California, here we come

Friday 17 to Sunday 19 July

The 1,600km trek from the California/Oregon border to Los Angeles covers dramatic changes in scenery. The very north of the state is home to some protected redwood forests. Since Bruce never seen a redwood forest this seemed the right place to start.

Our first stop, Crescent City seemed to have all we needed. As it turns out this was a small town with very limited options for a tourist.

We discarded the many Mexican options and also the steak & fish grills that were a decent drive away. We were left with McDonalds and some similar take aways and a café called ‘Tomasini’s Enteca‘, translated from Italian to Tomasini’s Wine Bar. They served a small (unique) selection of wines and a better (extensive) selection of draft beers. The food was sandwiches, hot or cold, which appears to be common in USA, chicken and cheese on focaccia, meatloaf and cheese on ciabatta, roast beef and cheese on sour dough, and so the list goes on. It was Friday and a local group of musicians came in and created life. One young girl who reminded me of those ‘Boterismo’ statues sang covers from Amy Winehouse’s albums, and did it well.

We woke up to a rather glum morning. That Pacific mist had rolled in and was covering the nearby hills and obliterating the redwood forests. We took a quick journey to see the historic Battery Point Lighthouse, one of the first on the Californian coast.

Our drive through the misty pine forests was pretty but dull. But as we reached the Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park, the sun had burnt through the mists leaving the amazingly tall trees in full sunlight. The dappled effect at ground level was enchanting.

No photos can really display height. These trees, up to 2000 years old, rise and rise and rise to the sky. We made a short walk through the forest and enjoyed the cool, aromatic air.

We detoured at Leggett to visit the Chandelier Tree, famous as a drive through tree.  The tree is estimated to be 2,400 years old, and when Henry Ford and his friends introduced the truely touring automobile, attractions such as cutting through an ancient tree to drive through it were considered worthwhile attractions.  Fortunately cars don’t drive through it now, however it is another popular photographic opportunity.

We stopped the night in Fort Bragg at the Oceanside Inn. The ocean appeared to be a very long way away and not beside us, however the local pub put on an excellent meal, and to Bruce’s delight some equally excellent draught beers.

We toured the sights in Fort Bragg before continuing south.  A railroad was built here to haul logs out of the forest. Sadly, Fort Bragg is also the home to the largest redwood tree in the area, starting as a seedling in 190AD, and cut down in 1943. A giant slice of the tree serves to remind us of it.

As we continued down the coast, the seas calmed and were more blue.  We stopped off at various vantage points to take in the magnificent views and count the wildlife.

We saw crows circling, hawks hovering and vultures gorging. There was the occasional elk and lots of signs warning of encroaching bears. We saw sea lions, elephant seals and a variety of sea birds enjoying the sunny beach side.

Finally we turned east and headed towards the Napa Valley in the hope of enjoying wine instead of beer.