At the beach near Ft. Bragg, just north of Mendocino, California, Mr. H pulled into a cove and attempted a swim.
Even in late summer the water was numbingly cold. We discovered – later – that water temperatures run about 53º F here, even in the summer!
The shock didn’t deter Mr. H. from his road trip goal, though. He was determined to find at least one swimming hole in each state along our route. We kept swimsuits and towels in the back seat for just that purpose and, even though we were headed north, we’d keep trying.
The next stop was classic Americana, as we made our way to the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California. This famous drive-through tree is one of only a few still standing.
In the early 1900s several giant redwood trees were carved out to entice tourists.
The most famous was Wawona, a huge sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park. There, an existing fire scar was expanded in the base of the tree in 1881. Wawona was a popular site for road trip photos until it fell during a snowstorm in 1969.
We made a couple of passes through the Chandelier Tree. Coast sequoias live for 1,200 to 2,200 years, making them among the oldest living things on earth.
Their majesty is best experienced on the 31-mile stretch of Highway 101 known as the Avenue of the Giants.
We stopped at the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, too, and I made myself at home in the two-story tree house carved into another sequoia.
Our hotel for the night was the Benbow Historic Inn, nestled into the Redwood Coast. (Special thanks to Rochelle Agers-Tannehill, Event Coordinator at the Benbow, for this lovely shot of the Tudor style exterior.
The hotel opened in 1926 and is listed on the National Register of Historic places.
The hotel is currently undergoing extensive renovations, but both before and after, the charm and attention to detail is evident in each room and public space. And of course, the location is perfect.
The hotel was designed by architect Albert Farr, who had built Jack London’s home, The Wolf House. (I love a good literary connection!) The tudor style architecture and unexpected style in the middle of the redwood forest attracted Hollywood Golden-age stars like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracey, as well as dignitaries that included Eleanor Roosevelt and Lord Halifax. For a time it was the only full-service, four diamond hotel in Northern California.
I imagined our Venice Fade wallpaper in Vivaldi on the walls of our room – the soft colors would be perfect!
One unique amenity is the option for “forest bathing,” a scientifically proven practice that improves physical, mental and emotional health. It’s based on the Japanese art of Shinrin-Yoku and is truly a beautiful thing. Research shows it can lower heart rates, increase attentiveness, improve sleep quality and moods. Some call forest bathing the new yoga…and standing or sitting under peaceful, 2,000-year-old redwoods automatically creates a meditative state.
After a walk in the woods, and a relaxed and satisfying breakfast at Benbow we headed north on the 101 to Ferndale, a Victorian era village featuring spectacular architecture and plenty of unique shopping.
Shopping spots to consider? Chapman’s Bookery – which features a “blind date with a book” option, as well as original paintings, hard to find first editions and a few high quality guitars.
And don’t forget a stop at Sweetness & Light for handmade chocolates and espresso drinks.
Well fortified, we headed to Oregon. The terrain changed almost immediately as we crossed the state line. More rustic, less pristine, more rough edges, and yes, miles of Pacific Northwest forests.
Our first Oregon stop was Crater Lake, with its impossibly blue waters.
Created when a violent volcano caused a peak to collapse almost 8,000 years ago (and witnessed by Native Americans living in the area at the time), the lake is the deepest in America and one of the most pure bodies of water on earth. It’s fed by snow and rain.
Travel tip: check the National Park Service webcam before you go. Sometimes the view is lost in cloud cover.
The park – and sadly, much of the area we visited – is now also the site of numerous regional wildfires. It’s becoming increasingly important to check fire status and air quality before planning a trip. Importantly – follow all fire safety regulations when visiting the area.
From Crater Lake we headed to Bend, Oregon, a vibrant town with a definite Pacific Northwest vibe.
Noisy mobile pubs are a fun attraction. Up to 12 people pedal furiously while being captained by a driver, and served by a bartender. There’s usually loud music with a strong backbeat, and shouts of laughter, especially as the pub rounds a corner!
We settled in for a late lunch at Drake, on one of Bend’s historic corners. The place is part eclectic bistro, part neighborhood cafe and the food is creative and delicious. I loved the mushrooms (try the Sawtooth Toast or the Roasted Artichoke and Mushroom salad).
Mr. H told the waiter that his steak was the best he’d had in 40 states — and as we returned from a last wander through downtown Bend, we laughed at the change to the restaurant’s outdoor blackboard.
From there we headed to The Dalles, another area recently hit hard by wildfires.
Areas of blackened landscape are evident, but pristine views still exist.
Sunshine in the gorge means warmer water temperatures, and Mr. H was finally able to get in a river.
The Dalles boasts almost 300 days of sunshine a year – sadly, however, many of them are now smoke-filled.
The Dalles was, historically, the place on the Oregon Trail where pioneers loaded their wagons onto barges for the final sail to Portland. Now there are wineries and local eateries in a charming downtown area.
We detoured west to Historic Route 30 for another small-road drive, and it didn’t disappoint.
First stop, Multnomah Falls.
There are about a dozen waterfalls along the loop and while we didn’t take them all in, we stopped whenever we felt a need for fresh Pacific Coast air and a short walk.
The views along route 30 are breathtaking, with stunning heights, dramatic curves…
…and small, unexpected sites along the way.
Now, that’s a classic road trip drive.
Join us next week when we visit Wyoming and Utah.