When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
--William Least Heat Moon
July 19 - California arrival, introduced to redwoods by driving through the lovely Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, rejoining the Pacific Coast Highway 101 for ocean viewing at Crescent City (rocky shores, big rocks, beautiful open sea), and lunch at the farmers market. South of Crescent City we veered off 101 onto the Enderts Beach Road to the Crescent City Overlook for another grand view of the Pacific. We’d hoped to hike a trail down to the beach below but the trail was closed due to a landslide so we reconnected with 101 and continued south to town of Klamath for the night. After dinner we drove out to the Klamath River Overlook near the mouth of the Klamath River to view our last Pacific Ocean sunset. As sunsets go it was a bit subtle given the cloud front across the horizon, but hey, it’s a Pacific sunset so all is good. And if you look hard due west you see Japan.
July 20 – Before leaving the Klamath area to head back east, we must get a real fix of giant redwood trees on this brief visit. Leaving highway 101 we take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway that goes through the center of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. If you have limited time to view the big trees this drive offers great opportunities. There are many short to medium length trails off the road that let you touch the magnificent trees and reflect that humans should respect the timelessness of nature. As the automobile and new highways brought more tourists to this region in the early 1920, the history of logging the west obscured how much of the original old growth redwoods were already harvested. A factoid here: By the end of the 20th Century 95% of the trees within the original two-million acre range would be cut down. (info credit to Redwood National and State Parks).
One stop in the park is the Big Tree Wayside…the home of The Big Tree. This tree is over 20 feet in diameter and nearly 300 feet tall! Certainly a “big tree” by any definition. Another highlight is driving out the Cal-Barrel road, a narrow gravel road that prohibits trailers and RVs with good reason as there is not much room in the driving area as you can reach out and touch the trees as you drive by if you choose. It gives you the feeling of driving deep into the forest while being just a short distance from the highway. After rejoining 101 we drive by the edge of the Redwoods National Park. Given our timetable we could not go into the Park, but our big tree fix was satisfied.
Turning back toward the coast on 101 the drive went through several unique towns on the way to Fortuna, CA to connect with CA 36 to begin the SW travel across the state to Reno, NV. As it turns out this drive was an unexpected treat, twisting and turning along the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, offering more views of tall, dense redwoods. Plus there was a bright blue sky up there creating pleasing dappled sunlight rays coming through the trees…something that we missed back the Klamath area. Then the elevation rose as we drove through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, again a twisty, up-and-down drive with a few stops for construction, but a marvelous 2-lane highway experience. One wonders how the people who first came west through this area without benefit of roads.
The afternoon of twisted driving took about four hours to cross over half of north central California leading to the night’s stop at Mineral, CA. (pop. 123 @2010). The primary activity in this spot along CA 36 is the Lassen Mineral Lodge, our home for the night. The marvelous throwback to travel back in the day promotes itself as offering “Motel, Restaurant, General Store, RV Park, Camping, Saloon, and Gifts & Souvenirs” – the ultimate one-stop shopping. The room was, as they called it, “not fancy” but it provided comfortable sleep; the restaurant was outstanding, offering as good as a combination of great food at reasonable cost and value as we’ve seen on this trip. Breakfast was a wonderful follow up meal to get the next day going.
July 21- When I looked at the CA map to plan the drive on one last two-lane road on this grand adventure I noticed the Lassen Volcanic National Park right along the route we’d be taking. The stop in Mineral for the night left us with just a 20-minute drive the to the park entrance and this was one last wonderful surprise on the trip.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was created via a series of violent eruptions to Lassen Peak (10457 ft.), the last occurring between 1914 and 1921. The largest occurred on May 22, 1915 and was recorded in a series of incredible photographs by Benjamin Loomis. Every rock in the Park originated from volcanoes and according to the National Park Service, Lassen is the only place that all four types of volcanoes (shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome) are found. Too much science for me, but the landscape is beautiful. There are many locations to see steam escaping from the ground (with the accompanying smells of sulfur…not quite as pervasive as Yellowstone, but impressive nonetheless. And do they get lots of snow here, upwards of 50 feet in some places. The road was closed at one point so we couldn’t drive completely through the park as well as seeing several interesting trails still blocked by snow. They say mid-August is the best deal in access to all areas of the park. But we didn’t feel cheated as this was an unexpected side trip and Lassen Volcanic National Park has moved into the hopefully “return” list along with Crater Lake.
After a few hours in the bright blue sky and sunshine at Lassen it was time (unfortunately) to head through Susanville, CA on the way to Reno, NV that is our stop for the night. This day ended the 2-lane adventure part of this trip that began back in Michigan on July 1st.
July 22 – Most of the day spent driving from Reno, NV to Park City, UT… this begins the Peddle-To-The-Metal Bat-Out-Of-Hell flat line on I-80 back to Michigan. As time permits in the next few days I’ll be posting more pics from the trip in the Gallery of the site, with occasional posts on Instagram and Facebook. There’s a contact form on the blog site so I’d appreciate any comments on my notes from the road.