Tuesday, September 11, 2018

R is for: Redwoods {California Coast}

As many of you know, I previously lived in San Francisco for five years, yet somehow, I never made it far enough north to see the towering Redwoods of Northern California. Last fall’s Great Northwest Road Trip with Justin provided the perfect opportunity to check it off my bucket list.

As I detailed in previous posts, we started our trip in Montana, spent a few nights in Canada’s Lake Louise area, and continued down through Seattle and the Oregon Coast, where we stayed in an eclectic bed and breakfast called the Mermaid’s Muse, complete with a saltwater hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Justin and I continued along our Great Northwest Road Trip with a drive through one of California’s Redwood forests. During our adventure, I learned there are three species of Redwoods, but the Coastal Redwoods are the tallest living things on our planet. The highest one ever recorded stood 360 feet in the air, which is the height of a 36-story building just to give some perspective. But they aren’t just tall, they are true giants, measuring up to 18 and sometimes even 20 feet wide. The oldest ones have been around for thousands of years.

Wanting to stick to our route down Highway 101, we continued on through Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where you will see the aforementioned Coastal Sequoias. Depending on how much you want to hike or see, you can stop off at any number of places along the way. We skipped any of the “attractions” that charged money (i.e. Trees of Mystery or Drive Through Tree) and instead opted for nature trails where we could truly just stand in awe of these natural works of art.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park: This park is located between Crescent City and Eureka. There are plenty of options for trails and hiking within this forest, but definitely do not miss the Big Tree Loop. The leisurely walk is a little over 3 miles round trip, and you will get to see some of the biggest Redwoods in the park while getting some crisp, fresh air and a chance to stretch your legs. This website gives more detailed directions, but basically you will start at the Prairie Creek Trail, continue on to the Big Tree Area and finish on the Cathedral Tree Trail. “Big Tree” is marked with a park sign, but ironically isn’t even the biggest tree you’ll see on your hike.

The entire forest floor is blanketed with lush ferns and moss, which look so soft you could curl up and take a nap on them. The way the light beams in through the mist feels somewhat magical and eerie all at the same time, as if you will turn a corner and see an elf or a mythical animal living in under one of the fallen trees. Every once in awhile, you will come across a hollowed out trunk with exposed roots, making you realize just how massive these trees truly are.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park also happens to be home to a large herd of Roosevelt Elk. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, or the numerous vehicles likely pulled off on the side of the road trying to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures.

We first happened upon a small group of elk (or “elken” as Justin liked to say), before we spotted the entire herd a couple more miles down the road. It was in that meadow where we stood in awe of that  big guy in the middle, who was definitely King of the Elken.

Patrick’s Point State Park: After checking wildlife viewing off our list, we decided some fresh ocean air and a short hike would make the perfect next stop on our Northern California adventure. One of the park rangers recommended Patrick’s Point. The hike out to the water is a relatively short one, and it’s a wonderful spot to watch the waves crash and see some of the coastal sequoias leaning over the cliffs.

Trinidad & Eureka:
The next town after Patrick’s Point is Trinidad, California. We were bordering on hangry by this point so we basically stopped in at the first restaurant we saw which was Trinidad Bay Eatery & Gallery. It turned out to be a great meal where we ordered a giant bread bowl with piping hot clam chowder and a “Crabby Melt.” Blinded by our growling bellies, I didn’t bother asking what the “market price” was on the crab, and it ended up being a $24 sandwich by the time we added the bacon. Again, it was a delicious and satisfying lunch, and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it (the housemate fudge is supposedly very popular)… however, as we started walking around the boardwalk area near the replica Trinidad Lighthouse, it dawned on me that my good friend Tiffany had recommended a *different* restaurant in Trinidad….

The Lighthouse Grill: The Lighthouse Grill was where Tiffany had stopped on this very same trip a few months earlier. Apparently this is “the home of the mashed potato cone.” Ummmm what?!? Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a savory waffle cone stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with bacon, cheese and slow cooked brisket and topped off with gravy. Once I realized my mistake, I was having major food remorse. I’m including here so you have both restaurants as options. And if a cone stuffed with mashed potatoes and topped with brisket is something that sounds delicious, then I want that for you.

Samoa Cookhouse: Another lunch option would be to head a few more miles down the road to Eureka. It is there you will find Samoa Cookhouse claims to be the “last surviving Cookhouse in the West.” Everything is served “lumberjack style” (I’m guessing this means family style.) We did not eat here, but I received a few different recommendations from people on Twitter for this spot, so I’m including it for your reference.

Santa Rosa: By the time we drove through Santa Rosa, it was getting pretty late, but I couldn’t pass through without stopping into Russian River Brewing Company. If you are a beer geek, then you already know this is the home of Pliny the Elder (and also Pliny the Younger at certain times of the year.) They also have a full menu in case you’d like to do a little beer flight and have dinner. But they also sell most of their beers to go, so we grabbed a couple bottles to enjoy at our hotel later that night.

Sonoma: Speaking of which, we finally rolled into Sonoma sometime around 11pm. El Pueblo Inn was a lovely little oasis at the end of our jam-packed day. It features an outdoor pool and hot tub, which was the perfect way to enjoy our beers and unwind after another long day on the road. Of course, if you know me, you know I also love wine. We didn’t have time to explore wine country on this particular trip, but if you are looking for some recommendations, check out this post I did a couple years ago when I visited with my friend Laura.

At this point, we were almost halfway through our 16-day road trip, but I still have so much to share with you! Keep a lookout for future posts detailing our stops at the Salt Flats of Utah, as well as Jackson, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. Where has your favorite road trip been? Would love to hear about it in the comments below.

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