The Pacific Northwest – Rte. 1, the Redwood Forest, and the Oregon Coast

We left San Francisco first thing Tuesday morning and headed north toward the Redwood forests. Having had one too many margaritas at the open mic on Monday night, I was feeling less than stellar when the drive began. Being prone to car sickness anyway, a hangover was not the best thing for me to have when my day consisted of hours of driving on windy roads. I napped in the backseat for a couple hours, and woke up right around when Rte. 1 looped back to the coast and things started to get REALLY nice. I was still feeling pretty crappy, but no amount of nausea could take away from the beauty of this drive.

view from the Pacific Coast Highway

The road was pretty windy and close to the cliffs.

Roadside cliffs.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but riding passenger in the Hearse terrifies me sometimes. Especially on roads like this, it often feels like the car is going to lose control and plummet into the ocean. Because of this fear, and my hangover, I decided that it would be best for me to drive for a bit.

Driving to fend off nausea

 Frequent pullovers for fresh air breaks were necessary. No better place to do it than on the California coast…

A lovely place for a break.

As the day wore on my pain started to dissipate, and by early evening I was feeling a solid 75% of my normal self. We came upon a beach somewhere a bit north of Fort Bragg, CA.

BEACH!

I suggested we stop and Nate was totally on board. We’d been over a week on the road and hadn’t gotten in any ocean time. I was craving it.

Apparently other people were craving the ocean too and, while the beach was not by any means crowded, there were some people around enjoying the spot. Everyone seemed so cute and happy (how could you not be here?!), which made for some heartwarming pictures.

Family beach time 🙂

It was a great place to bring dogs…

Speaking of dogs, Nate caught me in a moment of pure joy:

Because there were bulldogs!!!

Two of them!

I was really jealous of this girl. I wanted to steal her puppies. but she looked so heavenly wandering the beach with them that I couldn’t bring myself to do it…

woman in the flowy skirt with the adorable bulldogs

I love when the sun is all sparkly on the water…

There was a huge rock on the beach that was begging to be climbed, so Nate and I rose to the challenge. First Nate…

Nate climbing the rock

Then me…

me climbing the rock

 

And me practicing some yoga:

Natarajasana - dancer pose

And of course, no photo session would be complete with a picture of a log. Apparently deadwood is my new favorite thing to photograph…

beach log

I’ve always loved the ocean, but I think I gained a new appreciation for it on this particular day. This is my first real road trip ever. It has been fun and exciting and eye-opening, but also a bit tiresome at times. After just 10 days on the road, camping and driving and dealing with unexpected difficulties, I can feel some weariness setting in. The hour or so that we spent on this beach has been the most calm I’ve felt thus far. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about the beach and the ocean that soothes me, but its effect is undeniable. I made a mental note about how relaxed and refreshed I felt after the ocean pit stop, and I will keep that in mind as I get older and think about where I want to settle. I think I might be a better person living on the ocean than I would be anywhere else…

We weren’t twenty minutes back on the road when Nate, with his impressive vision and alertness, spotted a whale. We veered off the highway and went running down the road in hopes of spotting it again and catching some pictures. I was hoping to see it breach, but alas, it did not. We did get pretty lucky though and were able to get some pictures of it spewing water out its blowhole.

I also got some pictures of these fuzzy pink grasses that I’d been admiring for miles and had yet to capture on film:

This one is the best:

As the light waned, we approached Redwood territory. I saw a sign for the “Famous Drive Through Tree”, and veered off to check it out, since it was less than a mile off course. As we approached the gate, it felt very tourist-trappy, and I doubted that this was THE drive through tree; I’m guessing there are more. But how often does one get to drive a hearse through a tree, so we went on in.

I was nervous the the car wasn’t going to fit, but once I was through the tree I was pretty pumped about it:

driving through a Redwood calls for a goofy smile

Five dollars and five minutes later, we were done with the drive-through tree and it was time to find a campsite in Humboldt County. We knew we wouldn’t make it all the way up to where we were going to hike the next day, so we decided to find a site in the Redwoods, a couple hours south of where our final Redwood destination was. We reached the end of rte. 1, which felt like an accomplishment.

Around 9 p.m. we finally came across a campsite. The woman at the registration center was shocked at our late arrival, and we were shocked by the $35 camping fee. I guess we had entered serious tourist territory. It ended up being a pretty sweet site though, and we woke up surrounded by Redwoods.

Rosie in the Redwoods

 

Wednesday was the day for the Redwood forest hike. I was really excited about this one. Along with Sequoias, I really wanted to see Redwoods too. Who doesn’t like BIG trees? I had been looking forward to the Sequoias more, but just driving through the forest the day before, I was starting to feel partial to the Redwoods. We picked up a hitckhiker who described it well. We found him on the Avenue of Giants (best road name ever) pretty soon after we’d left camp. He was alone and had a huge pack, and I suggested we pick him up. Nate kept driving but I prodded him and he turned around. I get excited about hitchhikers. I always want to pick them up but feel like it’s unwise to do so as a lone female, so with Nate in the car to protect us, I thought it was a good idea to take advantage of the situation.

The hitckhiker’s name was Bjorn. He hailed from England and was roaming around the Pacific Northwest doing something called WWOOFing. I’d never heard of this before and Bjorn told us that since March he has been staying on farms and doing four hours of work per day in exchange for food and lodging; the rest of the time he had free to explore. Here’s the website for more information: http://www.wwoof.org/ It sounds like a pretty cool opportunity and I was thankful to Bjorn for exposing me to a cheap new way to travel. As for his opinion on roaming around the Redwoods, Bjorn said he was “starting to get a crick in his neck”. I believe it. 

An hour or so after we left Bjorn back on the side of the road, we reached Prairie Creek, the site of our hike.
 
 
Back in Redwood City (near San Francisco, not in the forest), Nate’s uncle Dennak recommended that we hike to Fern Canyon. The hike was 10 miles roundtrip. We hiked the majority of the way through Redwood groves:

BIG trees, GREEN leaves

 I couldn’t resist climbing…

Also couldn’t resist getting inside:

I could live in here!

And getting inside again…
 
 
We also couldn’t resist walking over fallen trees, as they made perfect little shortcut bridges!
 

Fallen Redwood

 
Check out the color and shapes of this wood. Love it!
 

Red Red wood

 
This forest is a prime spot for some pictures looking skyward:
 

spiral branches

 
Nate and I taking a break…
 
 
 
 
Near the end of the trail we reached Fern Canyon, a gully (ferngully!) whose 30 foot walls on either side were lined with various types of ferns and other greenery.
 

Entering fern canyon

 
Walking through the canyon:
 
 

There were little waterfalls coming down all the the canyon; you could feel the spray coming off the ferns…

It was SO green in here!

Fern Canyon

and then continued out into beach marshes.

sweet clouds

We hiked the last bit onto an almost deserted beach. The marshes leading up to the beach were gorgeous. I don’t think the vivid contrast of greens, yellows, and blues comes through in the pictures (I wish I had known about the “vivid contrast” setting on the camera at this point of the trip), but the place was spectacular.
 

The last picture I got before the camera died... at least it was a good one.

 
 
I must have gotten too camera happy over the previous five miles, because the camera died just before we got to the beach, so no beach pictures here. We did hang around for a good hour or so, snoozed for a bit, and did some yoga. We looked for elk that reside in the area, but didn’t have the privilege of seeing any. Rocky Mountain National park is supposed to be crawling with elk though, so I’ll hold out to see them there. Being at this beach was, once again, one of the most relaxing moments of the trip so far; a reiteration of how much my soul needs this landscape.
 
We discovered on the way back that there was beach camping only a stone’s throw from where we’d been lounging by the ocean, and cursed ourselves for not having come prepared. Since all our camping gear was back at the trailhead, we hiked the remaining five miles back through the Redwoods, which was equally awesome and exhausting. It was around 7 p.m. when we finished the hike, and decided it was worthwhile to make a push to get to Oregon before setting up camp. I’m glad that we did because as we drove up the coast we caught the most breathtaking sunset. We were speeding down the PCH, caught site of the colors on the water, and nearly flipped Rose with the quick U-turn we made while screaming ‘oh my god it’s SO nice!”
 
 
 
And one more for good measure:
 
 
 

With the sun gone, it felt like time again to find a camp. We checked a map and saw that Humbug State parkwas an hour or two into Oregon, and only $8 per night to camp. As soon as we entered the state of Oregon, I had a feeling I was going to like it. Everything was so quaint and clean. Humbug was the cheapest and one of the best campsites we stayed in, and had the most impressively clean bathrooms I’ve seen at a campground yet. Oregon does a bang up job of keeping itself pristine and environmentally friendly.

Once again, we woke early and got right on the road. A couple people so far had told me that anywhere on the Oregon coast is a place to visit; they were right. It was as beautiful as the drive on the California coast, but a lot more green.

 

I intended to load more pictures but the internet connection in this cafe sucks ass. So you’ll have to catch them on Facebook.

In favor of getting on the road early, we’d skipped breakfast. Around 10 a.m. we got hungry and decided to stop at The Greasy Spoon. It lived up to it’s name. I ate some of the most delicious oatmeal I’ve ever had, and the waitress was a 70ish year old woman with a sweet attitude. We asked to borrow pens to write out some postcards and she threatened to hunt us down if we didn’t return them. During our breakfast, two young folks entered the restaurant. The boy walked behind the counter so I assumed he knew the owners. Our waitress commented that he was looking pretty good that day, which started an amusing interaction. It went something like this:

 Waitress: “Jake, you look like a real city slicker!” (note to reader: Jake was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt

Jake: “I know”

Waitress: “And humble too!”

Jake: “I piss excellence, grandma”

 That became the quote of the day, maybe the week or even the month. Let’s break it down: “I piss excellence” – a wonderful way to express one’s awesomeness. How exactly would a person “piss excellence”? Would it be really great urine, or something else entirely? The real kicker is the end of the sentence, though: “I piss excellence, grandma”. This is funny for a few reasons: 1) The words “piss” and “grandma” in the same sentence is a great combo. 2) Jake is a saucy young lad for addressing his grandma in that way. 3) Jake’s grandma is obviously awesome if she’s the kind of lady who will think it’s amusing for her grandson to say “I piss excellence”. If you’re ever inSoutheast Portland, go to The Greasy Spoon. The food is excellent and hopefully Jake and his grandmother will be there.

Up until the day before, I had been feeling a bit unsure of where we might stay. I had several friends in Portland but hadn’t solidified any solid plans. The day before we were set to get into Portland I finally admitted to Nate that I wasn’t sure where we’d be staying. He didn’t seem to be worried, and I had faith as well that it would work out. I finally got in touch with my friend Becky and she let me know that she would be happy to host us through the weekend. With our itinerary a bit more fleshed out, we decided to spend the day driving and get to Portland before nightfall. We drove up the Oregon Coast until it no longer made sense to go north, then cut inland and were on our way to Portland!

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