Serendipity on the north coast

This morning, with a prediction of snow coming, I decided to make tracks as far up the coast as I could before it hit. When we left Arcata, it was cold and partly sunny. I couldn’t find a dog park or a dog beach for Max so I was hoping we could have some free time among the redwoods.

Not far north on Highway 101, I noticed Clam Beach – didn’t I read that it was an off-leash dog beach? I took the exit and drove to the parking area. Dogs Must Be On Leash at All Times. Oh well… back to the highway.

Meanwhile, every up down and around led us into and out of Tsunami Hazard areas:

Here’s what the sign looks like. Every time I saw one, I thought of what it would be like to try to outrun a tsunami on these winding roads with no way out.

About 1-1/2 hours into the trip, I saw a sign for Klamath Beach and took the exit. The beach was less than a mile from the exit – I could see it from the little road we were on, but couldn’t get to it. Another sign said something like “4 mile coast drive,” and I decided to take it, figuring it was a loop back to where we started.
We started uphill, with the beach below us on the right. At the top, there was a turnout with an informational plaque, and a breathtaking plunge if you went over the edge! We continued on, and almost immediately the road went from paved to gravel, single lane, winding high above the Pacific.

There was just me and this one guy on a motorcycle, and he passed us when we stopped at the first overlook.

The view from the high gravel road by Klamath Beach.

There was a Land Rover parked on the cliff side of the road not far from where I took this photo – its driver sitting in a camp chair, reading in the warm sun.

And yet another view… down over the cliff.

This is the serendipity of the day. If I didn’t turn off to go to Klamath Beach we never would have ended up on that beautiful road above the Pacific. It turned out to be one of the best drives we’ve encountered, and it was totally by chance.

Compared to the twisting roads through the mountains that I described in the last couple of posts, this one had the potential to be even scarier. It was narrower, gravel, no guard rails, and no speed limit signs. The difference, was that there was no other traffic in either direction. While I felt some fear about that steep drop-off down to the rocks and surf, somehow the beauty of the moment outweighed the fear. I was meandering along a gorgeous deserted road, with nothing bu the sun above and the Pacific below. My good companion was with me – trusting, as always, that I would keep him safe, and I was happy to be alive.

I was correct – the road circled around to the beginning. As we headed back toward the 101, I stopped at a small campground that was closed for the winter. We walked down their driveway and played ball in a big open field next to the river before continuing on north.

The 101 continued its winding, twisting, ups and downs along the coast – not much different from the past couple of days – with occasional stands of redwoods to knock my breath away. When we reached Crescent City, I noticed a dog playing loose on the beach and did a quick U-turn so we could run around.

Across the street, was this art gallery:

This art gallery consisted of lots of quirky sculptural heads, figures, and who knows what inside two storage containers.

We had a great time playing on the beach; there were a few hardy folks surfing, and the sun was still shining:

Look at that beautiful body! Max found a great piece of driftwood which totally trumped the ball we had been playing with.

A happy boy at the beach…

I love being able to let him run free. He’s becoming more confident; staying with me and not running off.

Crescent City didn’t live up to its name – I’ve always loved towns with interesting names and want to visit all of them, but this town didn’t hold much appeal for me. In fairness, I have to admit that a cold, gray, overcast day doesn’t do much for most places, so maybe Crescent City has redeeming qualities I missed in my haste to get out of town!

I needed to make a decision: Oregon coastal route north? Or Grants Pass and the valley? With snow and winter weather advisories issued for the entire state, it seemed like I should get through the mountains into the valley before it hit – and my favorite hotel (La Quinta) was available in Grants Pass.

We turned onto 199 and headed for Grants Pass.

Along the way, we drove through the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods, and once again I felt like a Lilliputian plunked down in the forest. The road wound along the Smith River, which was a gorgeous deep blue-green today, with white water rapids in the gorge far below the road.

And the redwoods. Oh those trees. They were so gigantic, so stately, so… awe inspiring. I found that after a while the trees seemed “normal.” Not so big after all. Until. Another car. Came in the other direction. And then those trees stretched to the heavens. These little toy cars – were they really the same size as Tumbleweed? – gave the scale necessary to jolt my heart, make my eyes tear up, and my mouth form the words again and again: “Oh. My. God.”

I saw a sign for She She’s. “Hamburgers, fries, shakes. Remember the 60s.” I wanted them. I wanted to stop at She She’s – wherever the hell it was. So, when we came to it, it was closed…

I wish it had been open. I bet the food would be good…

I loved today’s drive – all of it – the coast, the serendipity, the redwoods. When we got to Grants Pass, I was really surprised at how large it is. What was I thinking? That it would be like it was a hundred or more years ago? The good news about the size of the city is this: Tumbleweed needed an oil change and we went to a Super Wal-Mart (thanks to the iPhone for finding it for me!). Max and I walked around while they took care of the car, and I made a reservation at the La Quinta for tonight and tomorrow night – we’re hoping to ride out the snow in a cozy place…

It will be the first snow since Santa Fe  – when was that anyway??

Oh, I lightened our load today. As I was driving to the grocery store to get some “grub,” I spotted a mailing center. When we were done at the grocery store, I went back and shipped the bedroll, sleeping pad, pillow and blankets home. They took up a lot of bulky space in the back of the car, and we sure won’t be camping on this trip after all. Not to mention, they created this niggling guilt – why wasn’t I camping?

So baggage released – guilt assuaged – I left the mailing center with a lighter step. Now, if only I could return the Honda tent…


About Maureen Farr

I am a graphic and web designer – and the publisher of the print version of Arts Guide, a free guide highlighting the arts, dining, events, and more on the coast of Maine. In addition, I am a visual artist working in mixed media and encaustic, as well as creating found object jewelry. I am currently at work revising a short novel that I wrote as a participant in the 32nd Annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
This entry was posted in California, California Coast, California Redwoods, Eating out on a road trip, Musings, On the Road, Oregon, Oregon coast, Puppy antics, Random thoughts, Redwoods, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Serendipity on the north coast

  1. Gandalf says:

    I don’t think you’ve explained adequately yet why you ditched Vanessa for Jack . . and how and exactly what that meant. Also, what were those strings or wires or whatever draped over the quirky sculptures . . .

  2. Maureen Farr says:

    Vanessa was difficult to understand – giving me directions too late to turn, or directions I didn’t understand. she needed a break! The strings are clothesline weight rope that is being used like tiedowns.

  3. Marilyn Wheeler says:

    You’ve likely started your Element tent to its new owner by mentioning its availibility!
    Loved your version of Vanessa bailing on you.
    And I so enjoy your blog – with pictures – you are so positive about (almost?) everything! I caught up with you after you had spoken with my friend’s brother in Florida (we’re all Mainahs) and am gradually filling in the bit I missed. Thanks for a happy read every day or so.

  4. Suzanne Gibson says:

    Hi Maureen & Max! If you change your mind about the coastal route, I could recommend the drive from Lincoln Beach, & Lincoln City and up to Portland. It’s is a georgeous ride and Max could run the beach at Lincoln City and Seaside. Your pictures are beautiful!!!


  5. sarah doremus says:

    WOW Mo, Beautiful, I love those giant heads. Cool. Just got the blog, replaced my computer and was without for awhile so enjoying reading back blogs. sarah

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