Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Road rage to Redwoods

Leaving Monterey we stopped at nearby Pacific Grove to see the Monarch butterflies which apparently are in abundance from November to March. We took the walk where you can see them and saw.... 2. Apparently they can look like leaves on trees, so maybe we saw more than we thought, but we had visions of them flying around us. We quickly left and ventured onwards towards Santa Cruz, stopping for a coffee in the pleasant Capitola. I wished we had stayed there when we arrived at Santa Cruz. It kind of went down hill from the moment we arrived. Looking for where we were going I accidentally cut the jeep that was behind me up (I was convinced no one was behind me) I was aware of him when he beeped and hung out of his window and shouted. I was even more aware of him when I pulled into a road and he followed stopping behind me when I pulled up to get my head together. I felt nervous as he approached the car but I had no choice but to open the door. He shouted at me and I apologised profusely which seemed to do the trick and as soon as I said sorry he calmed down. Lucky for him I’m not a psycho and I didn’t shoot him or something. I couldn’t believe that he came after me. You just don’t do that... in my book anyway. People cut me up and I grumble to myself a bit, but I wouldn’t dream of going after someone.

After that incident we found our motel. Too early for check in we went and checked out the boardwalk which had the sea side array of roller coasters and funfair rides. It was all closed though and we were practically the only ones about. It was time to check in so this accomplished we ventured out again. Again we walked down the board walk. This time there were a couple of drunk people arguing and one lying passed out on the beach. Despite the beautiful sunny day I felt like there was a heavy cloud hanging over us and the place. Tim voiced how I felt saying he felt really depressed! It was so weird. It was like Great Yarmouth in Winter but with nice weather. There was a weird atmosphere in the air. I had expected Santa Cruz to be really happening and maybe it is, but not the day we were there. To be honest I couldn’t wait to leave. We carried on into town to see if the cloud would lift. Unfortunately it didn’t so we gave up and went back and hid in our motel!

The next day we made our escape and headed towards San Francisco. We got on to the open road and I felt relieved to be on them as I had not enjoyed driving in towns thus far. We drove straight through San Fran as we will be returning later for Christmas and drove over the Golden gate bridge. We stopped when we reached the other side to look over the bay, bridge and city. It was very hazy, but still pretty. Past San Fran we noted the increase in the amount of trees around us. We drove on to Reyes Point, more beautiful rugged coastal scenery with a lighthouse at the end. After unsuccessfully whale watching across the broad waters we drove on, calling it a day at Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed and where we went to a posh Italian because it was near and we’d get a free bottle of wine.

After Bodega bay the coastal scenery became more wild and rugged with massive waves crashing on the beach below us. We stopped for Lunch at Mendocino and decided to drive on to Eureka. I liked the name, I thought it sounded promising, so thought that was as good a reason as any to stop there. The drive was quite nice, if a little scary, the area becoming more like a murder setting in a horror film, driving through forests with the occasional shack hiding in it (Obviously where the psychos live)windy roads and very little traffic. We had come up to these parts of Northern California to see the Redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world. Facts about the Redwood tree, courtesy of Lonely Planet are: Redwoods now only grow in China and two areas of California and a small grove in Oregon. They can live up to 2200 years, grow to 370ft tall and achieve a diameter of 22ft at the base, with bark up to 12 inches thick.

Continuing on our way to Eureka we passed a small town where a sign informing us of a tree that we could drive through! As it was getting on we thought we might check that out on our way back down. We also said that about the shop selling Big Foot merchandise. Yes, we were in Big Foot territory too. Not only did we have a chance of seeing Big Foot, but we could also buy a wooden life size sculpture of him.

Eureka did not match it’s name. It was full of traffic and was like a lot of towns we had seen so far, like a big industrial estate. The bad weather had started to set in too which didn’t help. We used it as an over night stop before heading to the Redwood National park. Near by we drove through a small scary looking town where the only shops all appeared to only sell giant wooden sculptures of bears and Red Indian faces. Maybe these are the essential items in those parts. We noted the mist hovering above the dense forests before we had a lovely walk through a forest of Redwoods. Before going in we noted the sign telling us what to do in case of an encounter with a bear or Mountain Lion and were told to walk through the forest making plenty of noise to alert them to our presence. This wasn’t hard for me as I am as agile as an elephant, so I happily plodded through the beautiful forest of towering Redwoods made more atmospheric with the rain and mist in the trees. As with any trees especially big ones these were magnificent and beautiful. After our walk we went to find some Elk which are throughout the area and were surprised when we happened upon them on the side of the road. As it wasn’t the best place to stop we decided to go to the specific viewing area to see them. However there were none there, but we did see a Coyote, a canine animal which looks a cross between a fox and a wolf. I was really chuffed to see it and we watched it for a while, before driving off and seeing more Elk on the side of the road.

As the weather wasn’t conducive to walk on nearby beaches and as a scenic drive we had hoped to do was closed we decided to start heading back down the coast. This time we drove part of it down the 32 mile scenic alternative of the Avenue of the Giants, a road which winds through California’s largest Redwood Park which covers 53,000 acres. It was lovely driving down the road with the magnificent trees towering over us on either side.

Unfortunately we will not be coming home with a life size model of Big Foot. We decided to by pass it mainly because it was raining which made the already isolated, foreboding looking shop look even more so. We also bypassed the drive through tree deciding that we didn’t need to drive through a tree to marvel at the size of them.

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