Road Trip 2022, Part IV: More Redwoods, and the City by the Bay

Directly across the highway from Trees of Mystery sits the Forest Cafe, a whimsical little restaurant with a woodland theme. Our seating area had been arranged to create the illusion of being at the bottom of a pond.

Of course we had to drive the Elantra through a giant tree at some point. We chose the one in Klamath.

Just past Klamath we left the highway for the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway, stopping here and there to admire the massive trees.

Stranger for scale:

We detoured out to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trailhead near Orick in Redwood National Park, walked as far as the big pedestrian bridge, and realized that none of us were feeling another hike. We were already behind schedule as it was. We had planned to spend Thursday night on the other side of San Francisco, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen. We aborted the Lady Bird Grove hike and continued on.

Still in dinosaur country.

We made a brief return to the highway…

…before turning onto the Avenue of the Giants, a long scenic byway that winds through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Day 8 for that wool top, btw. Any doubts I had about merino’s famed ability to stay clean and fresh over long periods of use were laid to rest on this trip. The hype is true!

Fallen tree, Elizabeth for scale:

There are a lot of touristy novelty stops along Avenue of the Giants, but nearly all of them were closed when we came through.

We made it almost, but not quite, to San Francisco that day. We spent the night at some unmemorable chain hotel in Santa Rosa whose name I don’t recall, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge around 10am the next morning.

I liked San Francisco a little better than I’d liked Seattle. They both struck me as once-beautiful cities in lovely settings that had been mercilessly hijacked by the corporate economy. And granted, I saw very little of either city. But the impression I got of Seattle was that everyone but the wealthy had been chased out, whereas in San Francisco I at least saw normal-looking people out doing normal-person things.

Oh…Elizabeth says it was the Rodeway Inn in Santa Rosa.  She forgets nothing.

Anyway, we began our brief tour of SanFran at Ghirardelli Square, a historical bayside chocolate factory that has been mostly repurposed as a shopping center. It reminded me of the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, but with chocolate instead of beer.

We had some amaaaaaazing ice cream sundaes at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience, and watched some of the old chocolate-making equipment do its thing.

Looked around the Square a bit more, and then walked out to the municipal pier for a better view of the bay.

if you want to see a stark example of the social inequality built into the modern corporate economy, look no further than San Francisco’s public pier. Set against a backdrop of immense wealth…

…the municipal pier is literally rotting away for lack of funds to maintain it.

Alcatraz Island in the near background:

Private wealth, public poverty.

We returned to the car and drove down via Lombard St…

…to a beach parking lot so we could walk out to see the Wave Organ.

The tide was too low to reach the concrete pipes that play the organ, but the structure itself is fascinating.

About that time we all decided that we had seen enough of San Francisco and were ready to move on. Alas, moving on was easier said than done in the thickening afternoon traffic. We spent hours struggling free of the city before we finally escaped into the foothills.

And just like that, I felt like I was finally back in my home state. It even smelled like California, that familiar dusty scent of tall dry grass and coastal sunshine. We rolled down the windows and let the breeze blow through the car, and nostalgia for a California that no longer exists ached in my chest.

To be continued!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, trees | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part VIII: The Forests Primeval

If our road trip could be said to have a destination, this would be it: the giant coastal redwoods and mountain sequoias of Northern California. I’d always wanted to see them, but before this trip the farthest north I’d ever been in my home state was San Luis Obispo in upper SoCal. When the KNP Complex wildfire raged for four months through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks last fall and winter, I wondered if I had missed my chance to ever see those ancient trees. Luckily most of the biggest and oldest ones survived, at least for now. But that fire was the motivation I needed to start planning this trip.

We got a latish start on Thursday. There was plenty of stuff on the day’s itinerary, but for some reason there was no hurry in us that morning.

We took our time breaking camp, and dawdled to admire this absolute unit of a banana slug.

Pic on right courtesy of Elizabeth’s phone, which handles close-ups much better than my GoPro.

From the campground we detoured down Howland Hill Road, an unpaved scenic byway that rambles through the heart of the redwood forest.

The day was bright and clear, but inside these groves is a perpetual twilight. The trees are so tall and dense, direct sunlight never reaches the ground.

Wild spring rhododendrons bloomed profusely in the shaded woods.

Photos don’t convey the size of these giants at all.

You can’t hurry on Howland Hill Road, it’s too rough and narrow. We enjoyed the scenery and accepted that we would have to make up the lost time later in the day. We stopped to walk the Stout Grove Trail, an easy half-mile loop.

The kids and I each hike at our own speeds: Luke jogs tirelessly ahead, I’m usually in the middle and Elizabeth saunters leisurely, inspecting every leaf and bug. It’s too bad we were so far apart on this trail, because I could have used some humans for scale. The trees in the next pic don’t seem unusually large until you realize that the one lying on the ground is still taller than me.

GoPro at eye level:

This really is a “forest primeval.” You half expect to see colorful dinosaurs come shrieking out of the underbrush.

The coastal redwoods didn’t make me sad the way the Hoh Rainforest did, but I didn’t exactly feel at home among them either. They are a natural wonder, like the Grand Canyon: spectacular to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. The dinosaurs might get me.

Stout Grove ended up putting us even further behind schedule, because Elizabeth wandered off on a side trail and Luke and I spent over an hour trying to find her. Stressful AND late-making. Reunited at last, we crawled along the rest of Howland Hill Road without stopping, got back on the 101 and may have driven just a tad over the speed limit trying to make up lost time.

Even so, we stopped at a beach that wasn’t on our itinerary just because it looked so striking from the highway.

You can’t really tell from the pics because I lightened the exposure to bring out the details, but the sand of this beach is a very dark gray. Almost black.

A rather dramatic effect in person. Very pretty beach.

We stopped at Trees of Mystery, walking in past the enormous statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. Luke for scale:

We weren’t at all sure what to expect there, but it was a pleasant surprise. Lots of great wood carvings, poetry, folk-style art, and a wonderful canopy trail that lets you walk through the redwoods 50 to 100 feet above the forest floor.

There’s also a gondola that you can take up to an observation platform.

It doesn’t show up in the pics, but you can see the ocean from this platform.

Lots of wood and metal depictions of events and characters from the Paul Bunyan legends.

And of course this guy, because apparently you can’t walk ten feet in the Pacific Northwest without bumping into him.

More to come!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part VII: Rocks to Redwoods

In Bandon, Oregon we visited Face Rock Creamery for some really good ice cream, and then headed down to Bandon beach to check out the famous rock formations and tide pools. We arrived at low tide, a great time to see both.

Of all the strange and lovely rocks on Bandon Beach, for some reason I like this one the best. Just a random boulder the size of a house. I love it.

Here’s the Face Rock that Face Rock Creamery and other local businesses are named for. Looks like a giant taking a bath in the sea:

And here is my second-favorite rock on this beach, the shattered one in front that looks like a wizard’s hat or a crescent moon. I wonder what happened to the rest of it.

This is just a really pretty beach.

Sea stars were more plentiful here than at the other tide pools we visited.

We could have spent half the day exploring Bandon Beach, but we had reservations for that night at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California and didn’t want to fall behind schedule. After an hour or so we got our sandy selves back to the car and continued down the coast.

We pulled into the parking lot at Prehistoric Gardens, debating whether to buy tickets and take the tour.

In the end we decided we were all a bit older than the target demographic and moved on.

Just north of Brookings we came upon a place of otherworldly beauty. A place where tall trees thrive on seemingly bare rock, where the land thrusts stony fingers into the sea and the sea cuts round culverts through them.

It’s one of the loveliest places I’ve ever seen.

As we crossed into California, the landscape began to change. We had left The People’s Coast behind and were back in the land of billboards and shopping centers. We stopped to see a big ship that had once been the gift shop for a tropical-themed resort.

By now the shadows were lengthening and we were in danger of losing daylight. We hurried on to Jedediah Smith Campground, found our reserved site and set up camp in the forest-scented twilight.

To be continued!

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part VI: More Oregon Coast

Eleven lighthouses stand guard along Oregon’s rocky coast. We stopped just north of Newport to see the tallest of them, on Yaquina Head. There’s a little fee station at the top of the road where you’re supposed to pay for day use, but it had closed for the day and the entry gate was locked. We parked on the side of the driveway and walked the mile or so to the lighthouse.

Luke for scale:

We – and by we I mostly mean Luke – worried that the car would get ticketed parked where it was. We met other walkers on the lighthouse road, but ours was the only vehicle there. So when we were done looking around, Luke jogged ahead back up the road to make sure the car was okay.

I was about three-quarters of the way back to the fee station when Luke came breathlessly around a bend in the road. “There’s a bunch of guys on motorcycles around our car! I hope they’re not motorcycle cops!”

“I don’t think motorcycle cops travel in packs,” I said, “Especially on quiet roads like these. Probably just a biker group touring the coast. I don’t think they’ll bother our car.”

The motorcycles were peeling back out toward the highway when we came around the last corner. Luke said, “Mom, did you leave the window down?”

“No…or…what the hell, it is down.”

The driver’s side window was indeed all the way open. I had rolled it down at the fee station and apparently forgotten to roll it back up.

The car was absolutely packed with valuables – iPads, MacBooks, camping and hiking gear, my wallet. Nothing had been touched or taken. Humans are okay sometimes.

We stopped in Newport to try the clam chowder at Mo’s Original Location. We had heard good things, and the chowder lived up to its reputation.

Tangent: The best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted is at a little kiosk in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, just outside the Pieces of Eight souvenir shop. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since we left California. All of the clam chowders we sampled in Washington and Oregon were objectively fresher and higher-quality than Disneyland’s, and very tasty, but it’s hard to compete with the magic of gustatory nostalgia.

I like this mural we saw in Newport:

We watched for real whales all the way down the coast, since late May is still at the tail end of their migration season. We never did see any, but we did enjoy a few lively rounds of “Is that a rock or a creature?”

The original plan was to spend Tuesday night at a campground wherever we happened to end the day, but none of us were feeling it. Instead we searched along the highway until we found a motel with a vacancy. “The only room we have left doesn’t have an ocean view,” the clerk said apologetically. I assured him that it made no difference. The room was twice the size and half the cost of the one at Lake Quinault Lodge, with more amenities. Shoutout to The Dublin House Motel in Yachats.

Our first stop Wednesday morning was the Devil’s Churn. The Devil apparently stores his kitchen accouterments along the Oregon shoreline.

The Devil’s Churn is hard to describe, and I wish I’d taken a video of it. It’s a narrow channel carved by a stream joining the sea. Waves roll into it and back out, so it’s nearly empty one minute and overflowing the next. From the highway it looks almost serene:

Luke for scale:

Up close it’s loud and violent and a little scary as the waves roil in the chasm and sometimes splash high into the air.

People have died here, washed into the Churn by the crashing waters. We kept our eyes on it and still got splashed unexpectedly. The sense of energy here is incredible.

We continued down the coast to Thor’s Well.

In my last post I included a video that I had misidentified as the Devil’s Punchbowl. Elizabeth pointed out that it was in fact a video of Thor’s Well. I have relocated it accordingly:

The tide pools here are full of life. And here’s something the GoPro can do that my camera couldn’t: underwater photos.

Next stop, Heceta Head Lighthouse.

We had arrived during proper visiting hours, so we paid our day use fee and got to speak with an attendant inside the lighthouse.

A little farther down the coast we pulled onto an overlook that offers another scenic view of Heceta Head. And here we saw sea lions sunning on a rock just below the turnout. This was the first time I really missed my camera with its lovely zoom lens. The GoPro failed miserably at capturing both the sea lions and the lighthouse in the distance.

Looks like a paint-by-number.

Got photobombed by a majestic raven.

Next we came to “America’s Largest Sea Cave,” where you can buy a ticket to get a closer look at the sea lions in their natural habitat. The GoPro utterly failed to do it justice. Trust me, there are sea lions in all three of these pics:

They are vocal creatures. Interestingly, they made different noises depending on their surroundings. Inside the sea cave they sounded aggressive and “liony.” Frolicking in the surf they sounded playful. On the sand in that bottom pic they sounded like a herd of drunk cows. That was a fun stop.

Moving on to Florence, we took a small detour off the highway to visit a quiver of cobra lilies.

These carnivorous pitcher plants grow wild here.

In North Bend we stopped at Captain’s Choice Fish House, an unassuming little place that served one of the best fish dinners I’ve had in my entire life.

A hand-rolled cigarette hangs from the mouth of the wooden fisherman in the foyer. Seriously, how high does this dude look?

Elizabeth ordered a seafood alfredo, Luke got the fish and chips, and I got fish and chowder. The waitress asked Luke and I what kind of fish we wanted: cod, red snapper or halibut. We both chose cod. Then she asked how we wanted our cod prepared, and offered a list of options. Luke got his fried, I got mine lightly breaded and grilled. It was A M A Z I N G. The chowder was delicious too.

A few days after I got back home, I was shopping at Costco and missing Oregon, so I impulsively grabbed some beer-battered cod from the freezer section. It tasted like disappointment.

More Oregon Coast to come!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part V: Down the Oregon Coast

On Tuesday morning we left Lake Quinault Lodge and continued south on 101, crossing the Columbia River back into Oregon.

We had spent three days on the Olympic Peninsula and it had not rained once. As we drove through Astoria and headed down the coast, fat raindrops began to spatter intermittently against the windshield.

The Oregon coast is a magical place, partly thanks to a 1967 law that made the entirety of the Oregon shoreline public land. “The People’s Coast” is relatively undeveloped and pristine compared to the 101 corridors of Washington and California. It looks like what I had imagined Washington would look like before I went there. Northwest Oregon is greener, lusher, and in my opinion more beautiful than its neighbor to the north. I’m kind of in love with it.

Our first stop of the day was Cannon Beach, known for its tide pools and for Haystack Rock, which is way bigger than it looks in photos.

This time we arrived at low tide!

The Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico has lost about 90% of its starfish population since 2013 to a plague of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. These tide pools used to be filled Ochre Sea Stars, and now you have to look hard to find them.

But there is plenty of other life to be found.

After Cannon Beach we visited Hug Point, where we found caves, a waterfall, and an old coach road!

One of the caves looks like it’s encrusted with jewels.

These are gooseneck barnacles, and apparently they are a delicacy in some countries.

The greenish slope in the bottom left of this photo is the “onramp” to the old coach road:

Back before 101 was built in the late 1930s, people used the Oregon shoreline itself as a public highway. It worked out fine for the most part – unless you needed to get past Hug Point. The big rocky outcropping created a barrier that could only be bypassed at very low tides. So the coach road was carved into the outcropping, enabling traffic to travel up and down the coast even at high tide.

Imagine driving an old stagecoach on this road!

It was here at Hug Point that I set my phone, camera, keys and glasses on a patch of “safe” sand so I could play around a little in the water. Just as I was about to gather them up again, a rogue wave swept up the beach and rolled over them. The phone, keys and glasses were fine, but that was the end of the camera. I salvaged the memory card with its precious cargo of photos, and basically treated it like the Hope Diamond until I was able to create a backup. For the rest of the trip, the GoPro stepped up and did a pretty decent job.

We stopped in Rockaway Beach to see the Mechanical Bucking Corndog in front of the original Pronto Pup, where corndogs were invented. The Pronto Pup was closed and the quarter mechanism was out of order, but you can bet we all got our turn sitting on the corndog!

Photo courtesy of my crappy phone camera:

Our next stop was a tour of the Tillamook Creamery. We wandered through the exhibits and the viewing windows, got our free samples of cheese, and then bought an absolutely obscene amount of cheese-related food in the cafeteria. Grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese curds…we were eating leftover cheese curds for days. We would have gotten some ice cream, but that was a separate line and it was longer than we wanted to bother with.

We tried to visit Munsen Creek Falls, but Google Maps led us down a rough gravel road to a closed private gate, so we gave up on that idea. We consoled ourselves with a bag of saltwater taffy from a shop in Depoe Bay, and continued down the coast to the Devil’s Punchbowl.

EDIT: I have removed my video of Devil’s Punchbowl, because Elizabeth has reminded me that it was actually of Thor’s Well, a bit farther down the coast. Video will be reposted in its proper spot.


More coastal goodness to come!

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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