Northern California Coast

Eureka to Fort Bragg (15) We have been here in the fog, but even so, the town of Eureka seems rather drab.  There are a lot of interesting people walking around, people who look like they have been in the same mode since the 60’s. Last night we decided to take an evening tour of the local co-op.  North Coast Co-op has a huge mural on the street side facade, and is bigger than most major grocery stores.  I love natural food stores, and while it wasn’t Trader Joe’s, it was bigger than some and filled with amazing stuff.  Mo is at a loss in this environment, so I walked around explaining some of the lingo to her and some of the reasons for buying this or that instead of the everyday brands you get in a regular grocery store. 

The produce was fantastic, and if our refrigerator wasn’t full I would have hauled tons of colorful stuff home.  We can’t eat enough to support all the temptations so gorgeously displayed. We managed to get out of the store with some great looking green tea from China and two bottles of “Our Daily Red”, an organic red table wine with no sulfites.  Keeps the migraines away for me.  I love a good red wine, but will certainly settle for a daily red glass of this good stuff full of antioxidants and other good things.  It was a fun way to spend a dark rainy evening in Eureka.

Eureka to Fort BraggToday we are going to try out the Samoa Cookhouse, the last surviving lumber camp style cookhouse in the west, built in 1893.  The meals are all served family style and breakfast today will be French toast, sausage, and who knows what else.  There is a lumberjack museum with the cookhouse that should be entertaining.  Another treat will be breakfast company, with some soil scientist friends of mine located at the Arcata Soil Survey Office who have agreed to meet us there this morning.  Looking forward to it.


Eureka to Fort Bragg (6) Our breakfast was wonderful, and visiting with Sue Azman made it even more so.  I’m not sure if Mo enjoyed all the soil survey talk as much as I did, but we all had a good time talking about kayaking the coast.  Sue is an avid sea kayaker and we had fun talking kayaks and possible trips.  Back to camp in plenty of time to button up and we actually left the park at 12:01.  Gas in Eureka was a whopping 3.35 per gallon, and we knew that in Fort Bragg it was only 2.99, so we only put 50 bucks in the MoHo to get us on down the road.  Again, our travel day was a short 130 miles or so.  BUT!  What a trip it was!!


Eureka to Fort Bragg (30) We traveled south on 101 for some distance before turning off on the alternate highway that travels 32 miles through the redwoods, called the Avenue of the Giants.  It was a leisurely, meandering drive through huge trees and narrow roads, but with no traffic at all.  Stopping at several of the auto tour sites for photos, and some short walks in the forest was refreshing.  Once more, Abby wasn’t welcome on the trails, even on a leash, so Mo stayed in the MoHo so I could walk through the forest a bit and take pictures.  I had been enjoying the subtle light on a pale yellow vine that seemed to be in many of the trees and wanted to photograph it.  Closer inspection revealed the bane of my California soil survey life, poison oak!  It was creeping at least 40 feet high into the trees, and covering the forest floor, mixed with the ferns and oxalis.  Poison oak is ubiquitous in the Mother Lode where I worked, but I had no idea it was so prevalent in this high precipitation redwood forest.  Ugh!  I am extremely allergic and had to do a couple of hospital visits while working in California.  It was one of the main reasons I was so glad to finally retire and get back home to Oregon.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (86) At the terminus of the Avenue of the Giants, it wasn’t far to our turn west from 101 to Fort Bragg. Although Highway 1 is famous as one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country, this part of “one” crossed the last of the coastal ranges via an incredibly curvy and steep road before arriving at the ocean cliffs a few miles north of Fort Bragg.  I think this may have been the curviest road we have driven in the MoHo, and I’m glad Mo was the one doing the driving.  Jeremy wasn’t too happy about the curves either, and he insisted on riding on the dash board, twisting and turning and trying to get comfortable.  I tend to get car sick when it’s bad like this, but on this trip I remembered to bring my “sea bands”, wrist bands with knobs that create pressure on meridian points on the wrist.  I was starting to get queasy when I put them on, and was afraid they wouldn’t work, but they did!  Amazing little tool, these wrist bands.  On the way down the hill we saw a flare and then a rolled over car with several people trying to turn it back upright.  It all seemed a bit strange because there must have been eight people there and only 2 cars, the rollover and another car.  Hmmm.  Which car had that many people in it?  They all looked a bit sheepish, and a bit strange.  We didn’t stop.

Eureka to Fort Bragg (94) At the bottom of the hill, a pickup in front of us pulled over and a poor girl jumped out and got sick right there.  I realized then that I wasn’t sick at all!  Not a bit.  Thank you wrist bands!  The last few miles of the route followed curving cliffs along the Pacific.  The fog had lifted, and the clouds were heavy but not raining.  On the horizon of the ocean, the light caught in a brilliant band among all the grays of sky and water.

We arrived at the Pomo RV Park and Campground around 4:30, and settled in to our very private, very quiet spot at the upper end of the campground.  Here again we have good TV, good Wi-Fi, and power and water.  All this excitement for a whopping 40. per night!  No discounts here except Good Sam, which we don’t have.  This park is also on the Camp Club USA list, but there are so many restrictions that we probably won’t manage a visit here when we could get a discount.  Camping sites on this part of the coast are few and far between, and most consist of a parking lot surrounded by ugly stuff.  Even the state parks are all 35 per night and don’t have the amenities.  Tomorrow we will drive around a bit and see what is here.  The prediction is for hard rain tonight and tomorrow but sun on Monday.  Perfect!  We can check everything out and plan for another kayak adventure Monday morning.  Again, we are staying 3 nights.  First night to settle in, then two days to explore before we move on to the next horizon. 

Of course I took a gazillion photos, and even managed to delete a good number of them.  You can see them linked here.

Kayaking Humboldt Bay

Eureka fog (6) 

I think we would have traveled to the California coast for this trip even if we didn’t have new kayaks.  It’s a beautiful place when the fog isn’t hanging around.  Fall is usually the prettiest time of year with cooling temperatures inland creating conditions that keep the coastal fog at a minimum.  Everyone here knows that when it’s hot inland it will be foggy at the coast.  Right now there is a high pressure system inland.  Guess what.  It’s foggy.

We woke this morning hoping for a bit of a break, but it wasn’t to be.  Today was even foggier than yesterday without  even that small afternoon sun break coming through to light things up a bit. The tides were with us today, however, and we didn’t want to miss the noontime high tide.  Hookton Slough is just a few miles south of Eureka where we are parked, and we checked out the launch site when we first got here on Wednesday.  The dock is built to adjust to tide depth, with easy access even at low tide.  It makes it a bit less likely that we would get stranded out on a mud flat somewhere when the tide receded.

Eureka fog (8)

This morning we realized that in our five years of kayaking, we have never attempted a dock entry to our boats.  Who knows why, I guess because we never really needed to try it.  Today was it, there was no other way to get in the boats since the edge of the slough was rocky and descended abruptly to deep water.  Either way it would be a deep water entry.  We unloaded the boats…soooo dang light….. and dropped them into the water along the dock.  With life jackets on we gingerly knelt on the dock and into the boats.  Easy.  Experienced kayakers will laugh at this, I am sure, but it still was something new for us.  It felt great to be in the boat in the water though, once there everything felt just fine.

Eureka fog (16) 

The bay was fogged in, the estuary was fogged in, but the tide was plus eight feet!  One of the highest tides in a very long time according to some local folks at the launch. It made for a very easy kayak along the south part of South Bay, and we traveled about 3 miles west to the edge of the bay.  We could hear the ocean again, but this time there was no breach and the bay was quiet.  By the time we got back to the launch site, the tide was receding but still was plenty high.  We were out a bit less than three hours and during that whole time the fog never really lifted.

Eureka fog (24) 

We didn’t see any river otters, although there is a family of three living near where we boated.  We did see lots of shore birds, blue herons, white herons, a great egret (black legs), huge flocks of cormorants and geese, brown pelicans, and of course, lots of seagulls.  With the dark and the fog, my zoomed in bird photos didn’t turn out too well, but it was still great getting out on the water.  Of course, the fog and cold day made for incredible silence and beauty. It was just us and the birds out there on the water.  Beautiful.

There are more photos for our days in Eureka linked here, here, and here.

Foggy Days in Eureka

Eureka fog (4) Early this morning we woke to see the park lights muted by fog.  As the light came slowly, the fog didn’t lift at all.  Kayaking anywhere around Humboldt Bay requires working with the tides, and high tide was coming in today around 11am.  If we were to get out on the water and back without getting stranded on a mudflat, we needed to be out by 10 at the latest.  At ten, the fog was a thick as ever.  I know we could have gone anyway, but somehow boating unknown waters when you can’t see anything anyway isn’t very enticing.  On to Plan B.


We got a great free publication from the RV manager called  “101 Things to Do Humboldt”. The best part for us was the centerfold map of Humboldt Bay with all the boat launching sites and descriptions of kayaking options.  Still, in the fog, the description of nearby Ferndale sounded much more inviting.  Visiting Ferndale is like visiting the past.  The entire Main Street has been designated a national Register Historic District due to the finely preserved commercial and residential buildings.  Rich bottom land and plentiful grass supports a still thriving dairy industry, which has sustained the community since the late 1800’s.  The ornate “Painted Ladies” were once called “Butterfat Palaces”. 

11_04_20101 There is a fascinating mix of shops, including a real drugstore, the oldest continuously operating drugstore in California. We ambled through town, taking our time looking at “stuff”, some of it beautiful art, and some of it just a bunch of “stuff”.  The only temptation for me came with the yarn shop.  Knitters know that this hobby isn’t about knitting as much as it is about yarn!  I managed to get out of there without buying a gorgeous hank of hand dyed mohair that really called to me.  I have two bins of “stash” including some truly gorgeous wool, silk, mohair, and other amazing yarns, so I practiced self-control and didn’t buy any.

Ferndale (13) In another specialty shop, the owner spent some time laughing with us about how hard it is to decorate a very tall tree when you are very short, and then proceeded to give us the history of the store.  Almost every single shopkeeper asked us from where we hailed.  It was leisurely and fun and I only spent a small amount on a bottle of yummy orange blossom hand lotion. 

Ferndale (34) After wandering the downtown area, we ambled up the hill to the cemetery, one of the most amazing cemeteries I have seen since New Orleans.  It’s on a hill overlooking the town and some of the plots date back to the 1890’s.  The view toward the ocean overlooking the town was beautiful.

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By this time, Abby had been waiting in the car long enough so we decided to drive west to the Centerville beach area.  With the fog lifting a bit, we thought a bit about trying to put the boats in the slough, but the tide was already going out and our timing would be off.  The trip out to the beach meanders along a small road that passes dairies and farmhouses, even a very old abandoned Victorian is total disrepair, a perfect haunted house. 

The beach was open and empty, no other cars or people in sight, and the wind wasn’t blowing hard either, just a nice ocean breeze.  The sun lifted a bit and we got in a great beach walk, which Abby loved as well.  Back to the car, the narrow road led up the hill into nowhere, so of course we had to go check it out.  On the GPS I could see we were near the ocean, but the little car icon was cruising through no man’s land, no road supposedly there at all.  Google Maps on the phone could see some semblance of road, but of course reception was spotty or non existent. 

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We traveled on anyway, up and down and around, until we came upon a BLM parking area and a sign for the Guthrie Creek Trailhead.  Yay!  Abby could go with us, and there wasn’t a soul in sight, and no cars parked at the trailhead.  It seems now that with a couple of pricey kayaks on the top of the car we are a bit reluctant to leave it parked in the middle of nowhere.  We figured we were safe enough here, and headed down the trail.  Sure enough, as soon as we set out a man appeared coming up the trail.  We couldn’t figure out where he came from, but he was nice and we visited a bit while he told us he was “camping” on some property he had nearby.  Hmmm.  At least he didn’t have a car to carry off the boats!  We have a bolt cutter proof bike cable and plan to at least lock the two boats together on the racks so someone would have a heck of a time getting them down.

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The trail was perfect, not too steep, wide and mowed with beautiful views of the ocean and Guthrie Creek below us. The fog was coming in again and the wind was pretty stiff once beyond the protection of the hills at the view overlook area, so we turned back.  It would be good hike to go all the way down to the beach.  Again, with the high surf and sneaker waves around we thought it might not be a day to actually go down to the closed in beach.

Ferndale (78) We topped off the afternoon with a side trip to the Loleta Cheese Factory.  In Oregon, Tillamook cheese is quite famous, and they have tours of the factory and cheese tasting.  Oregon also has Bandon cheese, in my opinion, even better than Tillamook.  The Loleta Cheese Factory was a real treat, different in that much more of the cheese making process here is by hand.  It is a small, family run business that produces medal winning cheeses and 34 varieties made in small batches using traditional recipes to maintain the old flavors.  I didn’t know until today that the kind of cheese depends on the culture added when the cheese is first made.

Our side trip to taste cheese and watch it made seemed like a great thing to do in an area that owed it’s history and economy to the dairy industry. We arrived late in the afternoon and the cheese makers were just emptying the last vat of cheese, but the young woman at the counter explained the whole process to us while we snacked on tiny tidbits of the tastiest cheese I have tried yet.  Especially wonderful was the organic all natural white cheddar, aged about a year and a half so far, with no hormones or antibiotics fed to the cows.  It turned out to be a lovely day seeing new things and new places.

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Lake Talawa and the coast at Crescent City

Lake Tawala-1 Today was the day!  We did a bit of internet searching last night to check local tides and possible put-in sites for a trip on an inland lake north of Crescent City.  On Google Maps, the two lakes looked accessible but sometimes it’s hard to find a launch site where there is a lot of private land surrounding the lake or where there are wildlife refuges.  Lake Talawa and Lake Earl have both. 

I found an old website for a kayaking group that is no longer active, but they decided to keep the site up so people could use the information.  I’m sure glad they did!  We drove north around Earl Lake wandering off towards the west until we came to an extensive area of old roads that weren’t maintained any longer.  According to the web site, there was a subdivision planned here that never made it.  The roads were cracked and full of potholes, and as we approached the lake it was apparent that we were the only people around for miles. 

Lake Tawala-4 Another possible deterrent could be that the lake was too low and too muddy to launch there.  Instead, we found tules and sedges, with ground underfoot that was firm enough to support not only us, but the Tracker.  We parked just feet from the water and launched effortlessly.

With a new boat it is always a bit thrilling to try it for the first time.  This boat is so stable and comfortable there wasn’t a moment of wobble or concern. It felt great.  Surprisingly, the cockpit is really quite big and the boat is about as wide as my old boat.  The keel seems smoother, but Mo didn’t think they tracked any better than our old less expensive boats.  However, lifting them to the racks is the deciding factor here, not speed or agility.  We aren’t racers at all, and just want to get around easily, have a boat that tracks well, and is roomy and comfortable, and we can lift overhead without groaning.  Check on all counts!

Lake Tawala-8I it was still quite foggy, with only filtered sun coming through so the landscape all around us looked surreal.  I knew the lake shape from the phone  and could see where we were on the lake, but the distances and the changes in water levels made for some interesting moments.  Accompanying our paddle was the incredible sound of huge crashing surf just beyond the dunes.  With the fog it was hard to discern just where we were, and thinking we were at the dunes I checked on the iPhone to find we were still in the middle of the lake with some islands that didn’t show up on Google Earth. 

Lake Tawala-15 We paddled on to the ever increasing crash of the surf, and I wondered if the lake was perhaps breaching the dunes as it sometimes does when the water is high.  Suddenly we were surrounded by white floating sea foam that looked for all the world like small icebergs.  As we approached the beach we could see really huge waves that were breaking over the dunes and felt the surges of the incoming water.  The tide was supposed to be receding and this definitely wasn’t feeling like receding at all!  I read something on the weather page last night about a huge ocean swell that was coming this direction, with high surf warnings and waves to 25 feet.  Sure made me nervous to see that water cresting over the dunes toward me!  I turned and ran and Mo laughed at me, but we felt the swell again and didn’t have to paddle much at all to go back inland fairly quickly.

On the way back to our launch site we saw some otters playing, and a huge flock of snow geese flew overhead.  We saw a lot of blue and white herons along the marshy shores.  In the fog, everything looked much bigger and yet farther away than it actually was.  There was no way to get a feel for where we were at all.  I was really glad for the IPhone GPS and map, believe me!

BigSwell-1 Once back to the car, we loaded up effortlessly, excited about how easy our maiden voyage was.  We decided to go back toward Crescent City and explore the other side of the lakes toward the ocean along Pebble Beach Road.  Once we got there, we could see a lot of viewing activity along the headlands, with cars parked and people hiking out to high places and watching the surf.  Once we did the same we discovered why.  The waves were HUGE.  It is impossible to take any kind of photos that actually show the scale of these waves coming into the shore.  There are headlands and sea stacks in this vicinity that are at least 100 feet high and the waves were breaking completely over them.  The waves were at least 30 feet tall, and breaking very far out from shore.  There were all kinds of warnings out about staying away from the breakwater and not turning your back on the ocean, se we paid attention to all that and stayed up high. 

It was truly exciting. The power of the ocean is so huge, and sometimes with just normal waves it is easy to forget how she can be in a storm.  The part that was even more amazing is that there was no storm going on here at all, in fact there wasn’t even any wind.  What an exciting thing to see.  Mo lived on the ocean near Half Moon Bay for more than 30 years and I spent a considerable amount of time at the ocean as well.  Neither of us have ever seen waves like those we saw today.

As always, there are many more photos on my Picasa website for this day linked here.


Our new kayaks are delivered!

Home to Crescent City (13)  I was so impatient to get on the road today, that I could barely sit still.  We were supposed to meet the trucker delivering our boats at exit 33 in Medford between 11 to 12 AM, and Mo didn’t really want to get there too early and have to sit around waiting. The weather was perfect, in the high 40’s, no frost, and clear sunny skies.  Our pass to Medford over Highway 140 had some remnants of snow at the summit, but the pavement was bare and dry with hardly any traffic. 

The driver was tremendously accommodating and agreed to meet us in Medford by changing his route to I-5 instead of Highway 97 through Klamath Falls.  It was perfect timing for us.  We arrived in Medford to find him waiting patiently at the Pilot station,   having arrived at 6AM!.  He Home to Crescent City (9)delivers high end boats all over the country, and his rig was loaded up with 60 foot racing rowers and some kayaks made in China and Peru.  Our kayaks were bundled up in bubble wrap and plastic, and after many thank you’s and hand shaking, we transferred them to the baby car top rack, tied them down, and headed west. 

The biggest reason for buying new boats had to do with weight.  I couldn’t believe it when the driver and I hoisted that boat to the top of the rack.  I could have done it one handed!  Our older boats weighed about 49 pounds and the new ones top out at a featherweight 34 pounds of Kevlar-Fusion.  It is amazing what a difference 15 pounds can make!

Home to Crescent City (11)We continued our route north on I-5, grateful that we didn’t have to stay on that busy highway, and turned west at Grants Pass.  One thing about living in this part of Oregon is that there are just a few ways to the coast, and none of them really is a direct route.  Highway 199, west and south of Grants Pass meanders though the beautiful Illinois Valley, through Cave Junction and then along the magnificent Smith River to the coast.  Mo had a condo in Brookings for several years and we were used to driving this road, but I forgot how beautiful it can be.  The fall colors were magnificent with brilliant yellow and gold big leaf maples lighting up the dark green forest.  Here and there are some red trees, but most of the native trees are shades of brilliant yellow.  It isn’t east coast, of course, but it is still breathtaking.  We took turns driving so we each could enjoy the views.  Once we reached the Smith River the road narrows and follows the high gorge of the river.  “Road Narrows” is a big joke to us.  It’s a repeated refrain along this part of the coast.  On a very narrow winding road, that is already quite narrow, appear signs that say “Road Narrows”.  We are never quite sure how a paved major highway with two lanes can get more narrow!

HomeAtHiouchi (13)The distance from home to our first park was a measly 146 miles.  After our usual 300 mile plus days last trip, it felt as though we arrived almost too quickly. We are staying at the Hiouchi RV Resort in Hiouchi, California, about 10 miles east of Crescent City on Highway 199.  Just down the road is the magnificent Jedediah Smith State Park and the Stout Grove of giant redwoods.  The resort allows Camp Club USA discounts only in the months of October, November, April, and May, for seven nights maximum.  It is a really lovely park, especially here on the north end along the creek where it doesn’t feel anything at all like a typical park.  We have space and privacy, with our own little bubbling creek outside the door, a clean cement pad with a nice picnic table, big trees for shade, ferns and ivy for landscaping.  We have excellent WiFi, full TV cable service, water, electric and sewer for just fifteen bucks.  No taxes, no other fees.  I guess there is a bit of traffic noise from Highway 199 on the eastern edge of the park, but it’s not really obtrusive. 

Sligar_Swift_Adirondack 11-1-2010 2-01-38 PMWe arrived before 2 in the afternoon, and settled in to our site, made some snacks and opened a bottle of wine before taking the kayaks down and unwrapping them.  It was an exciting moment, marred just a little bit by a couple of flaws in my boat that I didn’t expect.  I immediately emailed the owner of Swift Kayak in Gravenhurst.  I have no idea what the result will be.  Hopefully the rim that is cracked slightly can be replaced, and he will let me know how to go about it. 

Once the boats were again loaded up on top of the Tracker, we headed in to Crescent City to find an old restaurant on the Citizen Dock where Mo had dinner with her brother and his wife.  She remembered it being at the end of a pier with lots of barking sea lions to accompany a decent fish supper. We drove all around the harbor, but the restaurant never appeared.  It turned out to be a good thing, though, because the place where we had dinner was fabulous.  The Northwest Inn is next to a motel and is a place we would have never stopped if we hadn’t read a little blurb in the RV Park map about the fabulous fish served there.

The restaurant isn’t pretentious at all, with a rustic, but comfortable decor and casual staff.  The fish, however, was fabulous.  Mo had fresh sole done up in butter and I had fresh snapper stuffed with crab and shrimp served over an amazingly well sauced pasta.  It was rich without being heavy at all, and the fish was fresh and sweet. 

The drive back to camp went quickly, in spite of the curves.  The road between Hiouchi and Crescent City curves through the thickly forested state park, with huge trees right next to the pavement.  It’s a beautiful road, and each time we pass through we are enthralled.