Tuesday, July 29, 2014
After my morning walk it was time to get on the road again. Yesterday’s drive had turned into a mad dash through late night coastal fog in order to get to our hotel. I was hoping to avoid that this time. Little did I know we had an even more extreme adventure ahead.
We drove through the coastal town of Fort Bragg, stopping briefly for more coffee. There is something about these coastal climes that calls out for caffeine. I can see how Starbucks got its start in Seattle, and why there is an espresso stand on every corner.
As for the town itself, Laura admitted to some confusion. She thought there was a large military base around here. I told her I didn’t think so, that there was one in Fort Bragg, NC, and that this one was a historical fort. Turns out I was correct.
We continued on up the coast out of town on Highway 1. We reached Ten Mile River and the fog was still off the coast, so we decided to walk on the beach a bit. Just past the river was a great beach access at Seaside Creek, so we parked and walked on down.
There were some wonderful tide pools. Laura enjoyed picking up sand dollars (coins, really) and looking at the various organisms in the pools. I loved the rock formations and enjoyed taking a few photos. There were a couple of large rocks with natural tunnels and arches.
I decided to shoot a bit of video. Here’s a short clip:
I could have stayed here for hours. The fog, however, like the tide was relentless, and we needed to be on our way. The road ascended and started climbing along the coastal cliffs. We stopped at the occasional viewpoint.
Highway 1 turns east and begins to ascend the coastal range. As we drove we could see that the trees were getting much larger. We were in the Redwoods coastal zone. The road zigzagged up and over the range, descended to an intersection with Highway 101 at the town of Leggett. Here Coast Highway 1 ends.
Legget itself was pretty much a ghost town, with a few struggling tourist endeavors. Its biggest claim to fame, though was the Chandelier Redwood, one of the infamous “drive through” trees. Despite warnings from Laura’s cousin Bill, we decided we would check it out.
There were several cars in line at the ticket booth, but we turned in anyway. The price was only $5, so we decided to go for it. The lady in the booth said that it was exceptionally crowded, and that there was a line. We didn’t think it would be a problem.
Turns out it was incredibly slow. We would inch forward a bit as the next car pulled into the tree. Of course, everyone had to pose for selfies outside of the tree, inside the tree, and on the other side of the tree. It was a long process, even without the long line of cars.
The folks in front of us would stop, hop out of their car, then light up a smoke. One of the women would adjust various bits of clothing in clear view. It was quite the show. And that wasn’t a good thing.
Soon we were approaching the tree. The large truck two in front of us was too large to get through. It had to back out and go around to the side. The small car in front of us went through, then it was our turn.
I was a bit worried that the Mustang would be too wide. It was a tight fit, but we made it through. We didn’t pause for selfies like everyone else, but I did have the GoPro going. Here’s the video:
Of course, any tourist trap worth its salt would have a gift shop. This one was no different. There were quite a few tacky items. We managed to escape without buying anything. Even the Sasquatch refrigerator magnets escaped our shopping bag.
One thing we noticed – it had gotten hot – really hot. The car thermometer was topping out near 98º. Add to that the fact that we were hungry. This place didn’t appeal to us as far as a picnic was concerned, so we went in search of something else.
At this point we were on Highway 101 headed north. The Chandelier Tree wasn’t the only tourist trap in the area. It seemed that every campground and/or general store had its own “world famous” tree. Soon, though the tourist junk thinned out and the road began to twist next to a beautiful creek. There were several large groves of trees along the road, and we found one that suited our purposes.
I don’t know what it is about wanting to walk or drive through a tree. In this grove there were two passageways carved through different trees. Fortunately these weren’t whole redwoods, but trees that had been topped out. What we were lacking were picnic tables. We found a large fallen redwood that would serve just as well.
The shade of the trees was nice, but it was still hot. Highway 101 veered too far from the coast for our tastes, so we wanted to find a way back west. Here we found ourselves on an absolutely amazing trek. More on that in the next post.