Wednesday, December 13, 2006

North coast

From Santa Cruz we continued on highway 1 toward San Francisco. The road hugged the coast, not so hilly as further South but still with it’s own rugged charm. We stayed on highway 1 and went straight over the Golden Gate bridge. An unfortunate haze lay over the bridge and city so the obligatory photograph stop on the North side hasn’t produced much of worth. There was a detour on highway 1 which forced us through a very winding forest road. San Francisco almost seems to demarcate a line in increased forest growth between the northern and southern parts of California. We stopped for lunch at the small town of Stinson Beach.

It was pretty late in the day by the time we reached the lighthouse at Point Reyes. The lighthouse is supposedly one of the best places on the coast for whale watching but our late arrival meant we couldn’t spend too long there. Despite this it was a lovely spot and the drive there was good in it’s own right.

Back on the highway and with night falling we pulled into a motel in Bodega Bay. It was a little more pricey than we’d have liked, but we needed somewhere by that point. The lady running the place gave us a leaflet for the Italian restaurant next door which offered a free bottle of wine with two mains. We took them up on the offer but felt a little bit scruffy and out of place there. The wine was OK, although probably not worth the $24 that was crossed through on the bill.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse and we had quite a bit of rain the following day. For this reason the day was mainly spent driving up highway 1. We stopped off in the pretty little town of Mendocino for lunch. We’d had Mendocino or it’s near neighbor Fort Bragg marked down as a possible stop off, but because of the rain and as it was still early we decided to press on. Instead we stayed in the town of Eureka, simply because we had a coupon for a motel there. I didn’t see much of the town, but what I did see was quite unlovely. When we went for dinner at the Denny’s on the next block a shady looking bloke that had been smoking in a doorway started to follow us. We picked up our pace and hustled into Denny’s quick-smart.

The North coast is where the big redwood trees grow, which was the reason that had drawn us up there. Along the coast are a series of national and state parks protecting areas of the forest that once covered a massive amount of the Northwest. The rain was spitting on and off as we drove up through the towering trees. We stopped for a short loop walk through the forest. The individual trees that we were looking at were not the tallest of the species, but they were pretty big all the same. The grove was very quiet, we only passed four other people on the trail. The two of us got neck ache from staring up at the giants.

Along the highway we saw elk grazing on grass at the side of the road. A little further on at the place called Elk Meadow we stopped and looked out for elk. I think they were all at the side of the road because they certainly weren’t in the meadow that was named for them. We did see a coyote there though so perhaps they ought to rename it Coyote Meadow.

Further into the national park a scenic drive cuts away from the highway. Unfortunately the road was closed, possibly because of the weather which was starting to turn for the worse. Grumbling, Gemma wheeled the car around and retraced our steps southward. We turned off the highway and took the Avenue of the Giants scenic drive going South. We abandoned the lovely forest at the southern end of the drive and rejoined the highway. The rain got worse and the sky was getting darker as night drew in so we gave up driving when we hit Ukiah, and booked into the Holiday Inn Express.

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