Did you know that this year if you (I) took off at Veterans Day and didn’t return to work until the end of the Thanksgiving weekend you (I) would only need to take 8 days off work? That’s 17 days for the price of 8. Sold! We hit the road. 17 days and 16 nights on the road and in the camper. But where to go? How about south along the California coast, then loop back up north along a couple parks along the Sierra Nevada. We were off on an epic trip, 2450 miles later we’re back home, here’s the story.
We hit the road in the dark, how most good road trips start at least in my memory, and headed over the Cascades and on to the redwood coast. One stop in Grants Pass at Ma Mosa’s for a stellar breakfast and then on to the redwoods down highway 199. We were foiled last year on a quest to camp at Gold Bluffs Beach, due to what we were told was a landslide although we saw little evidence of anything that wouldn’t have been passable, but we weren’t turned around this year. We quickly learned, don’t believe any sign you see (or book you read) in your travels, verify. The road is closed, the campground is full, etc. no it isn’t, check it out for yourself. We arrived just after noon, secured our site and headed to Fern Canyon.
Fern Canyon is just up the road from Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and makes for a great saunter (I recommend rubber knee-high boots). Think Jurassic Park. Vertical walls lined with ferns. You don’t see this everyday.
After Fern Canyon we were left with some time so we headed into the redwoods. What a place to hike. 300 foot trees towering above you. Oh, and don’t forget the humidity. Ugh, a bit much for an eastsider even if it’s a cool wet (opposite of a dry heat, right?).
After a few miles in the giant trees it was back to camp. But we weren’t done with giants quite yet. One was walking the beach and grazing just in front of camp. Is this why we put our food in the bear box? (A: no)
Then off to the first campfire of the trip before being driven to the camper by a light rain for the night.
Onwards it was the next morning. However nice it would have been to lounge, it was southbound for us. First stop of the day was to stretch the legs a bit and walk around the Trinidad Head. Great views in all directions.
Trinidad head includes the least (?) worst (?) view of a lighthouse I’ve had, look close…
Then on to Arcata for a quick stop at the farmers market. Maybe we should have made it even quicker, we are still waiting for the goods we bought there to ripen up more than two weeks later! Somewhere in there we missed the turn to Mad River Brewing (just a bit too far east for this trip!) and the entire Mad River altogether truthfully, but we did make the stop at Lost Coast Brewing, in Eureka and enjoyed a brew and some clam chowder before getting down to what we really came for – some back road solitude. We also enjoyed the Victorian district of Eureka, there sure was a lot of attention to detail when these houses were built we don’t see today.
Then on to the main attraction, Mattolle Beach. I’d have liked to take more time looking around Ferndale and some more Victorian architecture, but with the short days of fall we needed to move on. So off through the rugged mountains and the Mattole Road. Pretty impressive topography here, but I can’t say as much for the roads that seemed to have multiple layers of asphault but none that matched up. I’m all for it as it seemed to keep the crowds out.
I still had some brakes left when we arrived at Mattole, good thing, I ended up needing them in future days (wow steep roads around here!). Mattole campground is on the run down side, lots of use and what appeared to be zero upkeep (thanks BLM), plus an ‘interesting’ crowd of folks (of which the trend continued up to Ft. Bragg, and I started to miss those folks come Yosemite), but it ended up being a quiet camp and a great place to enjoy a sunset and corresponding moonrise (one day prior to the supermoon).
We were up and walking the beach fairly early next morning. Mattole seemed to be filled with all kinds of treasures, shells, sea urchins, and a bunch of unidentified uuhhmm, stuff.
Mattole is the northbound terminus for the Lost Coast Trail, and several groups were ending their trips as we were walking the beach. I’d love to get back and hit the trail. Damn work anyway. Soon we were packed and off, on the way south through the King Range. But that’s a story for part two….