Back at the turn of the century — I’m practicing using this phrase to encourage Maggie’s future mastery of The Eye Roll — I filled out an application to work at St. Mary, The Resort at Glacier, and in fact got the job and had just as much fun driving across the country with my best friend as I did working across the country with my best friend. Rocketing through the seemingly endless expanses of North Dakota’s I-94, my brain wandered across the globe, pulling up photographs and possible job opportunities in New Zealand, Patagonia, and Thailand – all corners of the globe I wanted to see.
All corners of the globe I still want to see.
That job on the border of Glacier National Park reset my compass, and although I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia, and later returned to the South for a law degree, I’ve never really left Montana, in all that leaving entails, since those early days in St. Mary. In fact, I’d never even gone further west than Spokane, Washington, until I became engaged to Honeydew and flew to California to meet his beekeeping family and learn about almond pollination.
So when I was weighing the pros and cons of accompanying Honeydew for the entire almond pollination/queen rearing season in California, a definite pro for me was Redding’s centrality to other areas of California I really wanted to see, including the Redwoods and the Pacific Ocean. Once we got all the bees safely ensconced in the orchards, Honeydew, Maggie Rose and I took off to see those mighty trees.
We drove California’s Highway 36 from Redding to Fortuna, a narrow, twisting strip of pavement that rollercoasters its way through the mountains to the coast, and is sorely in need of guard rails. But my mouth fell open from the beauty of 36 as often as it did from fear – there are places in Humboldt County where the Mad River runs in that shade of turquoise that I previously thought belonged only to Glacier’s high mountain lakes and perhaps Anguilla’s shores. Wow.
We stopped in Fortuna for a great meal at the Eel River Brewery, the first brewery in the nation certified as “organic.” I wasn’t particularly impressed with the “organic-ness” or not of the beer, but the seafood salad was killer and the patio seating looked like a real treat on a warm day. Driving south from Fortuna, we cruised onto a state park scenic byway and saw truly massive redwoods for the first time – wow.
That is a stump, y’all.
Some of the Redwoods are older than the Roman Empire would be if it were still around and we were more than suitably impressed! Redwoods are mighty hard to photograph, but I hope these pictures will amuse Maggie Rose when she is older.
Pulling into Eureka, I finally got that view of the Pacific Ocean I’d been waiting for. It was worth it!
What are these gorgeous yellow and red flowers?
We spent the night at the Eureka Inn, which is steeped in history and claims to have recently been renovated – that, my friends, is a pack of lies. It is still very much in the process of being renovated and I have never stayed in a more expensive dump. And I am not one to turn my nose up at a Super 8, either. Do yourselves a favor and stay at the Best Western Plus in downtown Eureka.
We wanted to stay the night in Eureka because Honeydew’s favorite beer, Great White, is produced here by the Lost Coast Brewery. The big plus to the otherwise disappointing Eureka Inn was its proximity to the brewery, so around 5pm we threw on our rain jackets, tucked Maggie Rose securely into Honeydew’s jacket, and trotted off. The food was average, the beer was exceptional, and we loved the 10 Samplers for 12 Dollars tray!
Next morning, we sampled the famed Crab Cakes Benedict at Gill’s By the Bay, which lived up to their fame, and having taken in our allotted calories for the week, we headed north for hiking in Redwood National Park. As it turns out, the “National Park” is really a string of state parks and other protected areas along California’s Lost Coast, and so I never really got that pristine, uninhabited national-park-feeling, but that is not to say that the scenery is anything less than spectacular, or that we had anything less than a blast exploring all the pockets of fairyland trees, deserted, rocky coast, and Roosevelt elk habitat.
Look at those trees!
While in the National Park, we stumbled across an eight mile dirt road to Gold Bluff Beach – Honeydew and I rarely feel more at home together than driving down a dirt road, so we detoured and were thrilled that we did. Driving through 8 miles of ancient, dripping Redwoods, springing out from each other, dancing together in fairy rings, supporting the growth of more types of ferns and mosses than I ever dreamed existed — the word lush took on a new meaning for us. And then. Then we arrived at Gold Bluff Beach and felt like the only people on earth. The elk had recently visited the beach, but we saw not another soul as Maggie Rose tasted sand for the first time.
Just like the beach of my youth: Myrtle.
Gold Bluff Beach, you are in my heart. I will come again.
We returned to Redding via Hwy 299, which is not quite as car-sickness-inducing as Hwy 36, but is nearly as beautiful. It follows the Trinity River for much of the way, and I am itching to raft that gorgeous river in the spring. We stopped in Weaverville for dinner at La Grange and it was perfect – not particularly fancy, but excellent food. That’s the way I like it. Especially with a 9 month old in tow!
And that was our trip to the Lost Coast. I think I am on the cusp of a major love affair with Northern California.
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