CHAPTER EIGHT: CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME (WITH SOME PROBLEMS)

Post Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail TaleCHAPTER EIGHT: CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME (WITH SOME PROBLEMS)

Day Nine: Bad Planning, To Tip Or Not To Tip, A Lucky Break, Missed It By That Much, I Got You Babe, Roadside Americana, SkyTrail, Dead Zone, Where Is Everybody?, Oh They’re Here, Land Of Dinosaurs, Trinidad Without Tobago, Eureka We Found It … Again & Back To Our “House.”

Kim had been warned by his cousin to expect long delays just south of Crescent City because of a landslide that had partially closed the road.  I don’t know whether it was the Bourbontinis or the euphoria of singing ABBA songs, but we didn’t fully appreciate this warning the night before, even though the situation had all the earmarks of us facing our Waterloo.  According to the cousin, we could expect three hour delays.

On our final Oregon coast morning, Tracy and I awoke early, and I decided to gas up before crossing into California at the Union 76 station across the street.  Not only did the guy pump our gas, but he also cleaned the windshield.  Now, my conundrum.  Should I tip?  So I asked, and his reply was classic, “We don’t ask for them, but we do accept them.” He got one.

Tracy and I called Kim and Mary to tell them we were leaving at 7:45, and that we’d meet them in line at the construction area.  What we didn’t know, thanks to our lack of planning, was that construction would not start until 9 a.m.  Kim, believing Crescent City was a lot further down the coast and figured we would be stuck no matter when we arrived there.   A year stuck at home must have shrunk all our brains.

To further complicate matters, Tracy and I, still oblivious that time was of the essence drove down the coast to a scenic viewpoint for a couple of photos.

                     

As we approached Crescent City, a sign blinked, “Construction will start at 9 a.m.. Expect long delays.”

“Shoot (not my exact expletive), we still might make it.” I quickly launched the Subaru into warp speed. I swore I heard Tracy yell to me, “Make it so!”

We called Mary, and they were about ten minutes behind us. The problem: they didn’t gas up in Gold Beach early and needed to stop in Crescent City for petrol.

As we passed through Crescent City, the clock was running down.  Although the speed limit had become just a suggestion to us, a pick-up passed us at the speed of light, apparently knowing what the consequences of arriving after 9 a.m. held in store.  The construction sign loomed ahead, and all we could do was hope.

  

As we navigated the final turn, our hopes were seemingly dashed.  It was 9:02., and ahead we saw an idling pick-up that happened to be first in line.  Despair!Then, a minute later, much to our surprise the construction crew waved both the pick-up and our car through the maze of equipment, complete with an escort leading the way.  We figured they didn’t have everything quite ready, or perhaps they saw me banging my head against the steering wheel.

                       

In any event, we made it  through, and shortly thereafter we arrived at our first “mysterious” stop of the day.

Turning into the parking lot, there stood a big guy with an axe and a blue ox. We knew we had arrived at the Trees Of Mystery. There was no cell service here, so we had no idea if Kim and Mary had been as fortunate as us. We waited for a bit, but when five minutes passed with no cars heading south, we figured the worst (more on our unfortunate traveling companions later).

As we took pictures of the nearly 50-foot tall Paul Bunyan and the anatomically correct, 35-foot tall Babe, occasionally a voice would blast from the big guy regaling passersby with stories about Paul and Babe.  The voice occasionally spoke directly to unsuspecting people in the parking lot.  The kids nearby were mesmerized.The Paul Bunyan sculpture weighs 30,000 pounds.  In the winter of 2007, storms knocked Babe’s head off, but it was repaired in time for the summer season.  Although the drizzly weather was a bit annoying, this guy told me to just grin and bear it.Then I met someone who said he would take my dollar and turn it into a penny. He reminded me of my stock broker.But we had stopped here to see some mysterious trees in the Redwoods, so we entered, hoping we might see Kim and Mary shortly.

We first walked through the MaryLee Thompson-Smith Commemorative Garden. On June 7, 1946, Marylee and husband Ray, along with Ray’s parents, purchased Wonderland Park (that became Trees of Mystery).MaryLee Thompson was very much interested in Native American history. These dugout canoes were built out of a split redwood.As many of you know, I’m a nut for squirrels … even fake ones.

The Kingdom of Trees Trail is “dedicated to the mystery and awe” of walking through a Coastal Redwood Forest.The ‘Upside Down Tree’ has two root structures. One tree is horizontal and the other tree is vertical, yet they grow together.  I nearly ended up horizontal myself.

           

Meanwhile, Tracy reminisced with an old boyfriend.  I think she was enamored with his big feet.Next up is one of “nature’s mysteries,” a Redwood Burl. It seems no one knows how or why these things grow. Burl Tree snapped during a windstorm about five years ago.The trail continued upward, and it was pleasant to see some greenery after all the drought-stricken spots we had seen in the state.Shortly we came upon an Elephant Tree. Of course, once you see an Elephant Tree, it will be hard not to remember it. An Elephant Tree, as you might expect, has a large trunk.Lo and behold, we also saw the second Octopus Tree of our trip.

Three’s not company on this 3 In 1 Tree.In the distance Tracy spied what she had wanted to do ever since reading about Trees of Mystery … climbing up and walking on The Redwood Canopy Trail.

                         

The Redwood Canopy Trail has eight viewing platforms and nine suspension bridges situated between 50 to 100 feet above the ground.

       

With my incredible lack of balance, Tracy felt it would be prudent for me to stay on Terra Firma and take a couple of photos of her traversing the canopy.  Up she went.

                                    

She admitted that navigating the Redwood Canopy Trail, with it sway on every step, was a little unsettling at first.

                           

However, in a matter of minutes she was flitting between trees just like Tarzan, albeit without swinging from a rope.  She was able to take some interesting shots along the way as she deftly defied gravity.

Back down on earth, we encountered the Forest Experience Trail.

Along this route are also signs providing interesting facts about the forest.

                       

A site for weddings and Easter services is the aptly named Cathedral Tree. (photo courtesy Trees of Mystery)The Brotherhood Tree is more than 2,000 years old and nearly a football field in height. Thanks to my friend the Internet, here’s what it looks like when not shrouded in thick fog.

        

Then we hit the Sky Trail Gondola.

           

This approximately eight minute trip takes you up to Ted’s Ridge. The brochure states, “At Ted’s Ridge you will find a large observation deck offering spectacular views of the Klamath back country to the east and stunning views over Hidden Beach and the Pacific Ocean to the west.” Alas, the fog made any of those views impossible, so Tracy, as she always does, found some colorful flowers to photograph.Back on earth we stopped by the Candelabra Tree. No Liberace music was playing, however.Saving the best for last, we started our stroll through The Trail of Tall Tales, which takes one through about 50 chainsaw sculptures and carvings  extolling the exploits of big Paul and his forest buddies.Here is just a sampling leading off with Baby Paul and friends unknown.

                        

It must take a lot of talent to make these carvings.

                                                   

Couldn’t get out of here without a photo of Super Duper Snuper.  Really!

                              

Soon we had a close shave with this sculpture.

We watched out for giant mosquitos, and I think I saw this guy in the bushes on the side of the road driving up.

                                                         

The “World’s Fastest Waiter” awaited plus a wood sculpture made by a seasoned veteran who was certainly worth his salt.

                                          

We finished up with Paul’s Girlfriend, Mama Bear and Flapjack …

                                                     

… plus a shout out to Tracy.Yes, these trees are old!Finally, adjacent to the gift shop is the End Of The Trail Museum, displaying collections from various Indian tribes.

                                                    

It’s full of colorful Native American clothing, paintings, baskets and other artifacts.

Outside, near the parking lot entrance, is Ambrose Grumkey’s 1938 version of ‘The End Of The Trail,’ a “redwood carving from that original era depicting a tired Indian brave slumping on his horse.”

Coincidentally, at about the same time we exited the museum, Kim and Mary were exiting their own private hell of being stuck for more than two hours on Highway 101 waiting to go through the construction area. There were only a few cars ahead of them, meaning they had barely missed getting through. With no cell service, we had no idea where they were.

We thought maybe we’d meet up with them at our next appointed destination. Located less than an hour south of Trees of Mystery lies Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, a place Steven Spielberg describes as “an unforgettable natural wonder.” So much so, he chose Fern Canyon as a location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.

Also unforgettable was the drive in. Off Highway 101 is a gravelly, dirt road. The sign stated it is an 8-mile drive to Fern Canyon. We decided to do it, knowing the Subaru would need about ten cleanings once we arrived home. There was also another sign that caught our attention.The narrow road becomes so tight that at times it would be difficult for two cars heading in opposite directions to pass each other. No problem, because we saw nary an automobile on this roughly (literally) half-hour drive.  Tracy said we’d be up waste-matter creek (hey, this is a family-friendly website … sometimes) if we got a flat, which could have become a reality since our “low tire pressure” warning lit up about five miles in. “Well, hopefully no serial killers are on this route,” I said, believing we were going to be the only people traveling up to Fern Canyon. I was wrong.

When we reached the entrance station after four miles, the ranger told us there was no charge (normally $8) because we showed her our “Magic Pass.”  She also advised us that the campground at Gold’s Bluff Beach was sold out, and that it might be difficult finding parking at the Fern Canyon lot.  So much for being alone.

We drove past Gold’s Bluff Beach …

                             

… and grabbed the last parking spot available in the Fern Canyon lot. Hiking up toward the canyon, Tracy thought she might have seen a Triceratops. I told her not to worry, since they were herbivores.

                     

Through the forest we began to walk (carefully since the rocky terrain was uneven and slippery because we were meandering along the Home Creek Trail.

                 

Fern-covered walls were the order of the day.

                                                 

The sometimes up to 80-foot tall cavern is full of five different varieties of ferns.

                             

At one point, Tracy thought it best for me not to continue because the old man forgot the walking poles he brought that now resided in the Subaru trunk.  Onward the intrepid Tracy traveled through a verdant area of plants, mosses, fallen trees and, of course, more ferns.

     

At every turn danger lurked (ok, that might be overdramatic).

In any case, she found numerous nooks and crannies to photograph ….

                                         

 

… on her nearly 45-minute excursion in the woods.

             

The wet woods. Tracy recommends you bring a spare pair of shoes to change into after the hike.  When she returned, I asked her about any encounters she might have had on her hike, and she said except for a family devoured by a group of Velociraptors, it was a pleasant hike.

 

Speaking of becoming human prey for a certain species, on the hike back down we were reminded of that sign we saw on the way into the park. Quite nearby was a gang of elk. Tracy said not to worry because they were female elk, who she thought were not a threat. That is, until another hiker told us that in spring female elk can be very aggressive. It was time to move on … quickly.

Traversing a couple of small creeks on the road back down from Fern Canyon, we reached 101 and soon were in contact with Kim and Mary, who had already finished lunch at Seascape in Trinidad. I asked Kim if we had to go through Tobago to get to Trinidad, and he said he felt good about being Tom-free for few hours.

We made a couple of slight detours along the way through Humboldt Lagoons State Park.

    

At about 3 p.m., thanks to Kim and Mary’s suggestion, we were in picturesque Trinidad …

… at Seascape Restaurant located on its scenic pier.

                   

The sun was out on a beautiful blue sky afternoon.  Our lunch consisted of the never-ending dining of fish & chips, along with clam chowder. Amazingly after so many dishes of each on this trip, the lunch was very satisfying.  My photo was taken shortly after I put a fork in a light socket, which explains my hair.

                                                                           

Afterword, Tracy and I spent some time wandering along the pier.  Although sunny, the wind was whipping pretty heavily, and I was happy I remembered my vest for the walk.

The wind had the boats bobbing in the water.

  We spent about 20 minutes soaking up the atmosphere …… but it was time for the last part of our day’s journey.It was a scenic drive from Trinidad.

                 

We caught a glimpse back to the pier.

     

Our trip the previous October had been cut short (details here), and we had to cancel a night at Eureka’s historic Carter House Inns.

The Carter House was completed in 1982 and stands just a block away from the historic Carson Mansion (photo taken by us in October 2020).We freshened up, and although we had just eaten three hours ago, it was time for our 6:30 reservations at Humboldt Bay Bistro, a restaurant we enjoyed immensely on last year’s visit.

        

As our waitress approached the table, there was air of familiarity. It was the same woman who served us last year. Fortunately, we’re good tippers, so she had no animosity toward us.

                              

Last time we dined here, we sat out on the patio. This time, we dined inside, and once again we were not disappointed.  Tracy dined on two starters; a warm, wilted spinach salad; Organic spinach tossed with warm bacon, fig dressing, shallots, strawberries, select imported Roquefort sheep’s milk cheese, and candied pecans; coupled with Humboldt Bay Bistro’s terrific crab cakes, Dungeness crab tossed in house-seasoned breadcrumbs; served with cocktail sauce and spicy aioli, was fantastic. Give those crab cakes a try if you dine here.

         

I thoroughly enjoyed my off-menu special lamb chops, while Mary’s red curry seafood pasta with coconut was a winner.

        

Kim’s steak; Grilled ribeye topped with Mâitre d’Hôtel butter, served with seasonal vegetables, and smashed fingerling potatoes was delicious. The star of his (and my) dinner were those incredible smashed potatoes.

After all that gluttony, dessert was out of the question.

A few sunset photos of the surrounding area …

 

         

… the short stroll back to Carter House concluded a very busy day.  The Carter House comprises more than one building.

                   

Tomorrow, would be the last full day of our vaccination vacation with Kim and Mary, but not necessarily the end of the trip for Tracy and me.

We would head to The Avenue of the Giants, where we would take one last spectacular hike. We’d end up at a historic inn, where we would meander around its manicured grounds awash with stunning views, relax (yes, it happens even to us), participate in cocktail experimentation with our bartender and enjoy one last fabulous dinner in its atmospheric dining room.

The following day, Tracy and I would visit a couple of wineries on the way back to Bodega Bay, including our favorite winery, where my wallet would become even more depleted.

CHAPTER NINE: REDWOODS, RELAXING AT BENBOW & RAMAZZOTTI

Day Ten: Getting Loopy Alongside The Avenue Of The Giants, Picnicking Amongst The Giants, The One-Time World’s Tallest Tree, The Benbow Experience, Our Bartender Meets Robert The Bruce & Ambiance At Its Finest

Day Eleven: Return To California Wine Country & Our Favorite Winery In The World

 

 

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