Big Trees and Bigger Ocean Views

Trip Start Nov 21, 2010
Trip End Nov 01, 2014

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Where I stayed
Route 101

Flag of United States  , California
Friday, December 17, 2010

We decided to keep driving Route 101 up the California coast so that Doug could see some Redwood Trees. I was lucky enough to walk through some this past spring with my family in the Santa Cruz area, but Doug had never seen them. We drove from San Francisco through Napa, closed down V. Sattui, and then headed north so we could wake up closer to the redwood trees and the west coast of the US.

Anyway, we got intrigued by a number of signs and turnouts as we drove up the coast on our way to Portland (Vancouver, WA) to visit some of our Army friends. The first of these signs read "Elk Viewing Area". Sure, we're hooked...and you'll see some of the pictures below. I like the sign that warns against approaching wild elk on foot. Really? I thought they looked cuddly...?! Anyway, we were quite close to a herd of elk. The largest male was constantly looking around cautiously, getting spooked by slight sounds he must have heard at the perimeter of the field...a couple of which were Doug and I. Probably rather used to people stopping by and snapping photos, they seemed more concerned about sounds at the wooded perimeter of the field. When the heard started moving around because the largest male signaled, it was a little disturbing. After all, the road was their way out of the field...

At this same area was a state park with a small picnic area and a sign that told us Gold Bluff Beach was 7 miles down a gravel road. It was raining, and had been for three days straight (at least) in Northern California. We figured, why not?! We winded down the muddy, river-filled road through some of the most dense forest floor we'd ever seen. Downed moss-covered redwoods decaying with ferns all around. It was the closest thing I've ever seen to what a true rain forest must be, only everything was pine-needled evergreen plants instead of large, leafy tropical types. All the colors of green were quite spectacular. We eventually got to the end of the road, where the canopy opened up to the California coast. Beautifully golden sandy bluffs faced the coast, with downed redwood driftwood littering the beach. We drove a little farther, found another (yet empty) elk viewing area and a landslide warning sign, and decided it'd be best if we turned back. After all, we still had some 2,200+ miles to travel to get to our final destination and didn't feel any crazy off-roading was necessary.

After driving through a portion of the actual Redwood National Park (Route 101 cuts right through the park, and most of the turn-outs / campgrounds / hikes were closed for the winter. We also didn't much want to hike in the rain, although it certainly didn't seem to stop any of the locals.) we got to more gorgeous views of the Northern California coast. Around every turn was another turn-out that seemed worth stopping at, but we found one just after we'd made our sandwiches for lunch, and decided to stop and take a little break. Doug and Toby played fetch and I sat on a rock in the sun, enjoying the break from the rain and watching the two play in the sand. The waves and water looked treacherous to say the least, but it made for a beautiful view and listening experience. Toby found a huge stick for Doug to'll see in the photos.

We stopped the most we'd stopped on any of our days of travel, but made for a relaxing drive. We were able to make the most of both the rainy day, while driving through the 'rain forest', and the sunny portions sitting at the coast and enjoying the ocean.
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