Monday, March 1, 2010

Avenue of the Giants

3570 - 3815 (13965 - 14210)

Today was a grand journey through the truly awe-inspiring redwoods of Northern California.

I followed Route 1 out of Fort Bragg, following the coast before getting on Route 101 in pursuit of the massive conifers. I got a kick out of this sign as I left Fort Bragg; it seemed like I had been on narrow winding roads the last several days (and this was nothing compared to the winding 99 miles on Idaho's Route 12 following the Lewis and Clark Trail early in TEA).

The views along the coast continued to be wonderful. Route 1 then swung inland (the coast here is called the Lost Coast accordingly). The redwoods began to abound where Route 1 reconnected with Route 101.

I felt absolutely compelled to drive through a tree. Early Redwood promoters tunneled through the base of select giants, charging tourists for the privilege of making the twenty foot journey from one side of a tree to the other without having to go around it. Today environmentalists have made sure that there will be no new drive-thru trees, so the remaining three are tenaciously preserved for exploitation.

Leggett's Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree was typical. You pay your money, drive over a mile on a bumpy road just to get to it, pass through in a couple of seconds, take a photo, and visit the TaT shop. And that is just what I did!

Superlatives abound when trying to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. I took this photo from the CRV with another car parked ahead to give you an idea as to the scope of the redwoods. The tree density was amazing all along The Avenue Of The Giants , which runs alongside Route 101 (also called The Redwood Highway) . Travelling the Avenue of the Giants was an awe-inspiring 31 miles through the fog shrouded, mystical beauty of the wilderness. But not without some ticky-tacky tourist traps along the way.

In Piercy, the World Famous Tree House is a hollow rotted lower portion of a still-living giant redwood that also holds the title "the World's Tallest Single Room." An appliance bulb suspended from a wire has glowed at the top of the room for over forty years, to the ooohs and aaahs of visitors. But not this visitor. It was not open.

Phillipsville's Famous One Log House, in case you haven't already guessed, is a giant redwood log that's been hollowed out and furnished with a secondhand bedroom set. Since it's mounted on wheels, Famous One Log RV might be a more appropriate title. It was locked.

In Phillipsville was also the Chimney Tree, which was very similar to the World Famous Tree House, except it's missing the little appliance bulb. It too was closed (at least the obligitory TaT shop), but at least I could go in.

Next to the Chimney Tree is Hobbiton, USA, which I was really looking forward to seeing. It was supposed to be a hillside nature walk that winds past concrete recreations of scenes from Tolkien`s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But it was in total disrepair; maybe the scenes are dismantled in the off season. Anyway, not a hairy footed hobbit in sight.

I did enjoy this meandering horse who crossed the road in front of me, totally unconcerned. Evidently he was after the apples. Turned out to foreshadow a later scrape with nature I would have.

I took advantage of no one being around at the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat (meaning I did not pay) to get one more photo op. This tree is different in that it's opening is natural.

If this touristy stuff is sounding sad, it is because it was. Yet it was also a truly magnificent experience to slowly drive this road, seeing these 2,000-year old giants. I reveled in the amazing beauty of these natural wonders. It was truly an invigorating experience for the soul and mind.

Route 101 took me back to the coast and to Eureka, California. I was drawn to the Lost Coast Brewery, as I had heard about their Great White Beer and wanted to give it a try. It's a white beer, meaning it's a wheat beer made Belgian-style, adding flavorings, and nearly white in color. Too much citrus added in this one, I guess. Bummer. Cool label, though.

Across the street from the brewery was this theatre. Glen Campbell was performing there later in the week. Wow. "By The Time I Get To Eureka" does not have quite the same ring as By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Be Gentle On My Mind, Rhinestone Cowboy.

In McKinleyville I found the World's Tallest Totem Pole, 160 feet. It was behind a Safeway. What would a day be without another "World's Largest...?"

Turns out nearly half of the remaining old growth redwoods are in Redwood National Park, Some of these giants are 35 stories tall (that's five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty), and some have been around since the birth of Christ.

My drive through the park was interrupted by these magnificent Roosevelt elk crossing the highway. Turns out I was at the aptly named Elk Meadow. What a treat.

I reached Klamath and the Trees of Mystery at dusk. Not that I would have paid to enter anyway. But I was impressed by the immense Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox standing guard at the entrance. Apparently Paul's breast-pocket loudspeaker greets all who enter in cheery lumberjack fashion, like Freddy the Farmer at the Kentucky State Fair. But not to me. The theme of the day: closed. It was now too dark to get a decent photo, so I pulled this one off the web to give you an idea of their size. Note the person sitting on his shoe.

I reached Crescent City, California (home of tonight's Hampton Inn) well after dark. At the Elk Valley Casino, for once I actually had some luck. Win some, lose some... it's just that I have had more than my share of the latter!

Tomorrow: Out of the woods.

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