U.S. Route 101 is the longest highway of any kind in California. The section of U.S. 101 running from the Golden Gate Bridge up into the North Coast region of the state is referred to as the Redwood Highway - - - and for good reason. We traveled the Redwood Highway in a hurry on our way to Bandon, Oregon; but we saw enough to peak our interest and spend more time on the road trip back to San Francisco.
The highway skirts along the edge of the Pacific in the southwestern corner of Oregon. Scenic overlooks along the highway provided dramatic views of the crashing surf, highlighted by sunlight as it broke through the clouds. It was hard to keep driving down the road without pulling over every few miles.
Redwood Scenic Parkway & Avenue of the Giants
U.S. 101 takes you through redwood forests close enough to hit the car’s rear view mirrors against the trees. We elected to take two side trips off of the highway to gain a deeper appreciation of these gentle giants. The map pointed out sections of the old U.S. 101 route that provided miles of driving underneath the canopy of trees that reach 380 feet in height over a life span up to 1,800 years.
Note proximity of tree to the roadway.
Jim standing alongside redwood tree (get the perspective?)
Redwood Scenic Parkway
Julie standing inside hollowed out redwood tree.
Sometimes life can deal you a bad hand. That fact was born out by a redwood tree standing adjacent to the Ancient Redwoods Resort in Redcrest. It is known as the “Immortal Tree”. I guess any 950-year old tree that has survived a logger’s axe, forest fire, flood and a lightening strike that took 50-feet off of it’s top has justifiably earned the name. It is ironic that a sign posted in front of the tree warns visitors not to climb it!
Immortal Tree: 950-year old, 248 feet tall, 14.5 feet diameter trunk
February was not the best time to visit a site featuring lush ferns, but we could not resist taking a dirt road off of the Redwood Scenic Parkway to the primeval park used in filming of the Jurassic Park movie. The road back to Fern Canyon reminded me of logging trails I traveled in British Columbia to visit John Deere customers (log skidders, not agricultural tractors!). I was close; Julie read that it was the original trail used to bring supplies to miners.
Path leading into Fern Canyon
Ferns growing on the side of a tree
The Redwood Highway has posted signs warning drivers of elk crossing the roadway. We did not see any on the trip to Bandon. On our return trip we even drove by “Elk Meadow”, a place where one might expect to see elk given such a name - - - we did not. Our luck changed as we approached the dirt road to Fern Canyon. A small herd was helping to maintain a home owner’s front lawn. I was able to get some good pictures from the safety of the car’s front seat; some folks chose to ignore warning signs as they approached the elk on foot to take their pictures.
Elk viewing just ahead 1/2 mile!
Motorists stopping to take pictures of the elk
Note the large elk inside his fenced yard
One of the brochures we picked up mentioned the Victorian village of Ferndale as a must-see attraction in northern California. The 15-mile trip off of U.S. 101 was not worth the effort from our viewpoint. During our hotel stay in Eureka, the desk clerk mentioned an area of town known for it’s Victorian architecture. A 5-minute detour down M Street brought us to the world famous Carson Mansion, an 1886 “wooden fairytale castle” that epitomizes the height of Victorian gingerbread architecture. It is reported that lumber baron William Carson built the mansion using as much wood decoration as possible in order to provide work for his employees during an economic depression. The mansion is impeccably maintained by it’s current owner, a private men’s club (Ingomar Club). While reading about the Carson Mansion I came across a new word that could test spelling bee contestants: “phantasmagorically”. I'm not sure how to say it and I would never be able to spell it without a dictionary.
Directly across the street sits a 2nd Victorian house built by William & Sarah Carson in 1889. The house is known as the “Pink Lady” due to it’s pink & white exterior color; it was a wedding present to their son, John Carson.
Rental Car Agreements
I mentioned earlier that our rental car agreements on the Hawaiian islands restricted us from traveling on certain roads. We borrowed a car from Jill & Matt for the road trip to Bandon - - - with no restrictions. They probably did not think a golfing trip would involve off-road driving.
Road back to Fern Canyon
Road back to Fern Canyon
The "Shrine" drive-thru tree in Myers Flat, CA
The "Chandler Tree" in Leggett, CA
We did spend more time with the grandkids in San Francisco on our way home from Hawaii. Where else can one find such help tying your shoelaces in the morning???
One helper per shoe!
Layla on the deck in San Francisco
Max at the Lincoln Park playground
Our visit had us wondering if we should buy them a new wooden playhouse - made from redwood of course!
2-story playhouse carved from one hollow redwood tree trunk
At the last minute we changed our return flight home from San Francisco. Instead of taking a direct flight to Chicago and driving to Bettendorf we flew through Denver to arrive back in Moline. After boarding the plane to Denver, Julie looked up and recognized my sister Jean walking down the aisle way. She was on her way back to Iowa CIty after visiting her daughter Elizabeth in Eugene, Oregon. We spent some time together in the Denver airport where we realized we were carrying identical computer bags. Apparently, Jean inherited the Prada bag purchased in China by our Mom when she visited Julie & I in 1998. My sister Jo Ann accompanied Mom on the trip - - - so maybe she is also traveling around with a 15-year old Prada bag. (Note: Julie suspects these bags are not the same as Prada bags purchased from a store in the USA since we did buy them in Beijing’s “Silk Alley” market. I know the price was much lower or my Mom would certainly have never bought one!)
Jean, Flat Stanley & Jim holding their Prada bags in the Denver airport