No trip to northern California would be complete without a chance to stand beneath the world’s tallest trees. Our first stop was the Lady Bird Johnson Grove where we walked one of the most popular trails in Redwood National Park. We arrived early, just as the fog was lifting…and parking was still available.
Coast Redwoods can live more than 2,000 years and reach 360 feet in height.
Our next stop was just up the road to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. In addition to numerous hiking trails, herds of elk are a popular attraction and are often be seen grazing throughout the large meadows alongside the roadway.
We were not so lucky with the elk, but we saw plenty more majestic redwoods as we hiked through the forest.
Not knowing exactly what to expect, and having heard so much about it, we decided to check out the drive along the northern section of California’s Lost Coast in Humboldt County.
We moved to Humboldt County in 1986, and lived there for 4 years, so we were aware of how remote some areas can be. We’ve always been just a bit intimidated to head into the unknown, especially in the forested areas of Humboldt.
Our trip began in the Victorian village of Ferndale where the road led us up, up, up, out of the fog. We would pass through the small communities of Petrolia and Honeydew on our way back towards Highway 101 just north of Weott. A few isolated homes, ranches and herds of cattle dotted the landscape. Eventually we caught a glimpse of the ocean and began to twist our way back down to sea level.
We discovered a beautiful rocky beach where we couldn’t resist stretching our legs. Reg insisted I climb up on one of the larger rocks where I tried to create my best “Little Mermaid” pose.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was coming upon a herd of zebras! “Stop,” I shouted. I had to get a picture. Who’d believe zebras roamed Humboldt County?
Like an oasis, the town of Petrolia (small and pretty darn isolated) lay ahead as we came over a rise. The town market was a bustling place where a woman was busy flipping hamburgers. A UPS driver patiently awaited his lunch.
Stopping for our tailgate picnic, we had second thoughts about missing out on those burgers!
Eventually we arrived back at Highway 101, no worse for the wear. We had envisioned long stretches of a dusty gravel road with steep drop offs and multiple washboards; a bit of a white knuckle ride. What we found was a well kept road, steep but newly paved in spots, scattered ranches and communities surrounded with breathtaking scenery. Certainly nothing to be scared of!
Many of our restaurants offer curbside pickup, so we grabbed sandwiches on our way out.
Twenty minutes into our hike, we stepped off the trail and settled into a lunch spot with a view of Mt. Ashland. Day 45 of isolation for us also happened to be Reg’s birthday, so we celebrated with a hike along a short section of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail.
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Our turnaround spot was the Hobart Bluff viewpoint, a destination we thought was just over two miles from our starting point. Four miles later, after climbing steadily uphill and dodging a few patches of snow, we arrived. A much longer walk than we intended, but well worth it!
Regardless of the cloudy haze, the view from the point was astounding.
Because Reg and I both were quite sick in early March, we are entering into our fourth week of self-isolation at home in Oregon. Did we have the virus? Who knows, but timing, as they say, is everything. These past few weeks have given us much time to reflect.
We may be stuck indoors, but we enjoy the ever changing view out our front window.
We returned from England and our South West Coast Path adventure last year in early October. As it turns out, over the past six months, our timing has been extremely fortunate. Two days after returning home, I found myself driving 600 miles south, to California, to assist my 93 year old father who was still living in my family home…alone. I bullied him (yes, I did) into a move to an assisted living facility, both for his safety and our family’s peace of mind. A fortuitous move as his health declined rapidly over the next couple of months.
We said goodbye to my Dad (pictured above) three days before Christmas. He was the last of his generation on either side of our families. He hoped to one day celebrate his 100th birthday, but that was not meant to be. In January, with the help of an amazing realtor (who snapped the official “sold” photo of Dad’s house) we sadly closed the door of the home and life he loved. Our boys and their partners all made the trip out to California, joining us, along with my brother Kenny, as we said our final goodbyes.
Reg and I returned home in February, feeling somewhat lost as we came to terms with the fact that we were now the “older” generation. As we settled back into a routine we began to feel the pull of adventure once again. Perhaps another distance trek would get us back on track. But where?
As you can see, we are not at a loss for ideas.
Once again, timing proved to be everything. The decision of where to go was taken out our of our hands. For the time being, we will remain armchair travelers, experiencing adventure through our television programming. While not as exciting, it has allowed us some pretty amazing adventures…ones we’d never dream of attempting. For now, we’ll focus on remaining healthy and settling for walks around the neighborhood.
Standing in front of Cold Spring Tavern, it’s easy to imagine the dust flying as a team of horses pull a creaky stagecoach ‘round the bend.
Back in 1865 the California tavern was established as a stop for the stagecoach providing mail delivery and passenger service along the route between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez. It was here, on what is now called Stagecoach Road, that tired horses were changed out and weary travelers enjoyed a meal and a break from what must have been a long and dusty, bumpy ride.
Although the stagecoach ceased operation back in 1901, Cold Spring Tavern remains a popular spot where locals and tourists from all walks of life are welcomed and offered a hearty meal, a cold drink and a glimpse into the Old West.
Rising above Pismo Beach on California’s Central Coast, Pismo Preserve offers 880 acres of unspoiled beauty. Opened to the public just last week, we were excited to be among the first to explore the 11 miles of hiking trails that weave up and down the hillside.
We chose the Discovery Trail, a 5.2 mile path that led us up the grassy slopes and through groves of twisted oaks. The views were stunning…we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
We traveled the perimeter of the preserve, eventually arriving at Lover’s Point, 780 feet above the Pacific Ocean. As luck would have it, there was a bench and it was lunchtime.
The trail system is open to the public daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with hours extended to 9:30 p.m. from March through October. Best of all, it’s free! Parking is competitive…the lot is on the small side, but you might get lucky. We had to park about a quarter mile away and walk in. There are restrooms and drinking water available at the parking lot.
Pismo Preserve is located at 80 Mattie Road, just off Highway 101 in Pismo Beach, California.
Sue and I packed British sun and optimism when we began our trek in Minehead on the South West Coast Path on September 8. More than three weeks and 200 miles later, fierce winds and horizontal rain could not keep us from our finish at Land’s End.
Back home in Ashland, Oregon, still packing jet lag, it is time to reflect.
Best parts: Astonishingly rugged coastal scenery, remoteness, walking cliffside, the weather, few other trekkers, Hartland Quay-to-Bude section, unyielding climbs and descents, thousands of stairs.
Worst parts: The weather, remoteness, Hartland Quay-to-Bude section, unyielding climbs and descents, thousands of stairs.
How can that be? The weather was mostly great the first two weeks; just two days of rain, not bad for England. Then it turned on us and only let up for brief spells the rest of the way. Fierce winds nearly blew us (and our packs) over on precarious cliffs. One day, we had to turn back. On a couple of days, the winds made it too dangerous to walk at all. That is when the remoteness became a negative; if anything happened, we could be stranded far from help.
The Hartland Quay-to-Bude section tested us like no other trail ever; 9,000 feet of mostly steep elevation change, 15 miles, 10-plus hours. But over our pub dinner that evening, we were exhilarated because we had done it. That is what keeps us trekking. It tests us, extends us, and sometimes slows life to a crawl. We thrive on its simplicity and routine.
Backpack life: We lived out of several Ziploc bags that contained our rolled up, super lightweight moisture-wicking clothes. We sat on each one, zipped them shut, and stuffed the compressed bags into our packs in just a few minutes each morning. Our packs weighed about 20 pounds each, although Sue’s was a couple of pounds heavier. Plus the weight of water in our bladders.
Accommodations: We stayed in B&Bs, hotels, a hostel, and several apartments. Most included breakfast. Lunch was a picnic on the trail, sometimes wet. Dinner was usually in pubs, unless we had a kitchen…then we enjoyed dinner at home.
Thru hikers: We were surprised that there were not more people on the trail. Most were day walkers; some told us they were walking a section, then catching a bus back to their starting village. Some were walking for several days, but we did not meet anyone who planned to walk more than that. Sue talked to an English couple who had walked the entire 630 miles of the trail, but had done it in sections over years.
Jam or cream first? How one dresses scones is a hotly debated topic in Devon and Cornwall. But, why does a country with clotted and double cream put low-fat milk in their tea and coffee?
Animals: Sheep, goats, pheasants, and cattle (and their poo) were abundant. We often walked among them; once, a cow refused to budge off the trail, forcing us to detour.
Shipwrecks: Monuments and plaques mark the demise of many ships off the rugged coast over the centuries.
Gates: We climbed, squeezed through, and passed through more gates than I could count. Kissing gates, stiles, latching gates. Even some kinds I had never seen before.
Health: Sue and I each got hit by a bug that, thankfully, lasted only about a day. Sue wore a knee brace for a few days as a precaution and her careful foot care prevented any major blister problems. We battled soreness, especially in the morning. Once again, Sue was the stronger walker, especially on the relentless climbs. Neither of us is fast, but you can trust your bets on Sue conquering just about any trail.
Fitting end: As we sat in the restaurant at the Land’s End Hotel, the setting sun was our dessert. Like the trail, it made us appreciate the moment. We put on our boots and packs each morning and plunged into the unknown, knowing that no matter what was ahead, we had to do it. Each day was unique, but most were cause for celebration.