California Dreaming

005. Redwood Highway south of Cresent CityOn Monday it was our last full day in Oregon, and only because we were having a day off in Brookings.  Being a rest day we had a leisurely breakfast, a lazy morning, a slow amble into town and some beer tasting at Chetco Brewing which we stumbled upon before ending the day with a roaring campfire.  There were a lot of other cyclists at the Harris Beach State Park all heading south and as we’d heard the next campsite (Mill Creek in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park) had a small hiker/biker area we were away nice and early.  Pretty quickly we were in California, our third and final state in our fourth and final country on our nine-month cycle trip.

We’d only ridden a few hundred meters in California before we gave up with the official Pacific coast cycle route.  Here the route seems to just follow Highway 101 rather than any other parallel road, whereas we’d spotted Ocean View Drive and rode along enjoying a much emptier road.  The 50km to Crescent City were unlike anything we’d ridden before in the USA.  Instead of misty sea views or forestry plantations we were now riding through farmland with cows for company and it could have been mistaken for the UK.  Thanks to the amazing tailwind we were in Crescent City in no time at all, after which there was a dramatic change in the landscape.

After leaving Crescent City the road veered upwards into redwood country and vast trees provided much needed shade as we climbed to over 300m.  We weren’t 100% sure where we were going to camp that evening.  We’d read that Mill Creek campground wasn’t very nice and the prospect of descending 170m down a dead end road to reach the campground didn’t appeal too much either.  Pushing on to Elk Prairie campground in Prairie Creek State Park appealed even less and so we dropped down to Mill Creek, which turned out to be the right decision.  The campsite was nestled amongst redwoods and as we had the hiker/biker site to ourselves it was really peaceful and we found enough firewood to keep us going all evening.  These redwoods may not be the largest, but we were still very impressed.

We woke up on Wednesday morning and it was cold.  When I rode to Greece in August 2014 I took a pair of shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt for evening wear, whereas here I need full length trousers and am often wearing my lightweight down jacket.  Anyway, the climb back up to the highway quickly warmed us up.  We then descended towards False Klamath and saw an incredible layer of fog hovering over the Pacific Ocean for as far as the eye could see.  It was the kind of view one normally gets from an aeroplane.  And then we dropped into the fog, so back on went the arm warmers and gilet.  We stopped at the café at the Trees of Mystery for a bad coffee and an awful tea, but it at least allowed Philippa to warm up a bit.  We came away with a deck of cards so we can play spite with two decks!

The final 10km were along the Newton B Drury Parkway, which was beautiful.  Philippa said it was like a movie set or something out of Disneyworld.  Everywhere we looked there were trees majestically raising up as far as the eye could see.  This must have been what Tolkien had in mind when he dreamt up ents.  We spent that evening at the Elk Prairie campground.  For once we weren’t pitched in amongst trees but had an open vista and the chance to see the stars and moon.  It wasn’t until that evening that I’ve realised I’ve missed seeing the night sky.  Normally when camping I’ll know what phase the moon is in, but in North America that hasn’t been the case because I’ve hardly seen the moon.  From our campsite we could watch two adult elk lock antlers in a fight which carried on after we’d gone to bed, the sound of their battle carrying across the prairie to our tent.

At 6.30am on Thursday morning we were shrouded in mist, but by 7.30am the sun was beating it away and by the time we’d left the campsite it was toasty warm.  Half a kilometer from the campsite we stopped to put on our gilets and arm warmers as we’d ridden into fog.  We’d read the ride from Elk Prairie to south of Trinidad was spectacular, especially along the unofficial Pacific Coast bike route that follows Patricks Point Drive.  However, we will never know because we were in fog for the whole time.  Normally the fog lifts in the afternoon, but not today.  We even spent an hour eating lunch in Trinidad in the hope it would clear.  (I was definitely the one with food envy today as my steamed clams, whilst tasty, weren’t a match on Philippa’s fries, the clam chowder in bread bowls or soups & sandwiches I later spotted.)  On the plus side the fog in California is warmer than the Oregon variety!

From Trinidad we followed the dilapidated Scenic (and with the mist atmospheric) Drive, occasionally catching glimpses of cute little coves that were shrouded in mist, before picking up the amazing Clam Beach Road and Hammond Trail.  Again we’ve no idea why this isn’t part of the official Pacific Coast bike cycle.  For the most part the Hammond Trail is a sealed, traffic free, cyclepath.  We both rode along with massive smiles before riding through bicycle friendly Arcata.  We’re currently being hosted just south of Arcata and tomorrow we’ll cycle along the Avenue of the Giants, before having a day off at Burlington in order to explore the redwoods.

To Mill Creek

To ElkTo Bayshore

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