Escape Plan Part 2: The Woods

Two weeks ago I started a series of blog posts based on a 4 day trip that Ben and I took up north. (Digression: just thought of how "up north" has a very different and specific implied meaning for anyone using it, depending on their geographic location. For us San Franciscans, "up north" would invoke imagery of towering redwood trees, wine tasting, windy roads and foggy coastal landscapes.) I've been very busy lately, so barely time for editing photos from that trip - which led me to another realization: when, as photographer, you distance yourself in time from the physical subject matter of your photos, editing becomes much clearer. 


After West Point Inn, we continued our trip to Orr Hot Springs, one of my all-time favorite places in Northern California. At Orr we stayed in a wooden yurt with a round skyline in the middle of the ceiling, right above our bed. It rained non-stop the entire time we were there, which made for an explosion of all senses. The humidity in the air elevated scents from all the greenery surrounding us. The raindrops falling on our roof at night made the soundtrack, and from a tactile standpoint... well, just look at my hand touching that moss-covered tree and you'll understand. 


One of the yurts at Orr, covered in moss. 

The yurt that we slept in, surrounded by ferns, redwoods and moss. 

The yurt that we slept in, surrounded by ferns, moss and redwood trees. 

In the morning, we found the creek on the property completely swollen and raging, carrying all the water from the overnight rain. The hot spring is located at the bottom of a deep valley, so the hillsides were covered with little streams of water, all eventually flowing into this creek. 

Photo of me by Ben. Since Orr is a clothing-optional place, we did not take too many photos on the property, and left the camera in the room most of the time. One of my favorite moments was soaking in a lukewarm bath (body temperature), while rain was pouring down on us. 

Selfie with a 16mm lens. Also, I love this man. There, I said it publicly. 

The show must go on! The next day, we (reluctantly) left Orr after one last long soaking sesh, and continued for a long hour on the windy and narrow Ukiah-Comptche road until we reached the coast right below Fort Bragg. 

We stopped in the quiet town of Comptche and walked around. This name reminds me of Nepal and Tibet, and the village is full of hippie markings, but the name actually comes from a local native American tribe. The owner of the house above came outside and told us the house has been in his family for four generations, and that his grand grand-father built it. 

Upon reaching the coast, we made another stop at the Little River cemetery. Behind the cemetery there is a blowhole, which fills up with water during high tide. You can hike down to the bottom with the aid of a rope, but we didn't because of the heavy recent rains and all the recently fallen trees. It's a magical place, and definitely a must-stop for everyone driving down the coast. 

Escape Plan Part 1: West Point Inn

This past week-end Ben and I went on a four-day trip to a few hidden nooks of Northern California, only to return back to the city via an epic drive down Highway 1 . The trip represented some sort of escape plan or celebration for both of us, an occasion to reconnect with nature, meditate, cleanse and recharge batteries. For me, it was a celebration of ending my previous full-time job, starting a new, exciting and creative job, and committing myself to working as a photographer.  For the most part we didn't have any cell phone reception, nor any wifi or even electricity. We were really truly blessed to also travel right after and during heavy rains, experiencing a ferociously lush California that is only to be seen in spring. Ben mentioned at some point that he felt like being in a foreign country.  We took hundreds of photos in completely different and equally majestic locations, so I've decided to split them up in 4 different blog posts, each of them representing a different day of the road trip. 

On the first day of the trip we went to West Point Inn, a lodge built at the top of Mt. Tam in 1904 that is accessible only via hiking. Since you can't drive up there, and since there's no electricity at the inn, and you have to hike with all your gear and food, it's not a crowded place despite the proximity to the city. We also went on a Thursday night, so we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves, aside from the inn keeper and her friends. 

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Secluded among the trees on the upper south slope of Mt. Tamalpais, the Inn was once a stopover for passengers who rode the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” up from Mill Valley to the top of the mountain. The railroad is gone now, but the Inn remains as a haven for hikers and a monument to the rich historic heritage of the region. 

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Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

The main building of the inn is lit with propane lamps, while the cabins nearby have no electricity. I brought a few battery operated candles, and Ben brought a beautiful Lumio lamp. It was the first time I saw one in person, and immediately fell in love with the exquisite design. That thing is a jewel, not to mention that it's a practical lamp as well. It completely lit our cute little mountain cabin. 

Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

We were very lucky that it only rained at night, and not while we had to hike up to the inn and back to where we left the car.  Night rain also made our stay even more romantic. :) We didn't however get to see any of the view, as everything was covered in a dense fog.  A photographer's dream I suppose. 

Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

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