Northern California...................

Trip Start Jul 09, 2008
Trip End Jun 10, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

8th August to 13th August 2008

Anyone who has an opportunity to drive a Dodge Calibre........................ turn it down, ask for an upgrade, a down grade, anything - just don't take the Calibre. I have to look back to days of driving a 1986 two door Vauxhall Nova to find something this basic!! No central locking, electric windows, mirrors nothing. This is an economy model - it has a two litre engine for cliffs sake!!, put your foot down it goes nowhere - it revs and screams but goes nowhere. It was the butt of our jokes for a long time :).

We headed over the Golden Gate into Marin County, which was recommended not only by the dude on the first Amtrak train but also by Denise who we met in Yosemite. The place is in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais a mountain with three peaks and shrouded in coastal redwood forest. Its a beautiful part of the country, we both loved it, and were more than happy with our decision to head north and delay our Highway 1 road trip south.

We both finally found some good walking shoes, $60 for some Merrells - that's 30!!, found a place to stay and headed towards the Pacific Coast on the Panorama Highway to find the Trail Head of the Matt Davis Trail. The Panorama Highway hugs the mountain side and snakes its way through the forest towards the coast, its actually part of Highway 1 and takes us towards Stinson Beach, south of Point Reyes which we visited a week or so later.

The Matt Davis Trail starts out as a constant climb zig zagging its way up from the coast road through scrub and woodland, the temperature was hot in comparison to San Francisco (Surprisingly as we are only around 20 odd miles north and still close to the coast), eventually you rise above the woodland and out onto some higher hillside which exposes superb views of the coastline and woodland below. We found ourselves at the tail end of a fell running race - for obvious reasons we didn't join in! Its a short hike on fairly even ground, past the odd garter or grass snake to the Ranger Pantoll Station for a rest in the shade. We took the Deep Ravine Trail back down the mountain side which gave us our first real look of the Giant Coastal Redwood, they were enormous!! Really tall, really wide, and a world away from the surrounding area. The mountainsides are generally reasonably barren and dry comprising woodland and shrubs , but in the ravines which run down from the mountain its always damp, coupled with the ever present coastal mist it provides a great habitat for these huge trees to grow over many many years. The photos are amazing. The Deep Ravine Trail then picked up the Dipsea Trail which snaked back down over scrub land with Stinson Beach on the horizon. AT this point we watched various Anna's Hummingbirds swooping down to the scrub catching bugs - Brilliant!! We saw loads more reptiles, birds, and snakes (California Garter Snake and California Striped Racers) before finding the crap car and heading back for some shut eye - We are both still very unfit!!

Muir woods were the next port of call however as we approached, with the shear volume of cars realised we were going to be joined by quite a few other people. Muir Woods has been commercialised quite heavily, probably to cater for the masses but also to ensure that the landscapes do not deteriorate with the masses. This does however make for a rather unnatural appearance to somewhere that was once stunning. Trails are replaced with wooden walkways that herd the public in a short or even shorter loop - for the fatties. We were told Muir Woods would be something like this but probably hadn't expected it to be quite this busy. We made the most of it, for what our $5 each provided - which wasn't allot in comparison to the previous days hike, the Deep Ravine Trail, and and so we headed out of there and up to the summit of Mount Tamalpais.
Views from Mount Tam highlighted the coastal fogs which were being held at bay, right the way round past the Golden Gate, San Fran, Alcatraz, and beyond the bay area. We took more regulation panorama pictures before heading down to catch some more of the Olympics with a beer or two (We watched the opening ceremony the day or so before - well done the Chinese!)

As we'd spent a reasonable period of time checking out the National Parks the draw of the Redwood National Park in northern California provided a greater pull. Apparently this was a beautiful area of the country and as we were so near with no fixed itinerary we headed further north up Highway 101. This would also give us the opportunity to travel the full length of Highway 1 starting about 50 miles south of Eureka.
Highways are slightly different in the states than the UK. In the UK you stumble across a service station every 5 minutes at dedicated points on the motorways, in the States you generally find them further away from the highway and with much less regularity. We were expecting, as the cars are so much less economical than in Europe, gas stations would be more common. About 3 hours into our 8 hour drive we had a quarter of a tank left, passing a service station selling gas for $4.50 per gallon we decided to stop at the next one and hedge the bets that it would be cheaper but........................................................ the next gas station was miles and miles away! Eventually, about 10 miles after the fuel light came on and I was touching cloth, we saw a gas sign, immediately turned off, preceded to drive a further 3 or 4 miles into the forest before we stumbled across a gas station with manual pumps looking like it was on its last legs. A young lad popped out to juice us up, only after he had deciphered our true English foreign language i was speaking!, then preceded to charge around $5.40 per gallon! Bugger!! The tank never dropped below half after this, and we never paid more than $4.50 again!!

Californian countryside en route to Crescent City didn't change a huge amount, consisting of wooded wilderness areas and smallish towns. All very pleasant and with more time we may have explored further, as many people do as this is BIGFOOT country, check out the Bigfoot roadside stores!!. About 30 miles south of Crescent City you hit the Redwood National Parks. As, it appears down the whole Californian Coast at this time of year, the forest is shrouded in Coastal Fog which makes for a stunning drive down the final stretch, but also the size of these trees also becomes apparent. Cars look minute as does the roadway in comparison to some of these monsters.
On arrival we called at 3 or 4 motels looking for a good rate, playing one off against another, worked a treat and got a superb rate for a couple of nights. Crescent City is more of a large coastal town which probably caters for tourists either fishing or coming to see the forests, other than that there's not a great deal there.

In the morning we got a recommendation, from the Ranger Station, for a couple of hikes which should fill the day, without taking too much time driving. The first was the Boy Scout Trail, about 2 hours in and 2 hours back, fairly flat terrain. The briefing didn't prepare you for the drive to the trail head though. At the edge toward the forest we left the paved road and hit, for the most part, single car track for about 5 miles. We were immediately engulfed in woodland unlike we had seen anywhere, even around Marin County and Muir Woods. These Giant Redwoods were even bigger, and the forest floor was covered in Giant Ferns, it had a real Jurassic feel to it, which was funny as at this point we had no idea that these woods formed part of the set for Jurassic Park and Endor (Forest Planet with Ewoks) in 'Star Wars - The Return of the Jedi'!!, and as Kash is a Star Wars Geek, made it more special. We found the trail head and immediately set off in search of the Boy Scout!! We were told that, what was also special was, as there are only a few Redwood Forests remaining on the West Coast this was unique in that you cannot hear any road noise from the trails, but that was not only what we found................................ we generally couldn't hear anything. The forests were silent, no wind noise, very little bird life, no road noise, just silence, quite eerie in a strange way. There were only a handful of other people on the trail that day, again making for a pleasant hike. We reached the Boy Scout tree and were immediately taken aback by scale. The largest trees grow to 350+ feet (110m) and some are over 1-2 thousand years old - fair age really. Fortunately there is a family already there so we take the opportunity to get some photo's before starting the hike back. Walking back appeared a little more interesting as the trees get more impressive as you nearer the parking lay by.
We drove deeper into the forest and parked up, and headed back into the forest, unfortunately we'd seen the best of this area on the previous trail therefore we weren't taken aback quite so much. We halted the walk around Mill Creek for a break, the setting was perfect, shallow wide spanning river, rocky flood plain bed underlined by Giant Redwood Forest, all it was missing was the regulation Black or Brown Bear fishing for Salmon - we weren't that lucky unfortunately!!

Following day we checked out the coastline around Crescent City, found the lighthouse, its labelled with '.............. the worlds only.............' as is every single other lighthouse we've come across. Its either 'the worlds only inhabited oil burning lighthouse remaining' or 'the world's oldest wooden matchstick built lighthouse' etc etc, we got the picture, everyone is special for some reason if you search hard enough.
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