2nd June-Friday. The car rental is just five minutes by foot. Forget to confirm later arrival next week (which should not be a problem). We get the car at 10:05 and at 10:20 we were on our way: leaving Frisco by the Golden Gate Bridge (you only pay toll upon entering). Alas, road works at our chosen route and of course no way that the downloaded GPS can guide us. After passing the same spot for the second time (after 45 minutes) we turn around and end up in Sausalito just after the Golden Gate Bridge. We get directions to the N1 from fellow guests at a sunny terrace where we enjoy an early lunch. Follows a beautiful stretch of near empty coastal road (we later discover Hitchcock’s movie the Birds has been shot here). The pacific is improbable blue and the landscape breath-taking, with beaches and grassy hills alternating. We pass Mendocino just after 5:15 and arrive at Fort Bragg at 5:30 pm. The motel at the harbour proofs to be a famous and popular restaurant, but the motel is less fancy: the rooms are worn out and very basic (no fridge or microwave because of fear to overload the electric net; a coffee/tea-machine is provided however). In the nearby supermarket (a bit too far to go by foot) we buy yoghurt, beer and wine.
Excellent dinner at the harbour restaurant (Silver’s at the Wharf). Scampi for Albertien and sunfish for Frits with mashed potatoes and vegetables while viewing the sunset at Noyo Bay.
3rd June-Saterday. Arrival at Mendocino at 10:30 am. The English country-side look alike town of Mendocino hosts lots of beautiful houses, small shops selling art, jewellery, coffee/food and drinks and so on.
We are about the only visitors this early. Locals make their way (more or less sleepily) towards coffee providers. Albertien buys long sought after golden earrings. Coffee at a sunny terrace at Main Street, opposite the visitor’s centre. The visitor’s centre hosts a small museum, the Ford House providing lots of historical context. We take an hour’s walk towards the South first, through the headlands and down to the beach at Big River. Lots of beautiful plants and views. Back at Mendocino we have an excellent lunch consisting of burrito’s at a small café run by a Mexican family. In a beautiful and quite garden off the main street with lost of sun. Later we go North, walking towards the steep cliffs where we spot the remains of the landing construction used in former times (a kind of slide).
The Ford House museum already enlightened us about this phenomena. Noteworthy is also the (Native Indian?) statues we see, seeming to watch over the ocean.
On our way back a stop to visit the lighthouse (light station) at Point Cabrillo – a one mile walk from the parking. A strange lighthouse with a short tower, also sending out signals at the middle of the day. One of the few lighthouses still functioning at the Ca coast.
The otters enjoying themselves in the small Bay are an unexpected bonus. In our motel we opt for another excellent dinner (Albertien fish, Frits meat) and sunset at the Silver at the Wharf restaurant.
4th June-Sunday. Early on our way to the Humboldt Redwood State Park. We plan to brunch on the way, but before we know it we are off the highway on our way to the Avenue of the Giants passing one closed restaurant after the other. In a desolate shop we buy some sandwiches. At Myers Flat we drive through a huge redwood tree.
The trees are awesome indeed, here we see the last remaining redwood forest in the world. At the visitors centre we ask for recommended walks. Here again, it becomes obvious that in the USA people define walk as a short stroll, usually less than a mile. Very few Americans really hike (although we will meet some later). Nevertheless, the vistor’s centre provides us with an excellent map with several hiking trails and a good explanation how to get there, including pictures. Although we miss the one we intend to take we end up having a very nice two hour round-hike at Mattole area, from a parking area to Albee Creek Campground (no campers, but a couple of rangers).
We continue our journey on the Avenue of the Giants, arriving at Eureka around 18:00. The Travel Lodge is good value for money and well equipped. Breakfast is provided. The supermarket across the road provides good take-away food (mi and chicken).
5th June-Monday. From Eureka to Prairie Creek Redwoods. On the way a sudden stop: a car in front waits till an elk finishes crossing the road. Camera’s everywhere. The Redwoods in this park are just as big and old as in Humboldt State Park, but the park is far less famous and visited. In Orick (650 inhabitants) we have coffee at the Palm Café, a real road side café popular for breakfast and brunch. Our company consists of five bikers (two female, three male) and a lady trail owner with her daughter. We order sandwiches for lunch and eat our French fries with our coffee. The visitors centre is excellent, with a ranger drawing by heart all hiking trails plus their length (12 miles, 7.1 miles etc). We opt for the 5.7 mile-West Ridge Trail, back along the Prairie Creek Trail. We start at the Elk Prairie visitor’s centre, where we don’t see any elks to our disappointment.
The lady ranger praises Albertien’s blouse and asks if she can have it. Alas, the deal goes sour as the ranger is not in the position to exchange her ranger’s blouse for Albertien’s civilian blouse. The hike takes (nearly) three hours, partly because we detoured after wrong guidance.
Back in Eureka we visit the town, which like Mendocino is famous for its England style mansions. The houses disappoint, the harbour is far from picturesque. We have an excellent dinner at Jack’s Seafood, at the waterfront (Albertien pasta Alfredo, Frits halibut with pilaf rice, with a giant salad as starter).
6th June-Tuesday skype with Do. The rain is pouring when we get our breakfast from the reception. Frits sets out to take pictures of Eureka
and find the car rental agency in order to make sure we can hand in the car Friday at a later time than on our voucher. Alas, despite an address on the internet, there is no Dollar Rental. Phoning turns out to be easy and adequate.
On to Weaverville, across the hills taking the very long and winding N299. We stop at Willow Creek for coffee. As soon as we have passed the hills the weather brightens and the temperature rises to a pleasant 25° – 27° C. At 13:15 we reached our destination, the Weaverville Red Hill Motel and cabins. The location is right in the centre and the cabins are great, small apartments including a fully equipped kitchen.
Weaverville is a nice little town with some whole food shops, art galleries and restaurants. After lunch we find the local laundry and end the day at our picnic table playing cards and eating Chines take-away chow min. Our neighbours enjoy a lengthy barbecue which the son of the owner/handyman also attends. They are from a small town in the middle of nowhere and consider Weaverville the centre of the world. They spent some time at this motel each year.
7th June-Wednesday: Because of the bad weather forecast we decide to leave after one night towards Lassen Vulcanic National Park, so we can make an early start the next day. North of Redding we have booked motel Shasta Dam, which is in fact quite far from the dam located at Route N5. Lake Shasta visitor centre is a disappointment, only providing standard information. The attendants we speak are neither interested nor knowledgeable, at least not about hikes outside the beaten tracks. We return to Redding and hike along Shasta River, up to the dam, across the dam and back on the other side (13 km).
Runners and bicyclists abound. Thanks to the shade the walk is pleasant despite the +30°, with lots of wild plants and birds.
The dam is impressive. Unfortunately, our hike consists of a stretch of more than two km along the (curvy) auto-road after the dam.
Never pleasant and not really in line with our map. We end with a swim in the swimming pool of the motel and excellent take-away pasta heated in the micro-wave.
8th June-Thursday: all night and in the morning it’s raining cats and dogs. The webcam of Lassen Volcanic Park shows fog and snow. Weather.com predicts a dry spell between 11:00-14:00, a chance we are willing to take. The rain continues during the 70 mile-stretch to the park and we encounter lots of fog, sometimes heavy. The park-entrance is attended and for 80 US$ we buy a year-round pass entitling entrance to all parks. The visitor’s centre and museum are still closed however, as is the through-road, at least the part going up the pass and beyond. But there is where we head, the most scenic part: Devastation Area. Once in the park the sky clears. Breath taking views of the majestic snow covered volcanic rocks and a pale sun.
The snow is high up the side of the road, and on the road beyond Devastation Area (from which point onwards the road is closed to traffic). Devastation point is full of explanations about the great eruption of 1915, how the landscape was transformed and how and how many people managed to survive.
Dry but cold (we wear all our warm clothing) we walk along the tarmac road and take lots of pictures. Back at lake Manzanita, near the entrance, we discover to our surprise that the campsite plus shop and gas station are open. We have coffee and sandwiches in the open. Although the sun soon disappears and fog starts develop, we decide to walk around the lake. Fantastic! Fairy-tale like scenery.
And as elsewhere very few other hikers. The park is much greener than we expected from a volcanic park even at Devastation Area which was fully covered by lava in 2015.
Upon leaving the park at around 14:30 rains and fog start again. A dreary journey, with lengthy stops due to road works (as everywhere in California). Our E-map show a nice short-cut to the we N 5 beyond Shingleton. The Red Bluff Motel 6 is easy to find. After some insistence we get a room with fridge and micro-wave. No more rain, but chilly. A 15° C drop in temperature from yesterday. Our dinner -it is becoming routine- consists of take-away pasta heated in the micro-wave. On our way back from the supermarket we get lost. The e-map, on Frits’ phone is still at the hotel….