We had camped in the cold Redwoods & enjoyed the rest of the Avenue of the Giants leisurely. After no more than 35km we ended up in Redway, where we called Johnny, our host for the night for directions to his home and he picked us up and took us far into the curvy hills.
He told us how basically everybody in the entire county was somehow involved in the growing of marijuana, either for ‘medical’ or for business reasons, and that even the local radio had special announcements when ‘the helicopter’ would be on patrol.
This got confirmed by Todd, our host for the next night and was amazing to hear as we thought that with the ‘war on drugs’ and all, easy targets (like very citizen in a 50 mile radius) would be focused on first, but apparently it was just part of life here.
We had been told about Todd by our friend Kristen from Vancouver, who had cycled and met him here a few years ago. But before we could sit down at the fire and listen to his stories we had two encounters.
Soon I saw more and with the sun in my face, I viewed a dark shape halfway up the hill. Even though I was only going about 8km/hr (5mph), it was the first thing I encountered on a hill that was slower than me and soon I caught up with a strange sight: A large wooden horse cart, pulled by 3 horses -with a 4th on the side- was slowly making its way up the hill, completely blocking one of the two lanes.
An old man with was standing proud. he was not too friendly and didn’t say much, but I found out that his name was Dakota and he had been travelling like this for 25 years, all west of the Mississippi…
Our next encounter was with a dreaded place: the Leggett Hill. Actually it was much easier than feared beforehand, steep but constant, narrow, but zero traffic. We did not have to walk and Ivana arrived at the pass as well without much problem.
A Short downhill later we arrived at a level part, called Haley’s Grove, where we spent the night inside a trailer. Read about our chance meeting with Todd here on 1000 Americans.
12-14 Dec: Breaking a knee and viewing a lion between Hales Grove – Jenner, via Mendocino. 74km + 78km + 70km. Plus 3km up and down..
A long downhill through the woods brought us back to the coast, but there was one more surprise, the Rockport Hill. When going up, my knee started hurting and we both pushed up several parts as it was too steep in places.
Back at the California coast, the road kept on oscillating between sea level and a few hundred meters above it for the next days. In 5 days we had climbed more than 5000m, so 1km vertical per day. My knee started hurting more, even on the flatter parts and at the end of the day I could barely walk as my knee would not bend.
Probably the best thing to do would be to rest or see a doctor, but we were on the ‘Lost Coast’, far away from any medical assistance. Besides, we were only a few days from San Francisco, se we decided to continue and seek help there. Also, not only my knee was bad, our multi-charger had broken down and I had no more batteries for my cameras, which made me feel even more handicapped than the fact that I stumbled more than I walked…
We had stayed with Barry in Mendocino, who was about to embark on his own bicycle trip. as happens often with our hosts, he called some friends, Chuck & Maria, to ask them if we could stay with them the next night. Some hours before we arrived, I was waiting on the side of the road for Ivana to catch up so I could point out a large group of deer, when a car pulled over.
One of the greatest places we have seen on this trip, was dark and cold… Views were very limited, but that was exactly the main attraction as we were cycling on the Avenue of the Giants, a 50 km (31mile) long road through the Humboldt Redwood State Park in Northern California.
Only about 4-5% of the original giant trees (Redwoods and Giant Sequoias) are left after the logging activities, and this place is one of the best to enjoy the grandeur of the trees.
After cycling through thousands of kilometres of forests and nature, we had not expected to be so impressed anymore, but just cycling and walking between these Giants, some over 100 meter high and thousands of years old, made us feel humble and small. It also gave hope that maybe nature can be saved if humans try to do their best as well…
Soon more stories about Northern California, for now I just wanted to share some images of the road, the trees, the villages and the odd tourist attractions. It is hard to put the Giants into perspective, the light is always wrong (or absent) and no photo will ever do justice to the feeling of being there.
Day 147-150, 5-8 December 2008: Entering California: From Brookings via Trinidad to Eureka: fog, trees, waves & people…
5 December: Brookings, Oregon to Klamath, California, 73km
Entering California is like entering another country: there is a checkpoint signs. This is to prevent ‘strange’ fruits entering the State, but when we arrived in the early morning, nobody was on duty in our lane, so we could enter without delay. It was a pleasant day, even getting hot at some point.
Only at the end of the day, just when were about to climb up a large (360m/1200ft) hill, the infamous sea fog came rolling in. We climbed slowly and soon we were above the clouds where it was still nice and sunny. But what goes up must go down, and so we downhilled towards the thick blanket.
Ivana really hated it and panicked when the vision limited to just a few meters. My point of view was that if we were to go the maximum speed (30MPH or about 48km/h), then no car should touch us, but she was too afraid and went down slowly.
We went back to sea level, but could hardly see the water through the thick fog and so we ended up stopping in Klamath. We asked a friendly passing woman if she knew a place to camp and she invited us to her trailer, where we saw the biggest mess we both had ever seen in any place that’s supposed to be fit for living…
Clothes everywhere (both inside and outside), kids sleeping in the livingroom, a sleeping/grumbling man, kids playing Xbox games and foodremains from Thanksgiving (8 days before) were everywhere. A bunch of semi-wild cats made the perfect picture complete and we were happy we had our tent to stay in and our pasta to cook.
Ivana had never heard of the politically incorrect description TrailerTrash, but here it was. What surprised her most that these apparently poor and likely uneducated people still had so much luxury: a huge trailer to live in with electricity and water, heaps of clothes, a big truck, Xbox and other gadgets. When comparing this to all those people we had witnessed in Africa and Asia and even Argentina, the contrast was sharp.
6th December: Klamath to Trinidad, 76km (+800m up and down)
We quickly made our way out and up another few big hills entering the first of several Redwood parks, famous for their big Redwood and Giant Sequoia trees. We had gotten off busy Highway 101 and were cycling on the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway, surrounded with green giants.
We stopped to admire the Corkscrew Tree and ‘Big Tree’, a coast redwood tree, 304 feet (91m) tall and 21 feet (6.3m) in diameter. The sheer size of these age-old trees made us feel humble and forget the steep climbing though the cool forest.
7th/8th December: Trinidad to Eureka via McKinleyville (18+30km)
We had arrived in Trinidad just before dark, where we got hosted by Carol. When we rode through the nice little town the next day, we understood why it was her favorite place to be. Just before we entered the small but busy coffeeshop a cyclist came up to us, asked a few questions about our trip and then stuffed a $20 bill in my hand before cycling away.
We were a bit flabbergasted, but had head from other cyclists that this is not uncommon in California and we celebrated with some hot chocolate and pastries in the wonderfully alternative coffeeshop.
We had already arranged the next place to stay, which was CouchCycler Louise’s house, only 16km away. It was a great sunny day and she came our way to pick us up, reaching us when we were just outside Trinidad. We had a relaxed and pleasant ride towards McKinleyville, where we helped her finish off a huge crab, tasty!
She drove us to the Hmong Celebration of Happy New Year, in nearby Samoa (see some people and read some backgrounders about the Hmong here on 1000 Americans) and cycled with us to Arcata the next day, through flat fields and over quiet country roads.
While Ivana roamed the numerous small shops I opened Lenny on a park bench and used one of the open networks to answer some emails. It is so nice to be able to quickly slide the laptop out of the Ortliebs and work anywhere, anytime…
It was only an hour to get to Eureka, where we were awaited by yet another great Couchsurfing host: Beth and her cat Dub. Eureka contains some classic Victorian mansions including the Ingomar Club, formerly known as the Carson Mansion, named after the first of many logging millionaires, responsible for leaving less than 5% of the original redwoods & Sequoias… Many of these are along the famous ‘Avenue of the Giants’, which was our destination for the next few days…