


129_2972     This group was still in the shade and has rather a dull coloring.








129_2984     We find some lying in a rare patch of sun - Hooray!








129_2990     The sun has now risen to where most of the shade from the cliffs has been banished, but meanwhile the tide has risen and is starting to cover the bowling balls.






130_3003     The next morning after lunch, we take off successfully and head for home


130_3008    On the flight home, in the middle of the Redwood Forest, we notice a complex of structures centered on what appears to be a Bhuddist Temple.

The diagram to the right will help you spot some of the peripheral structures - there may be more outside the frame of this photograph - I still don't know anything more about this Temple (?) in the middle of nowhere.

A subsequent correspondent informed me about this link which provides information on the Organization and History around this Bhuddist Temple complex.


130_3012     We dip down and circle to take a closer look at the main central part of the complex


130_3010     Another view, showing one of the peripheral structures in its relation to the central Temple.


130_3030     Eventualy we pass San Francisco again on our way South through the bay. As predicted, due to the time of day, the fog has rolled in more extensively and sits like a blanket over large parts of the city.

On the left, we can see an Aircraft Carrier approaching the Bay Bridge


130_3035     Minutes later we reach Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto, an easy-to-spot landmark right off the end of the runway we call home.

This spit of land grew over the last century or so on the Bay shoreline when it was regularly used as a dump site for the surrounding communities as they became established in the late 1800's. Whenever the pile of garbage grew big enough, the dump would be set on fire, leaving a slightly raised ground level made up of ash containg assorted toxins and the cycle was repeated.

Eventualy the property became home to a boat repair facility focused primarily on repairing and maintaining the "Chris Craft" brand of upscale motor boats. The owner built a repair shed with a two-story living accomodation on the end. He also rescued an old dredging barge which had formerly been used to keep shipping channels clear in The Bay. He dug out a small harbor where the dredge could be permanently parked on the property and then closed off the entrance from the bay so that the dredge became land-locked and could serve as further living accommodation.

Both the repair shed and dredge can be see in this picture. Unfortunately, the historic dredge burned down soon after this picture was taken. The land itself was taken over to be made into a park after extensive remediation to try and deal with the accumulated toxins in the soil. Restoration included the application of a new layer of "clean dirt" over the whole area befor park amenities were added and today it forms part of a larger parks system along the edge of the bay.