After my day at Yosemite and a bit of rest and work in my Sonora, California Airbnb, I awoke in the pre-dawn hours (4:30 a.m.!) to pick up one of my favorite people in the world in San Francisco. My friend Kerri was in the area for work and had arranged to extend her stay for some adventuring with me. Unsurprisingly, the San Francisco traffic meant that it took four hours to drive 140 miles. It was all worth it, though, when I saw her joyous face smiling at me.
Kerri had always wanted to see the "big trees," the California redwoods, and I wanted to help make that dream come true and add a check to that bucket list. We took off over the Golden Gate bridge, ready for rocky coastline and towering tree canopies. San Francisco can be fun, but a peaceful time in nature was much more enticing.
Lunchtime called for a stop at Francis Ford Coppola's Sonoma winery. We enjoyed a tasting of some of their wines with a bartender who looked an awful lot like Philip Seymour Hoffman's doppelgänger and was an insane treasure trove of television and movie trivia. After adding a layer of Italian food to our bellies, we were off once more.
Our accommodations for the next two nights were at the Benbow Historic Inn in Garberville, California. Although the hotel was under renovation, its interior and grounds were still really lovely. It's amazing to think of what it must have been like to stay there when the inn first opened, 90 years ago. The inn's back lawn sloped down to the Eel River, a beautiful blue-green waterway that we would follow on most of our redwood escapades.
Garberville was conveniently located near the southern entrance of the Avenue of the Giants, a section of old Highway 101 that has been converted to a scenic byway, with lots of stops where you can park and walk among these behemoth trees and the lush green vegetation that accompanies them. There are also several quaint little towns with restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and other tourism-related amenities. We enjoyed patronizing several of them, as well as communing with the largest trees in the world. I had been to this area a few times before, but it's truly hard to fathom (and easy to forget!) how massive these trees really are until you are in their presence.
While in the Garberville area, we also wound through miles and miles of mountains and forest to the King Range National Conservation Area. This preserve was home to giant redwood driftwood, beautiful flowering plants, a black sands beach, loads of seagulls, and powerful crashing surf. It was beautiful, rugged, and isolated. We also hit beaches at Patrick's Point State Park and Trinidad State Beach, where we weaved our way from redwoods to breathtaking Pacific cliffs and back again.
Our next stop was in Klamath, California. On our way there we popped in to Redwoods National Park and got a bit lost on the roads up past the majestic Ladybird Johnson Grove. Atop the mountains and off the beaten path, we saw acres and acres of fragrant purple lupine. It was like something out of a movie!
In Klamath, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment above the office of an RV park. Let's just say that the space was probably more suited to big burly men who were interested in casting reels and cooking up some salmon, but we took a drive up to Crescent City and limited our time at the apartment. I'm pretty sure that we were the only patrons at SeaQuake Brewery who weren't wearing plaid. Welcome to the northwest. :-)
The next morning, the redwoods were looking a bit gloomy and mysterious, shrouded in fog as Kerri and I said our farewells to them. In a short time, we were cruising across the Oregon state line, through Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Medford, and then Ashland. We dined on vegetarian fare in Ashland, checked out the historic town and the rhododendron-filled Lithia Park, and then found our way to our Jacksonville Airbnb.
Our time together was coming to a close, but Kerri and I had time for one more big destination. Crater Lake National Park was too close to resist, so we made our way to this imploded volcano. Unfortunately, I think that the unusually (even for Oregon) ample rain and snowfall over the past several months had caused the snow bank to be even deeper than usual. It might have been just a couple of days away from June, but the park was nearly entirely inaccessible beyond the historic lodge. We made the best of it, enjoying time in the rockers overlooking the bluest of blue lake and dining in the lodge.
That evening, we relaxed back in Jacksonville with Rogue Creamery cheeses and accompaniments, gazing at the mountain view from the hot tub. It was definitely not a bad way to close out a spectacular time with a super-duper friend. I was sad and sleepy as I dropped Kerri at the airport at 5 a.m. the next morning, but put the pedal to the metal and continued north...