Did I mention fog? Yes, there was a thick marine layer in San Francisco, but on the north coast I discovered why they call sections of it the lost coast. It’s so foggy, even during the day, that it’s hard to see where the coast even starts. Our last morning in Eureka was no different. 52 degrees! Long pants and long sleeve shirts, scarf and a jacket. I was sorry I packed my fingerless gloves in the dark recesses of my large suitcase. The to-do list was loaded with items we had spotted on the road the day before, and some of them required a little back-tracking before we headed up the coast to Crescent City and parts beyond. Fueled up on breakfast at Adel’s in Eureka and headed out into the cold and foggy morning.
Our first stop was the Humboldt Botanical Garden at College of the Redwoods. My expectations were not the highest, but was I ever surprised. This place is a must see – it is absolutely stunning in the perfection of plant placement and variety of garden beds. How I’d love to have a garden again – it is all so inspiring! Bunnies, birds, lizards, bees and a fun walk through All Happy Now – an earth sculpture that is a combination of a ziggurat and a labyrinth. Fortunately most of the fog had burned off when we reached the top of the lookout point (for which the trail was a steep 150 foot elevation change) – the reward for huffing and puffing in the high humidity was a view of the bay.
Ferndale is a small nearby town that was almost decimated by a tsunami in 1964. Dairy is big in this town, which back in the day was affectionately referred to as Cream City. Current day billboards advertise it as the most quaint collection of Victorian homes. Fern Bridge, which you drive over to get to the old town section, is also an historic structure. Old Town is almost pristine, and has all the latest in stores and restaurants with that small town feel. We must have spent over an hour at the Ferndale Museum – their collection had a wide breadth and variety. My favorites were the Danish ebony spinning wheel, a bed sheet handwoven in the 1870’s, and a handwoven bed spread from the 1850’s. There was no lack of cows – we spied them in various parts of town, at the ends of the city blocks and tucked along the road.
Not far down the road, Loleta Cheese Company is one of the local creameries that caters to the tourist. Sampling every cheese they make on the premises is free and unrestrained, diet be damned! The owners maintain a quaint little garden out the back of the store where customers can polish off just-bought cheese while sitting at soda-shop style tables or picnic tables, too. I bought a jar of the local star thistle honey and a Mocha Extreme chocolate bar by Drakes Glen Creations. Kona coffee and macadamia nuts in dark chocolate? Someone died and went to heaven on that one. It didn’t last 24 hours in my possession, although I am carrying it with me around my waist.
Back in Eureka, The Carson House is touted as the most photographed house in California, possibly the United States. It was built by lumber magnet William Carson, but is now managed by a private club so it’s not open to the public. Snoot doesn’t do that justice. You can decide. I’m moving on to the next stop.
Time to head up the coast. Now we are in Del Norte county, which also has an incredible display of coastal redwood and sequoia. We made friends with a banana slug that was hanging out by a puddle at a rest stop. I love the way the state parks blend the natural landscape with roads and trails that accent the beauty of the area and enforce an aura of respect for the land. It’s hard to not be impressed and humbled by it all. However, it was soon time for the fog to roll in, and for Emmett and I to claim our reservation at the Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City. Dinner at North Woods was recommended by Casey at the front desk. The couple ahead of us (who we had coincidentally bumped into earlier on the elevator at the hotel) grabbed the last table. Hearing that we would have a twenty minute wait, and seeing that their table seated four, they graciously offered to share the table with us. Food and company were god – thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.
And thank goodness that we stayed two nights! It is surprising how much there is to see in an area that has such a small population. We started the next day at Crescent City Historical Society Museum. Another gem. Many excellent specimens of Yurok and Tulowa Indian baskets were on display. The patterns and complexity were quite impressive. There was also a waterproof coat made from the intestines of seals. Hmmm. Formerly the Hall of Records and County jail (there are cells left for a taste of confinement in those days), it houses the First Order Fresnel lens from the St. George Reef Lighthouse. St. George was responsible for a shipwreck that killed a lot of passengers and crew. Dentist offices, kitchens, medical artifacts – we were there quite a while. It’s definitely worth the time.
Ok. Cows have made their appearance many times along this whole route. It started in Coalinga and never stopped. You know what this is leading up to – more cheese!!!! Rumiano Cheese Company is right in town, and they also have a liberal tasting policy. Family run, small store front, lots of action, lots of cheese. I confess, I liked their cheese better than Loleto’s (sorry). But, that’s how it goes. I don’t know how to describe it, but there it is.
Fog has been a constant theme on this section of the trip, in case you hadn’t already noticed. By default, that means overnight temperatures in the 50’s and lucky if you hit 60 during the day. That can happen after lunch, typically. Then there is the “sea breeze” factor. Go ahead and chuckle, but for people who normally live in the desert this is a novelty that is appreciated. The tides were up and it was the wrong day of the week, so Battery Point Lighthouse was closed. The surrounding park area is always open, so we trotted off to check out the view and walk the pier. Lots of really interesting formations. Good walk.
While this little town might not exactly be responsible for the family name, Fort Dick was a must-see for us, and it is located about 3 miles north of Crescent City. Mostly ranches, houses, the fire department, a Bible church and convenience store, it’s set in a pretty area. No main street, in the traditional sense of the concept. Long may it live and prosper!
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is absolutely spectacular. And it has such a wonderful air. The Ranger that checked us in at the guard shack was a bit askance about us “just hiking” – it’s a reserve-by-the-camping-spot type of place, with lots of hiking trails. Not much parking for day trippers like us. The trails and facilities are spotless. Maybe being in prime bear country has something to do with it. We started out on the River Beach Trail and the Nature Trail, which lead to the Summer Foot Bridge. It’s called that because that’s the only time of year the water is below the bridge – there is a boat launch nearby for winter crossing. The bridge leads to Mill Creek Trail, which follows Smith River.
Outside the park there is a driving trail called Howland Hill Road – a covered wooden bridge crosses the river to get there. Less than a mile in it is unpaved and one car wide. We opted out and retreated at the first turn-out point. Car tires kicked the dust high, there were other cars, and it was like driving through a Phoenix haboob. We have enough of that at home, so on to other trails in the Jedediah family of parks! Besides, we wanted to hike, not drive. And there are so many trails along Route 199. If you have trouble reading a map, all you have to do is look for cars parked by the side of the road and you have found a trail.
The forest ecosystem is very fascinating. Trees fall, usually taking other trees down with them, and then serve as nurse trees for others to grow. They take care of their own. Each sequoia cone holds anywhere from 50 to 100 seeds, so that’s a lot of chances for survival in the environment. Walker Road was our choice, right off Route 199. At the start of the road are the Simpson Reed Grove and Peterson Memorial Trails. They are in the shape of a figure eight overlaid on an oval. The tree roots were huge, and there were a lot of good examples of nurse trees in various stages. Great trail. Worked up an appetite. On the road again, this time for eats.
One of our rules of the road is, whenever possible, to try and eat at a local place, changing them up so that we are not going to the same place all the time, and not eating at places that we can visit at home. So for our second night dinner, by process of elimination, we landed at The Good Harvest Cafe, not too far from the hotel, as it worked out. Rustic decor, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Local crowd. Emmett’s fish and chips and my salmon salad were both excellent. Meal portions were perfect – I hate to sleep on a heavy stomach (that’s an oxymoron in my book). Time to pack up and get ready for an early start to a long driving day to the next state…..
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