South to the North Coast

Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe at Trees of Mystery in northern California
Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe at Trees of Mystery in northern California

Arno and I take the opportunity every other holiday to have grown-up time, since every other holiday the kids are gone. His boys were with their mother, and Miss Tara was scheduled to be with her dad, so we planned to have Christmas at a Bed & Breakfast on the Oregon coast. Since it was somewhat close to Tara’s dad on the North Coast of California, we decided to take her south and then sightsee up the coast to our B&B.

Sunset over highway 199 between Grants Pass and Crescent City
Sunset over highway 199 between Grants Pass and Crescent City

It’s a beautiful drive and we were treated with views of Christmas lights all the way. Mother Nature didn’t want to be outdone and gave us a gorgeous sunset to drive through.

Fishing boats lit up off the northern California coast, called "the North Coast" by locals.
Fishing boats lit up off the northern California coast, called “the North Coast” and “the Lost Coast” by locals.

I couldn’t resist a vista stop once we reached the coast at Crescent City, and I was able to get a shot of the busy sea, filled with fishermen.

We delivered Tara safely to her dad’s house and found a hotel. The next morning we visited with my lovely friend Margaret, who met us for breakfast in Arcata. Then we took Highway 101 north and began our coast vacation.

Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center
Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center
Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
elk pose
elk pose
Yes, the elk might be at somewhat of a disadvantage if hunting were allowed here beside highway 101
Yes, the elk might be at somewhat of a disadvantage if hunting were allowed here beside highway 101

At Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick, CA, we talked with a Ranger and learned about a back road through  Jedediah Smith State Park. We realized that by taking scenic routes, we could get up close and personal with the trees, but not spend too much time hiking through the woods and make ourselves late for check in at the B&B. Before we reached the redwoods, however, we were distracted by a group of Roosevelt Elk grazing near the highway.

My Arno, the climber
My Arno, the climber, clambers up Big Tree. Well-named, this Coast Redwood is 304 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter.

First we took the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which is a portion of the old highway 101. We wandered a few trails and were aptly humbled by the immense redwood trees. The Coast Redwoods are narrower and a little taller than the Giant Sequoias found in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the California-Nevada border.

The trails allow visitors to experience this spectacular old-growth rainforest from the inside. Yes, rainforest! Some of these areas have an average of 100-150 inches of rain in a season. As you can see from the photos, even sunny days do not penetrate to the surface very well. Green growth carpets and drapes all things in the forest. We spotted mossy shelves hosting ferns and small huckleberry shrubs as much as twenty feet up the trunks of some of these trees. The trail is spongy from the layers below it. Step off the trail, and one sinks into the moss and lichens and fungus and – I must assume – millions of tiny insects. When a tree falls, or is burned by fire, the tree is not dead. Rather, it becomes the host of new trees. We saw many “smaller” trees growing from the enormous hulks of past giants. Smaller was in quotes, because the baby growth are often trees that would seem huge in my back yard, and only seem small because the others in the redwood forest are much larger.

The trail winds through old growth redwood rain forest
The trail winds through old growth redwood rain forest
Coast Redwoods soar up above the green forest floor
Coast Redwoods soar up above the green forest floor

We found our way next to Howland Hill Road. It is a narrow dirt road through the center of another section of old growth redwood forest. The trees growing snug up against the road bank dwarfed the Volvo wagon.

Itty bitty car in the trees along Howland Hill Road
Itty bitty car in the trees along Howland Hill Road
Arno inside the cut trunk of a tree beside the road.
Arno inside the cut trunk of a tree beside the road.

Once we left the forest it was time to stop dawdling. We were still in California, and our bed that evening was half way up the Oregon coast. So we focused on heading north, even though we took the time to stop at a few more beaches and breathe the sea air. Finally, the sky turned black, and it began to rain, and that was very helpful in keeping us inside the car, and traveling north. We checked in on time and were so tired we skipped dinner and went to bed.

Read about our adventures on Day two here.

This attractive gentleman stayed close, with the hopes that I would share my lunch with him.
This attractive gentleman stayed close, with the hopes that I would share my lunch with him.
Wind filled the air with mist and gave a dreamy quality to the seaside sunset
Wind filled the air with mist and gave a dreamy quality to the seaside sunset
did I mention that he likes to climb?
did I mention that he likes to climb?
Arno on top of a rock at a southern Oregon beach
Arno on top of a rock at a southern Oregon beach

7 thoughts on “South to the North Coast

  1. Someday I hope to see Redwoods. Your photos are wonderful and your trip sounds delightful!
    I have a hard time getting some place fast, too, when there are so many gorgeous sites to see along the way.
    Yay for grown up time!

    1. The twisty roads through redwood country would be best seen from a bike, I’d have to admit. So, you’re sort of obligated to make it there eventually.

      Obviously it is hard to raise kids alone while working full time. I am so glad Arno sees it like I do: when we are given time off, then spending it selfishly is absolutely appropriate. I have been having so many fun adventures with that guy. 😉

      I wish I could better capture what I see with my photos. The photos certainly help, but they do not clearly represent what it’s like to be there. I guess I’ll have to keep taking road trips and keep practicing.

  2. Great photos! It looks like you had a great time exploring and had beautiful weather. We must have driven through at the wrong time of day because we didn’t see any elk.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Andrea. And thanks for the compliment on the photos. You would know if they did the job or not, since you were just there. Having lived there in the past, I know all the places to look for elk, so that gave me an advantage. However, I also know that they aren’t always there to look at, even if you know where to look. Next time!

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