Thursday, January 14, 2016

The forgotten community of Pacific Shores, California

The night started something like this.
Where's the campground?

Just off Kellog Road, coming up on the right.

The night ended only a few hours later when it became light enough to back out of the swamp road about half a mile from what the GPS had promised was a campground.

The GPS was wrong. The place marked as a campground was a trail head with prominent "No camping" signs. This was the second fail in a row. Unfortunately, the GPS did not tell people if a campground was open in the off-season. They had played, and lost, the same of "dive up and see" several times in the past few days. Hint: most are closed.

They examined the map and decided to continue ahead towards the beach. On the left, a few hundred yards ahead, the small screen showed a major road, Tell Boulevard, it said.

Tell Boulevard was dark in the dark of night, in the shadow of the dunes. Odd, but not impossible in this remote far north eastern corner of California. As the car turned left, the headlights illuminated a burnt out trailer.

This is creepy.

Look, there are lights further down.

Tell Boulevard once must have looked grand. It had two double lanes for traffic separated by a wide median strip. The concrete slabs of the road surface were broken, and the ongoing rain collected in puddles in the cracks and on the sides.

Cautiously easing the vehicle forward, it became clear the road was in such bad shape that a truck was the only sensible option. When the median first gave way to a connection between the lanes, they turned to head back out to Kellog.

The lights are cars, coming towards us.

Take a right, on this road. It looks much better.

Just ahead, there were trees.

They pulled over and decided to catch some sleep right there. Only to be woken up by a truck with a trailer slowly passing into the wooded area. The headlights of the truck illuminated pieces of garbage, a discarded tire, ghostly pieces of metal sticking into the night next to a tree.

Few long minutes later, the truck came back. The trailer bounced, the sound of an empty trailer. Their fitful sleep was interrupted several more times by revving engines of more vehicles traveling along Tell Boulevard, though none turned their way.

The faint light of dawn revealed the road the car sat on. Locals were using the area as a dump. An overnight stay on an official landfill wouldn't look much different.

They left a few minutes later and spent the time it took to get back to U.S. 101 North speculating on the history of the place.

Much later, a quick web search would bring up an article by NBC News from 2008 would explain the twists in the history of Pacific Shores. The desolate place had a wonderful name, Pacific Shores.

Here is what NBC said:
Pacific Shores, as it was dubbed by a developer who sold lots on the cheap to far away dreamers, is a limbo land where the state has been able to prevent development but unable to get lot owners to give up their quest.
Owners have been squaring off with the agency that oversees coastal development almost since the Coastal Act of 1976 was created, partly in response to Pacific Shores and similar undevelopable subdivisions. 

And what explains the night time traffic?

The article is charitable, failing to mention the sprawling illegal dump, and instead quotes a local resident: "Ninety percent of the residents here either learned how to drive here or were conceived here".

The official name of the area is Tolowa Dunes State Park, and it lies only miles north of the real town of Crescent City, CA.

Unless you are in the neighborhood or love birds, there is not much reason to leave U.S. 101 for a visit, but Google Maps can take you there.

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