Pacific Coast 2010

The last part of our trip was the super-nature-y part, the part which defines terms like “sublime” beauty, the southern Oregon/northern California coast. When we lived in Ashland, we made a couple of trips to the coast, though only a couple because while Ashland is maybe 100 miles from the Pacific, there are mountains and foothills in the way.

I posted some pictures the other day; here’s a link to the Coos Bay/Bandon part of things, and here’s a link to the Redwoods part. One of these days, I’ll have to pull together a “highlight” reel of these zillions of pictures, though I have to say it’s tough to take a bad looking picture out there.  More than you want to know after the jump.

We stopped first at Shore Acres in Coos Bay, which is a lovely state park on the edge of the “big city” of the southern Oregon coast– flowers, exotic plants, roses, dramatic coastal rocks, etc. We spent the night in Bandon, which is a little town just south of Coos Bay that I suppose now is as well known for a world class golf course/resort as it is for the coastal views– we stuck to the views. Maybe when I’m rolling in dough I’ll try the golf course.  Anyway, the beach/coastal views were tremendous and really impossible for me to describe. Just look at the pictures. We stayed at a surprisingly nice motel right on the beach, tromped around, had dinner at an old-school restaurant with great views, watched the sun set, etc.

The next day we drove down the coast past dramatic views of the sort featured in car commercials to Redwoods National Park, which is really a series of state and national parks south of Crescent City. The main attraction here are the freaskishly large trees, prehistoric looking ferns, misty walks, etc. I kept wondering when the Ewoks were going to pop up.

Our first stop was the Trees of Mystery, which is probably the most famous cheesy tourist trap attraction in the area. You can’t miss it; it’s the one with the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox out front. Besides the gift shop, the main attraction is an “interpretive trail” with various big trees and other wooded novelties, and a “sky trail”/gondola ride up to the top of the ridge.  I remember stopping at this place a dozen years ago and skipping the trail, but it was surprisingly worth the price of admission.  And they have a cool collection of Native American stuff in there too.  And we bought Paul Bunyan/Babe the Blue Ox salt and pepper shakers.

The main attraction/destination in the park was Fern Canyon, which is this extremely beautiful, steep, and (relatively) remote canyon/valley/gully on the ocean side of the forest.  It’s lined with ferns and other stunning plants and views. Remember some of those scenes in Jurassic Park? They filmed some of that there. I was originally hoping we could hike into it from the road, but besides getting there kind of late, I didn’t realize how long that would have been (10 miles round trip) and we were of course not prepared for that. So we did what we did a dozen years ago and drove in on this access road. I use “road” loosely; rugged and kinda scary wide trail might be more like it. Besides the hairy turns and twists up and down the ridge to get to the beach, we had to drive through three streams, two of which were at least a foot deep. Oh, and these are all normal conditions.

It was all worth it, though as the pictures and a chunk of the video I posted on Flickr indicates, our shoes got soaked. There is no path into the canyon per se; you walk in and around the shallow stream that carved out this canyon in the first place. It’s not all wet and at most, it’s ankle deep, but that’s deeper than ideal, especially when lacking a change of shoes (note to self: if we return to this area, bring some day hiking equipment, and bring a change of shoes, ideally something like Teva sandals). We found out later that in the summer, they put in a number of wooden bridges in places to make it easier and dryer. Once again, thwarted by someplace a little too early in the year.

Oh, another feature of this part of the park: elk, huge ones, just hanging around along the beach and near the campgrounds.  Annette thought they behaved more like cattle than deer, just eating and then looking up at us as we drove by.

We stayed that night at a place in Klamath, a town that is really little more than a post office, gas station, tribal headquarters, and our motel. The next day, I went across the street to a junky little laundramat with the goal of drying out Will’s shoes, which were his only pair and really REALLY wet.  There I struck up a conversation with an old toothless man who was in there doing his laundry about all sorts of things.  I could only understand about every fourth word– the toothless part probably didn’t help.  Anyway, to make a long story short, he suggested a different route for our drive back to Sacramento than the one I was planning, and my sense is that he gave us a good tip.  We stopped in Eureka and ate fancy pizza, drove along much of the “Avenue of Giants” and saw even more big-assed trees, etc.  Nice, but I think I preferred the Redwood National Park area…

Stayed in a kinda crappy hotel in Sacramento, got on the plane, got home.  Ta-da.

It was a great great trip in so many ways.  If I had to pick out one thing, I guess I’d have to say it was the Oregon Shakespeare production of Hamlet— it was really good. But really, it was all beautiful and fun.  I would make this trip again and again.

Though I have to say that in the end, I have no regrets about moving away.  Just as we were pulling out of the hotel parking lot in Ashland, we struck up a conversation with a couple of old ladies about how we were on this trip because we had lived here a dozen years before.  “And you left?!” they asked, horrified.  I remember getting that  quite a bit when we moved from Ashland– how could you leave such a beautiful place? Well, there are a lot of beautiful places, really.  Don’t get me wrong– Ashland and the whole area is really wonderful and I certainly want to go back again– but sometimes folks can be, well, a little full of themselves.  Remember that episode of South Park where everyone in San Francisco smells their own farts? Sometimes, it’s a little like that.  Actually, Ann Arbor is a little like that too, but I digress…

Anyway, vacation’s over.  House cleaning and rearranging on the agenda, not to mention taming the overgrown yard and garden. School starts again Monday.  Back to work.

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