Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ukiah, CA

Today we saw the redwoods and they were amazing. You can see from this photo how huge they are. The tree in the photo is probably about 1000 years old, and still going strong.

We started out in Crescent City and drove south. We first passed a state park with redwoods in it. We also saw some elk! No kidding! They were right by the side of the road, eating the leaves of a tree.

Then we got to the National Redwoods Park. The visitor center was right on the beach. Here's a sign we saw:

I find the phrase "sneaker wave" funny. It sounds like it's a wave that takes your sneakers away. Jim said that no, actually what it does is it takes you away, and your sneakers stay safe on the shoreline. :)

Taking care to avoid sneaker waves, or anything else that would separate us from our sneakers, we took a short, easy hike at the "Lady Bird Johnson Grove." Apparently, Lady Bird Johnson walked into the redwood forest in the 1960's as a way to encourage the federal government to protect them by purchasing the land and turning it into a federal park. I saw the photo of her. She was wearing a nice, beige-colored 1960's suit, with matching hat. She was not exactly a hard-core hiker. :) So it was a pretty easy hike. There was another hike, in which you went down 800 feet over 1 mile into a grove. I was thinking I wanted to do that, since that's where the tallest trees are, but then Jim explained that 800 feet is the equivalent of an 80-story building, and doing it in a mile is pretty strenuous. Plus, all Jim had were his boat shoes. I'm very glad we did the LBJ hike instead.

We saw some pretty amazing trees. Here is Jim between two of them. The trunks were so thick, I couldn't even get both of them in the photo:

In addition to these amazing trees everywhere, there were also wild pink rhododendrons, and other beautiful trees and flowers. The air was fresh and cool. We spent about 2 hours in the park and then kept driving south.

So far, we have been on Route 101 through California. But we finally got to the start of Rt. 1, which hugs the coast of California. Jim thinks it's listed in that book as one of the 1000 things to do before you die. I don't remember if it is. Anyway, we have always wanted to drive it, so we decided to get on it and see what it was like. But in order to get to the coast, we have to cross some mountains first. They were crazy. Before the fun started, we saw a sign that said that the road was going to be twisty for the next 22 miles. Well, they weren't kidding. Both of us were getting car sick due to the number of twists and turns our car had to take over the course of about an hour to get to the coast. (Jim said, "Just tell me if you have to biff and I'll pull over" ... he's got such a way with words). And all the way along, we saw redwoods everywhere. Not quite as big as the ones we saw on our hike, but impressive nonetheless.

We finally made it to the coast, which was pretty twisty too. It was on a cliff which in parts dropped straight into the sea, and there were few guard rails. Pretty crazy. Unfortunately, the view was about similar to yesterday - it was all fogged over.

We drove on Rt. 1 for about an hour, but started getting worried about finding a gas station, ATM or hotel for the night, all of which we needed. We stopped off in the town of Fort Bragg, which had all of the above, along with a great ice cream parlor called Cowlicks. :) (We needed some ice cream to settle our stomachs after that nutso drive!). Jim thought Fort Bragg was a big army base, but it wasn't. There must be another Ft. Bragg somewhere out there.

At this point, we decided to turn back inland and get back onto Rt. 101. We had another twisty-turny ride back over the mountains (not as bad as last time). Then we stopped at the first town, which is Ukiah, where we're at tonight. It is just north of Santa Rosa, Napa Valley, etc. We were shocked to see that the sun was out and it was 70 degrees! Wow. So I think we're going to stay on Rt. 101 for a while. We had dinner at the Ukiah Brewing Company, which had all sorts of vegetarian food. After going through the midwest, it's nice to find a brewery that doesn't put bacon bits in its salads!

We have decided to head straight down the coast now. We were going to see Sequoia Park and Yosemite and Death Valley. They're quite far away, and we've had such bad luck with the weather that we decided that we'd do better with the coast and the cities. Tomorrow we will see San Francisco, which is supposedly two hours from here. The next day, we'll drive to Los Angeles, and then we'll drive to San Diego, where we'll spend the last two nights.

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