Here are some excerpts from the Lonely Planet - USA chapter Northern California – North Coast:
Forget what you’ve learned about California from the movies – unless you’re a Hitchcock fan. The moody, isolated North Coast shatters the sunny Cali myth, but it’s staggeringly beautiful in its own right. There are towering redwoods, deep-green mosses, craggy cliffs, and lazing sea lions, but hardly any people.
Trinidad, about 12 miles north of Arcata, sits on a bluff overlooking a glittering blue-water harbour. There are lovely sandy beaches and short hikes on Trinidad Head.
On Hwy 101 a mile south of tiny Orick is the visitor center for Redwood National and State Parks. Together, Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek, Del Norte and Jedediah Smith State Parks are a designated World Heritage Site and contain almost half of the remaining old-growth redwood forests in California.
The highlights at Redwood National Park are Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Tall Trees Grove, home to several of the world’s tallest trees.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
There’s plenty to see and do along the North Coast, and one stop we wanted to make was the tiny tourist town of Trinidad. We’d met a lovely couple at a rooftop restaurant in Cusco, Peru a few months earlier and they run a coffee shop in the town. They encouraged us to make the slight detour off Hwy 101 to see the beautiful bay. Unfortunately, we began to experience our first bit of cloudy weather that day, so we didn’t see Trinidad in all its glory.
We had hoped to say hello to the couple at the Beach Comber Café, but learned it was their day off and they were out of town. We bought some of their delicious coffee and baked goods and left a note to let them know we’d passed through looking to say hello.
The sun broke through the clouds when we made a brief stop at Lady Bird Johnson Grove to see the massive redwoods, and to stretch our legs. While walking back to our car, we spotted a brilliant blue jay on the path ahead of us. I laughed when I realized that it was ‘Ajay’ who spotted ‘a jay’ in the forest. From then on in, I told people that the easiest way to remember his name was to think of ‘a blue jay’, but leave out the ‘blue’.
I was reminded that we didn’t have time to visit the Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka when we passed a massive statue of the legendary Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox just before we crossed the border into Oregon. At the Blue Ox Millworks the Hollenbeck family produces authentic custom millwork for private homes and commercial buildings using craftsman tools and techniques of the last century.
For those of you who don’t know the story of Paul Bunyan, here is a link to a story set in Oregon: Paul Bunyan’s Kitchen. I used to love the stories of the gentle giant and his blue friend when I was a child.
I’ve always heard about how beautiful the Oregon coast is, but both times when we’ve driven south from Canada, we’ve come diagonally from southern British Columbia, down through Washington state to see the stunning Crater Lake near Klamath Falls in southern Oregon. We never realized what we were missing by not hitting the coast until we were out of Oregon.
We drove for a couple of hours admiring every inch of the Oregon coast and then stopped for refreshments in the delightful town of Bandon. The Bandon Coffee Café was just about to close (at 4:00pm!!) but we managed to get the last cups of coffee served. Ajay dawdled outside the shop and when he finally came in and placed his order, they apologized and told him they’d already shut off the machines and the remaining coffee wasn’t hot anymore.
When he said he would be happy with an iced coffee, they made one for him but wouldn’t charge for it. We were all more than a little surprised at their willingness to accommodate us just as they were closing up. I commented to them that ‘we weren’t Abandoned in Bandon!’
While drinking my coffee and stretching my legs, I happened to notice a fish sculpture next door and walked over to take a closer look. I was stunned to see that it was constructed from pieces of plastic that had washed ashore on the nearby beaches. The town encourages beachcombers to collect similar plastic and construct their own ‘Washed Ashore’ projects. What a clever idea!
Our last stop that afternoon was at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We’d always heard about the great fun people have riding dune buggies up and over the massive sand dunes on the Oregon coast, and fancied the idea of doing one day ourselves. We heard the roar of the buggies as we approached the park, but to our disappointment, we were too early in the season to be able to rent dune buggies and go for a ride.
The facilities for tourists were just beginning to be set up for the summer months, and the rentals were not going to be available until the following Memorial Day weekend. The people riding the dune buggies that we could hear and see, all owned their vehicles and had the dunes all to themselves. We watched for awhile and chatted with a very friendly gentleman who let us pose in his souped-up dune buggy. He seemed tickled to tell us all about one of his favourite hobbies.