Friday, July 27, 2012

Road Trip-Behind the Redwood Curtain-Part 1

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. I think the fog makes my photo look like a painting.

The redwood curtain is what they call the redwood thick highways that lead up to and border the very Northern part of California and separate it from the rest of the state. This area is a true dichotomy, a mix a liberal hippies and loggers. We just returned from our yearly trek up to the top of California, to Humboldt County about 300 miles north of San Francisco. My husband Max grew up in Trinidad, a beautiful small beach town up there. His step-mom Marguerite, lives in the college town Arcata and his mother in the Victorian lined and hilly Eureka, both in Humboldt. We stayed there and met up with his sister Amara, from Washington. It's a long 7 hour drive above the Bay Area, but so gorgeous. Each time I go, I appreciate even more the beauty of this very unique area. Funny though, how most Californians have not been up to Humboldt. Ask anyone and they know where it is, but it's the rare person who has actually been up here.

Since the drive is a bit of a haul, I try to find unique spots to stop at on the way up. Heading out you know it's going to be a nice day when you cross the bridge and the fog's burning off.

My latest find is the town of Ukiah. It's about at the half-way point of the drive. They have a bakery I am in love with. Schat's is a treasure! It's been run by a Dutch family that has been in the bread business a long time. They have the most fresh and amazing sandwiches. I had a caesar salad wrap- yum. Also they make artisanal breads (amazing!), baked goods and Peet's coffee. Get off at the Perkins Street exit in Ukiah off 101 and follow the signs to downtown. If you head up that way on a Saturday check out the darling farmer's market, The Mendocino Bookstore and a cool shop called Habitat.

Driving up 101 you pass through wine country (that's a whole post itself), and hit the rolling foothills covered in oak trees. That's the beginning of the North Coast Redwoods and the towns of Willits, Laytonville, Garberville and others. It gets a little funkier and you start seeing lots of shops like this...

All your tie dye needs can be met up this way :)   In Laytonville.

  This is also where you start to see lots of, "indoor gardening," and solar stores and the beginning of hitchhikers! Yep, they are still around all over up here. One scruffy group of hitchers had a heart on their cardboard sign that read, "We don't bite!" OMG! I just wish I had the camera for that. My boys were like,"What??"

 The whole thing brings me back to my childhood days driving to Santa Cruz with hitchhikers all over highway 17.  I am here to report the 1970s are still alive and thriving up in the North Coast! That is not an exaggeration. Folks are still embracing peace, love and the braless look up there big time too. Not that I was looking, but you know sometimes it's like you just can't help noticing how umm, natural everyone is up here. It's a bit different....People we have left the bubble!

Trinidad, Max's hometown, is an historic whaling port. We always make a trek and hike around the village, it's beach and port and the trails off the ocean. This visit I was keen to check out this organic cafe that opened across the street from my husband's old grammar school, The Beachcomber Cafe

It's a groovy spot opened by three gals that serves organic and all local produce. Lovely scones, muffins and homemade granola and so much more are served here! No paper cups to go here for their fantastic coffee, but you can buy a jam jar for $1 that you can return later. I love that! Locals also have a wall for their running tabs. Live music was happening on Sunday morning. It's a very unique and fun stop. Don't miss this in Trinidad. You can wander around this village, it's trails, the beaches and the seaport. Some snaps below.

A trail along Trinidad State Beach above. 

Can you believe my husband grew up across the street from this beach? This was his view out the living room window. He says he didn't appreciate how cool it was to watch whales from his windows all the time!

Walking toward the port -and below the port and it's sailboats. Below the port.

 Last summer my boys went to surf camp at Moonstone Beach. It is also in Trinidad and a great beach to learn at because of it's shallow entry. The only thing is you'll need to wear a full wet suit. Even in summer!

Past Trinidad, about a half hour North is Fern Canyon, part of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. On this trail, you follow a stream for about a mile over footbridges and logs. The walls all around you are up to 80 feet high with ferns and waterfalls. This is where Jurassic Park 2 was filmed. It's truly one of the gems of Northern Cal and possibly the world. I don't know of anyplace remotely like this. These pictures just don't do it justice. It's hard to see the waterfalls in them.

Following the creek...and crossing the footbridges they put out in summer.

Guess I should have packed more snacks... I don't think redwood sorrel counts as a vegetable!

It's so wet here people do their graffiti on moss!
Do you know that redwood is so resistant to rot that a downed redwood tree can survive hundreds of years on the forest floor and may even sprout new trees? Really!

About ten minutes away from Fern Canyon is Lady Bird Johnson Grove, an old growth redwood forest. It undoubtedly has some of the oldest trees on earth here. Redwoods shoot up and do most of their growth in the first 100-200 years. Then they drop their lower branches. After 1000 years they begin to expand their width. You can see from the sizes of these trees they are VERY old.

The hike here is about a mile total flat, but you are at 1200 feet up. You literally feel like you are in the clouds. These trees are awe-inspiring. You cannot see the tops of them. When they get high enough they form a canopy or some call it a cathedral sort of grove. Lady Bird Grove has one of these. Unfortunately my Nikon battery was dead! All my photos are from the iPhone. Not too bad though..

You can see the massive size of these trees standing next to them...

And looking up! Can you believe this was a phone camera? Very foggy that day.

Some hijinks with Max's sister Amara and her husband Brian!

We found hobbits too!

My husband could not resist!

Our crew..

And Max's step-mom Marguerite and her son Patrick.

The forest here is filled with wild roses and rhododendrons!

Next up, I'll show you the rest of the trip! 

I just love sharing this very undiscovered part of Northern California!


All photos Northern California Style. 


  1. This really reminds me of the lushness of new Zealand. And good to know about the bakery in Ukiah - is that where they speak their own language?

  2. Wow, so beautiful! Looks like you all had fun! We visited Muir Woods when we were there last month. I can't believe how old, huge and majestic those redwood trees are! Just amazing!

  3. What an amazing hiking trip! Great photos and thanks for sharing!

  4. What a heavenly post, I haven't been there since I was 13, next time we're over I think I'll follow your trail here.

  5. Gorgeous! On a solo road trip to Washington state a gazillion years ago, I fearlessly pulled off the road, and drove right into the redwoods by Lady Bird's grove as darkness grew, and slept in my car, waking up at dawn to beautiful soft forest sounds and a site just like your first picture. Heaven! I haven't seen or thought about hitch-hikers in ages - I remember when they were everywhere and it was safe to pick them up! I'd never do any of this now, but, oh, the halcyon times of innocence. Lovely pics and information, as usual!

  6. Fern canyon looks ahhhmazing! It's beautiful. I would love to do a hike along the water like this.

  7. Your photos of the majestic redwoods are so beautiful! I am dying to get up there.
    If you and your husband haven't already read "The Wild Trees", you might want to check it out- all about the redwoods and those brave (crazy??!) souls that climb and actually measure them.

  8. Thanks for dropping in, joining up and introducing me to your lovely blog. Fantastic trip report , the canyon look absolutely enchanting, I am making notes for my next trip.