Northern California: March 17-27 2007
|Say goodbye to the VW Westfalia Van and Hello to our Bigfoot Camper (9.5' Queen)! Wow - is this ever a most excellent combo - a palace on wheels in comparison! 20 years old and still good as new!
For us seasoned backpackers, bike trippers and all-round self-propelled adventurers, this is the ultimate in luxury vacationing: Full queen size bed (over cab), large dinette (turns into a double bed), 3-piece bathroom (toilet, sink, shower), good sized sink, 3-burner gas stove, oven (!!), fridge with freezer, furnace, stereo, 35 gallon water storage plus 5 gallon hot water tank (for those hot showers!), plenty of lights and almost more cabinets, closets, drawers and hidden compartments than you know what to do with. End up with 11 pairs of shoes on your trip? No problem! (Don't ask...) Oh boy - I think we're hooked! Not once did we dine out, and not once did we pay for camping!
|Click on thumbnails to see larger versions (I'd have better interior shots, but was rather distracted by the trip itself to bother with interior photos I can take when home)|
|Very anxious to "break in" the camper, we managed to tuck in an 11-day trip to Northern California. Much too short, but a good little taste of the good life none-the-less! Not wanting to spend too much time on the road, we made a beeline down the I-5 to Grants Pass in Southern Oregon and took Hwy 199 over to the very northwestern most town of California - Crescent City.
From Crescent City we drove south to Klamath, then took the small Klamath Beach Rd. (Scenic Coastal Route) and found a place to park for the night at a Redwoods trailhead (Flint Ridge) with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the surf crashing on the beach far below us.
Monday, March 19:
Rain, rain, rain. And not California rain, but Vancouver-style rain - exactly what we'd come to get away from! A long beach walk in the morning, then Andre went for a run up the Flint Ridge trail while I stayed in and read, then we drove south to the Prairie Creek Redwoods and had another wet hike on the Ten-Taypo trail. We soaked through all our Gore-Tex, numerous pairs of shoes, socks, shirts, etc.
Off to Arcata to seek camping for the night!
|Town of Aurora; South of Portland|
|Tuesday, March 20:|
|Breakfast at the bird sanctuary in Arcata. Note the folding chair (though I must admit, this was the only time it was used).|
|After a night of heavy rain, we awoke to sunshine California-style! In to town we went to a laundromat to wash & dry the heap of soaked clothing, and for some groceries from Wildberries. Also picked up a detailed topographical atlas of Northern California which was quite a big help on our adventures.|
|Redwood Giants! We took the scenic route (254), the legendary Avenue of the Giants for its entire length, about 31 miles, as it curves its way through giant trees along the shore of the Eel River.|
|We were in search of a scenic lunch spot, and pulled into one of the many little trailhead pullouts along the road. There was a sign near the edge of the forest saying "High Rock Bar" with a distinct driveway leading down to a...high rock bar!|
|This is a vast expanse of very hard, compact rock which is perfect for driving on. As long as you have a 4x4 to get back up the steep, loose 'driveway' to the road!
After lunch we walked the length of the bar along the Eel River about 15 minutes up as far as we could to a sandy point (left)
|A walk along the shore after lunch...|
|A walk among the giants near High Rock Bar|
|Wednesday, March 21:
Well, not an official camp, just our camp on a pullout on a farm road in a town called Garberville on the 101 (s. of Redway). Had a bit of a tricky time finding a place the night before. We'd first found a nice gravel bar similar to High Rock Bar below the town of Redway, but discovered it was populated by a suspicious group of drug-addicted toothless squatters so didn't feel too good about staying overnight in their midst!
|Morning in Garberville along the Eel River|
|From Garberville we made tracks south and took the insanely winding #1 to the coast. Our 22-foot rig seemed about the max length you'd want to safely take on that road (corners with recommended speedsof 10 mph!), but we passed not only 2 at least 40-foot RV's but a full on 18-wheeler as well!! We took in a full breath of relief as we broke out on the coast!|
|Westport-Union Landing State Beach: Our first true beachwalk in the California sun! And a great opportunity to dry out all our wet shoes on the roof (yes, still wet from 2 days ago in the Redwoods)!|
|MacKerricher State Park (link)
This is a beautiful, huge park boasting about 10 miles of beach, sand dunes, a small lake, a long bike path, coastal trails and lots & lots of camping. Its located by the tiny town of Cleone, just north of historic Fort Bragg, and is named after the first settler to the area who came down from Quebec.
Right: Laguna Point, looking north.
Below: The old haul road that parralells the ocean for about 5 miles. Closed to any motorized vehicles, it was a perfect place for a little bike ride.
The old haul road paralleling the cost is now an exceptional recreation path
|At the northernmost end of the haul road we went down to the beach in hopes of a nice beach ride. The sand wasn't quite right, however, so we just left the bikes behind a log and wandered through the dunes.|
|Determined to get some Chainomatic testing in, Andre power-pedaled his way through sand and salty surf...|
|I don't normally take photos of parking lots, but this one just struck me as rather scenic upon our return late that afternoon after several hours of exploring the park. Can you spot our camper???|
|Thursday, March 22|
|Although the campsite at MacKerricher was beautiful, its just not sporting to take the easy way out!! Searching around for an out of the way little spot always gives you a bit of a tour of the hidden little gems that are just beyond the regular tourist's reach. Here we'd found a nice spot on a gated road next to Ten Mile River, just east of Hwy 1 and the ocean. If we had have camped at MacKerricher instead, we wouldn't have seen the seal swimming up the river watching us, or the 2 large white herons or the 2 loons swiming upstream & downstream.|
|Back to the Beach @ MacKerricher
Andre was itching to go for a beach run, but I was more in the mood for a solo beach walk. So off he went - from the parking lot the full extent of the beach next to the dunes to where the beach was intersected by Ten Mile River, only a hop and a skip from where we'd camped!
|This is me in the process of getting a wonderful sunburn. Forgot that I'd been living in a cave for the past 5 months!|
|After a relaxing lakeside lunch in the parking lot of MacKerricher (right) we continued south. We'd received a tip from Andre's mom that the lighthouse at Point Cabrillo was worth a visit, so we made a little detour to have a look...|
MacKerricher State Park; Lake Cleone
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse - a worthy little sidetrip
|This is the house where the lighthouse keeper and his family lived. There are two such houses, along with several outbuildings. The one house is currently a B&B while this house is a museum on the main floor.|
|I thought this sign was worth a photo...|
|Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Marine Museum (not the residence museum) and a mechanical outbuilding|
A favorite spot of ours, and one of the main highlights of this trip. Mendocino is renowned for not only its unique setting and historic buildings, but for its unique west coast culture of art, food, wine, festivals, and progressive environmental attitude.
|Mouse over photo to display arrow showing our 1st class camping location!|
|First on the list for us was a walk out to the headlands while the sun was still high in the sky. We parked across from the main strip (above) next to a park with trails down to the beach. Andre happened to notice there was not a single sign posting any parking restrictions. We parked under a tree in a level spot (below) and didn't move the wheels for the next 2 nights!|
First Class Accommodations - Free!!
|Panoramic ocean views from our portable 5-star resort!
Left: View out of the dinette window...
Below: View out the foot-end bedroom window
|After a short walk on the headlands, we peeked into some of the shops before cooking up dinner in the camper. We wrapped up the evening with a walk on Big River Beach, litterally just steps down from where we were parked.|
|Friday, March 23
First on the agenda: A 30 mile bike ride along Big River!
Our first pit stop, however, was the bike rental store across the highway bridge (below) for a spare innertube for Andre's bike.
|This is the main beach area along Big River. Directly across the river, at photo center is the canoe/kyak/bike rental shop with the catchy name of Catch a Canoe and Bicycle Too!|
|After a good 15 miles we were ready for lunch! We waded across the mid-calf deep water to a rocky beach for a relaxing lunch. What a treat - Vancouverites were under a torrential downpour and here we were basking in the warm sun!|
|Late afternoon, exploring the Mendocino Headlands by bike...|
|Saturday, March 24
We got up at 6am to get an extra early start heading back north. We had some unfinished business in the Redwoods, having been rained-out and all, and were hoping to spend at least one full day exploring a certain area - Gold Bluffs Beach.
We were making much better time than anticipated, so when we came upon a long stretch of beach north of Arcata at noon it was the perfect opportunity to stretch our legs and get in some more adventure!
Beach Biking Bonanza at Clam Beach!
|This beach was too good to resist! Absolutely perfect for cycling on, and loooong. We biked for almost 3 hours and only covered part of the distance. Mind you, we did play around in the surf and the river a bit...(scroll down)|
A great beach for horseback riding too...
|Let the fun begin! Andre pioneered the sport of biking across Little River and managed to convince me it was loads of fun. Was it ever! Like a couple of monkeys we just kept riding back and forth, back and forth. We only noticed after that our feet (in sandals) never got cold!|
click Play to watch the video...
|By 3:45 we were done with our beach games and continued north.|
|The small town of Trinidad & its fishing fleet|
|By around 6pm we were back at our spot at the Flint Ridge trailhead parking lot where we'd been rained out exactly a week before.
With still a good amount of daylight left, we went for a 4 mile hike up Flint Ridge and admired the giant redwood trees. There was even a very mysterious owl hooting in the forest (watch the video).
Another great view from our mobile resort!
|Flint Ridge Hike and the Mysterious Flint Owl Makes an Appearance!|
|These are some BIG trees!|
Spot The Owl!
|After our bit of excitement with the owl on Flint Ridge we headed back to the camper. Parked next to us was a remarkable young woman named Audrey out on a multi-month cross-country tour on her own in her car. After a lengthy conversation in the dark outside, we had her come into our 5-star accommodations and have a little sit-down visit and bite to eat with us.|
|Sunday, March 25
Well, well, well. What is this place anyways? A RAINHOLE or something??? Sure enough, at around 2am we awoke to hear the unmistakable sound of rain on the roof. Ugh, not again.
So once again we started the morning off with a beachwalk (where Andre found the umbrella he'd lost a week before on the steep, muddy trail down to the beach), but this time the sun broke through by 10am.
So, back to the camper and off to Prairie Creek Redwoods for an afternoon of biking down to Gold Bluffs Beach!
View from the Flint Ridge trailhead parking lot
|Gold Bluffs Beach; Prairie Creek Redwoods|
|Sadly, our last adventure of the trip. We left the camper up at the Park Headquarters, then rode the bike trail down to the beach road. The beach wasn't good for riding on, but we were easily able to walk the bikes, then took a little break for some food and rest. We both ended up falling asleep in the sun! A few people meandered about on foot, and a couple vehicles drove by on the beach.
Around 4:30 we rode down the length of beach road and checked out the campground (full, of course), then cycled to the Fern Creek trailhead. We cycled back up the the truck via the Miner's Ridge trail and were only back right at dark, about 7:30.
Right: We spotted a couple Roosevelt Elk on the side of the beach road. There is a large herd that always seems to be around the main park headquarters (we saw dozens of them whenever we drove past).
Cycling up the Miner's Ridge Trail - big trees!
|Well, that's it for our first trip in the "new" camper. Monday morning we left early and drove for 12 hours up to Olympia, Washington where we parked in cousin Eric's driveway for the night. Tuesday morning we spent a couple hours with Eric, then drove north to Seattle where we spent a few hours running some errands. By mid-afternoon we were in Bellingham and spent the evening with cousin Cary and his fiance Addie in their wonderful new house (Wierd Al, veggie burgers, and knife throwing for the boys).|
|To wrap things up, how about a little movie I took in Seattle on the drive south? If this isn't America....|
Thank you for visiting!
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