When you hit the northernmost part of California your drive becomes all about the redwood trees – nature’s true giants. They can be taller than the Statue of Liberty and larger around than a Greyhound bus. I guess outside of the random dinosaur, they are the largest living thing on earth. So we skipped Oceanworld in order to get to the Trees of Mystery just outside of Crescent City, before it closed. It just sounded too cool to miss- something Clark Griswold would be proud to visit. A jolly Paul Bunyan greeted and joked with visitors at the entrance and for $15/pp we strolled through a forest, road a “Sky Tram” to an incredible vista, hiked a steep trail back to the base and roamed around the Trail of Tall Tales where we heard the story of Paul Bunyan and his friends.
It wasn’t at all cheesy if you do the hike and appreciate your scenery.
The mile decline through a moist dirt path, shaded over by those thousand-year-old redwoods was certainly more fun than walking the asphalt trail at Zion NP. It was also one of the few times we got some real exercise. At this point I would have given anything to get my ass out of the passenger seat.
Not for your average RVer, the hike was downright treacherous in spots. For the less adventurous you could opt to ride the Sky Tram back down but then, yeah, kinda cheesy.
Sage whined a bit and wanted us to carry her (no way) but the exercise tuckered the pup and her in a good way.
We finished by sundown, famished. Ryan was ready for a more substantial meal after our night of quesadillas so we stumbled into the Sea Grill in Eureka. Quite the find! The prices were reasonable, the plate large and the food, which comes with the salad bar, especially yummy. The only thing that wasn’t the bomb was the dessert. The bourbon pecan torte was like a plain brick of dark chocolate.
We thought about spending the night in Eureka but moved on to nearby Fortuna for fear of our lives. Eureka is not the cleanest or most livable city in Northern Cali. Not sure why but we felt like we were driving through a depressed inner city instead of this gateway to majestic redwoods.
In the morning we packed it up and made out for the Avenue of the Giants. More redwoods. It seems the Trees of Mystery were just a warm up. The scenic byway (SR 254) is the actual old route for US 101 until it was realigned. It runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park for about 30 miles with numerous spots to pull out for minihikes (one to three miles). The place is so magical. It’s even included in the book, “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”. And George Lucas used it as the backdrop for the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi. They shot from the back of a truck to get the side views of the speeder bikes racing through the trees.
There are visitor centers, kitschy shops selling Bigfoot “artifacts”, a couple of cafes and two chances to drive through your own tree. The Immortal Tree was a testament in fortitude. Lightening, floods and chopping have failed to bring it down. But, for the most part, you get miles and miles of nothing but massive mounds of bark and branches, and campers pulling to one side or other to take photos posing next to mossy tree roots the size of my house.
The locals recommended the Avenue Café for lunch and without breakfast we were ready for a stellar meal….after we drove through a redwood tree. Up until now we were driving through redwoods. Now, we were going to drive through a redwood tree. Even Ryan was getting into our summer vacation. We did two laps through the Shrine Tree! Talk about stretching our $6.
The Shrine Tree. The white mark above the opening is where the flood waters came up to in 1964. The flood basically wiped out anything that the flood of 1955 didn’t take care of. Today the Eel River was far from flooding. In fact, it looked like half of it had dried up.
Lunch hit the spot but the service was excruciatingly slow- especially when you’re anxious to get back on the road and out of the forest. Redwoods are definitely impressive but after hours of nothing but these towering towers of timber even a state treasure gets old. Next up, the California Coast!