Mountains, oceans & trees

May 29. Waking up after an excellent night’s sleep, it was time to move on. We slept til 7, prepared oatmeal, loaded with peanut butter, mixed berries, granola and honey, 2 mugs of coffee.

“Where should we go?”

“Head toward the coast and up?”


Be skated westbound from Yosemite and the Stanislaus Forest. Route 1, riding the coast northward, would be our initial destination. I figured we could pop the roof tent on any of the number of pulloffs along the highway overlooking the Pacific. Two slowly realized issues to this thought: 1- it’s not legal, and 2- its very very windy in those spots, anyway.

We began to (slightly) regret our decision to take Route 1, instead of the inland US 101- very beautiful in its own rite. Every mile we continued along the coast got us farther from any possibility to get back to 101. Every campground sign along the coastal byway: FULL. Every inn along the coastal byway: NO VACANCY. Memorial Day weekend, probably the worst time to be improvising a road trip with no reservations for lodging or campsites.

In between the sporadic worry of not finding somewhere to sleep, we tried to embrace our surroundings. Sonoma yellow hills at the start of our drive north of San Francisco, led to cliffside drives with the occasional river mouth letout to the sea. Lush greenery beside windswept golden plateaus overlooking the Pacific. Foaming angry waves battering the sea stacks and coastline. Relentless winds made for a bewilderingly bone-chilling 60F.

We continued with hope down highway 1. No luck. We resigned to driving til dark to Fort Bragg, then inland to 101, and hopefully a warm bed at a motel.

Keeping our eyes peeled for an open campground, we crossed the Russian River, beautiful in its subtle mosey to the ocean. Still no luck, though.

We crossed the mouth of the Navarro River, hung a left to stay on the coastal route up to Fort Bragg. We were climbing back up out of the watershed area, when, Alas!

Fire and light. I took out the bincoculars and looked back toward the beach. People gathering around a camp. It looked promising. We did a 180, returned the way we came.

It was indeed a campground, with room to spare. Essentially a beach parking lot, some sites with fire pits. Good enough for us. Better than driving another hour and a half in the dark to stay in a crummy hotel for $150 on MDW. 

We popped the Nest and walked Charley along the rocky shoreline.

“I can’t believe we’re here. Doing this. What are we doing here?”

“What’s anyone doing anywhere, really?” Jamie replied.

Good point.

I had a beer, and listened to our neighbors, three generations sharing stories around a beachside campfire. I felt peace. The stars came out.

May 30. Waves brushed the sand. Faint chatter of nearby campsites. Egg and cheese’s and instant coffee. A walk along the beach stretched our legs for the day. With each day, we’re getting more accustomed to the rocky shores that make up the northwest coastline. 

It was decided we should head back south that day, to revisit places we had rushed by in our search for somewhere to sleep the day before. Having a few days to spend along the coast in the area, we weren’t in a rush to move along.

Along the drive, we stopped at Manchester State Park and by chance, noticed that their campground had several open sites. It was only 10 AM. We self-registered for a spot, and picked out a site with reliable cell service. We’d have to fire up the computer to do work trainings later that day.

Making the drive back to Point Arena, we stopped at Franny’s cup and saucer for a break from instant coffee, and a delicious baked good. 

The afternoon was spent doing onboarding documentation for our agency before work. Jamie prepared chicken alfredo, and we ate and did the dishes with increasing efficiency, as life on the road has become our norm. 

We headed out in the afternoon for a cold and blustery walk at a park in Point Arena.

Sunset at Manchester Beach was lovely, as we sat on the bluffs and caught the sun fading beneath the marine layer. The campfire lit our site and kept us warm against the cool and wet coastal air. Best campsite thus far.

May 31. Loaded oatmeal and coffee. Portable shower. We continued north on highway 1 past the Navarro River, and into untraveled territory. We arrived in Mendocino around 1030, and stopped off at Good Life Bakery and Cafe for another coffee and baked good.

Mendocino’s first impression is quaint and ungaudy, though clearly a wealthy town. Everything is crisp and organized.

We stayed long enough to enjoy our coffees and drive along the Mendocino Headlands, before slipping back out to Route 1. 

Fort Bragg’s population is 7,000, a city compared to the towns we’d seen so far. It was bustling on Memorial Day. We decided to head to MacKerricher State Park to inquire about a campsite for the night. Several spots were open, so we had our pick. 

Glass Beach area along the coast in Fort Bragg is well known as an area of plentiful sea glass. Signs stated: DO NOT REMOVE SEA GLASS FROM BEACH. Folks did so anyway. Not sure what they hoped to accomplish with their collection.

We walked the hills covered in multicolored succulents, and took some photos along the bluffs above the beach. Charley kept her nose down, aggressively searching for squirrels and chipmunks burrowed in the hillside. 

Lunch was back at camp, my signature salad. Jamie climbed in the hammock, I wrote some more of the blog. I climbed in the hammock, Jamie got up and did the blog photos. We relaxed for a couple hours. After some hot showers we were ready to hit the town. We’d have dinner that night at North Coast Brewery and enjoy s’mores by the campfire later that night.

June 1. Far reaches of Northern California for the beginning of the month. Slept in til 730, no rush. And our tent is darn comfortable!

Jamie showered while I prepped breakfast. Egg and cheese’s, strawberries, and coffee.

I returned from my shower after breakfast to find Jamie gone. She’d found a lost dog. With its harness bitten through, it was clearly not purposefully off leash. Jamie threw a leash on the cute pup and we went looking for the owner. Charley howled from inside Archie, seeing this all as a betrayal, like we were leaving her.

We had no luck in finding the owner after a sweep of the neighboring campgrounds. She waited with the dog along the parks main road, while I returned to camp to pack up. We were planning on getting to the Eureka area by that afternoon.

Eventually, the owner came around looking for their dog, so we passed her off and hit the road.

Starting on Route 1, we soon were cutting northeast over the coastal forested hills and met up with US 101. Things started to look familiar soon, as we traveled up 101 two years prior. We entered Redwood country as the highway was fittingly named the “Redwood Highway.” 

Elevated highway among the undulations of coastal pines blanketing the hills. We were heading to Eureka for our pre employment lab work, but logistics hit a snag (they always seem to) and we couldn’t get anything for work done. So, we instead made a detour.

Ferndale. One of our favorite bands, The Riverside, has a song by the same name. We were obliged to check it out.

And we’re so glad we did. Just off highway 101 toward the coast, Ferndale is an old Victorian town with its charm still well intact. Main Street was beautifully preserved, and the town of about 1400 was centered around that. 

We had laundry to do, and time to kill, so we popped in the town’s laundromat and ran our clothes. We walked Main Street, a bit deadened from Post Memorial Day Weekend activity. But we always like things in their less crowded authentic feel.

Figuring out our work requirements again had us making a detour. We could get our lab work done in Crescent City, 100 miles north of our current location, tomorrow. So we left Ferndale around 4pm, and set our direction toward the Redwood National and State Forests of that area. 

Construction along the route, from a recent cliffside washout of the highway, made us recalculate our plans for that evening. We decided to bypass the National Park, as we’d be waiting for at least 2 hours in construction traffic the following day if we stayed south of the work zone. We’d already been to the National Park, and all of the forests of the area are equally stunning and grand.

We found a campground at Florence Keller State Park in Crescent City. $20. Not the worst fee we’ve paid. No showers though. That was quite alright.

Gary the Park Host brought us firewood. We asked for enough for one fire. Gary gave us enough for several nights. Or Gary likes his fires real big. I made grilled cheese and soup for dinner; something simple with little cleanup. We had a fire, that lasted near about as long as daylight in these parts of the Pacific Northwest. It was light out til well past 9pm.

June 2. Our campsite was so nice, we were happy to take our time getting going in the morning. Tall, second growth Redwoods surrounded us, their posture impossibly straight.

We loaded up Arch and made a quick drive to the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Charley isn’t allowed on most of the trails in the redwoods, so we walked a dirt forest road instead. Makes no difference, really. The forest is incredible wherever you are. It led us down to the Smith River- the water was clear and actually not that cold.

After a couple sandwiches, we drove up to a carriage road and took it several miles through the forest, stopping a few times at different groves and areas of interest. We hadn’t done much hiking lately, and that was OK. Plenty to see, so we bopped around quite a bit. 

That afternoon we restocked on groceries for Chilly Willy and made our way over to the clinic for lab work. To no avail. Turns out that the clinic didn’t do the specific bloodwork we required. Yet another detour needed. We decided to reluctantly bypass the souther Oregon coast, and head inland to Bend, Oregon so we could complete our work requirements on time. 

We had planned on going to Bend after the southern coast, but now plans had changed and we’d be going straight there. We mulled our options at SeaQuake Brewery in Crescent City that evening, over drinks and pub fare.

Next stop: Bend and Oregon beyond.

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