With only 90 miles to our next stop at Eureka we took our time leaving Crescent City and drove out at 9:30 into a heavy sea mist. The view from our window this morning was just grey mist instead of the bright blue sky from yesterday. I drove slowly as did most other drivers as the road was only one lane in each direction and visibility was not good.
Within the first 12 miles we came across three sets of roadworks. In each case we had up to 5 minutes wait for a pilot vehicle which escorted us past the workers who were repairing damage caused by the wet winter rains. One of the 'flaggers' told us that the region had between 100" and 140" of rain during the winter. The result was: fallen trees, rock/mud slides, collapsed road pavements and washaways. It seems that there is year round work for the road workers in this part of California.
Our first stop was at a real tourist 'trap' called Trees of Mystery. As part of our entry to the venue we got a gondola ride through some tall redwoods. The walk to the start of the gondola ride had some very kitschy spots but also some very unusual giant redwoods. The best part of this stop was actually free. Inside the gift shop there was a museum of Indian artefacts which was filled with some truly interesting bits and pieces of Indian art and culture. Maree was very happy!
We tried stopping at a few of the vista points marked on the map but these were all close to the sea and the sea mist persisted throughout most of the morning and early afternoon. We turned off Hwy 101 onto the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway which proved to be a great choice. There were magnificent redwoods wherever the eye could see, some immensely tall, others incredibly wide and one gigantic Big Tree which was both. We stopped here and there along the route and walked down tranquil trails where we almost got a crick in our necks from looking up at these magnificent trees. It is so good that some early environmentalists managed to prevent the wholesale logging of these giants.
Maree had read that there were elk in the meadows and wanted to find some. We checked with the nearby visitor centre and they suggested a few places to look. Just down the road a little way we came to a little red schoolhouse and there they were, no not schoolchildren, but elk. Sitting about looking elkish and Maree was again delighted to take lots of photos. Still no bears though.
Somehow we had managed to drive only 60 miles in 5 hours so we diverted to a town called Trinidad to get some lunch. Deciding to eat this by the beach we drove through town and discovered that it is a delightful little place with a sheltered port used for commercial fishing. The coastal surroundings are quite spectacular with lots of rocky outcrops and odd little islands.
Finally at 4pm we drove into Eureka to find that our selected hotel, a Comfort Inn, was on the main road almost at the end of town and a long way from the historic centre. Oops! Sometimes using booking.com doesn't get you a good deal after all. We had to drive back in to town to find a restaurant for a pasta meal. On the way back we drove down some back streets and saw some of the fabulous homes that make this town famous. Incredibly, almost dollhouse style buildings, mostly from wood and painted in bright, unusual colour combination. We will have to come back with a camera tomorrow.
American TV advertising is incredible. Most ads seem to relate to either medical conditions and the pharmaceuticals that will clear them up or to lawyers touting for people with medical conditions to join class actions. Here and there is an ad or two for products or food but most seem to be as above. Do you have erection problems? Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhoea? Have you contracted hepatitis c? Do you have type 2 diabetes? Do you need a laxative? All these ads are accompanied by detailed information about when not to take the medication, the common side effects and advising that you should ask you doctor.
Today we set out to see the sights around Eureka as we will have a long drive to Mendocino. The first stop was a quaint town of Ferndale which has a Main Street full of exotic timber buildings in what they call here Victorian East Lake Split Style tradition. Once again the decoration and painting are very elaborate and quite unusual. Ferndale is very much like Maldon in that it seems to be geared towards the tourist industry. I would guess that they make most of their money on weekends and during the holiday period. One particularly fascinating building was the Victorian Inn. With its horse headed hitching rail out the front. Not too many people still hitch their horses there nowadays.
Our next visit was to the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge where we saw lots of birds but no other wildlife. It was a pleasant though chilly walk through some of the 40% of remaining wetlands in the Bay. The rest of the wetlands had long ago been reclaimed to create pasture. Just a little way further back towards town were the Humboldt Botanic Gardens which, as their name implies, had lots of plants in nicely divided groups for us to wander about and admire. At the end of the walking track was an earth sculpture called 'All Happy Now' which is a merger of two landscape architectural features; the ziggurat and the labyrinth. Based on Fermat's spiral, the 30 metre diameter earth mound is designed to be walked on in the manner of meditation labyrinths found in churches. If you walk up the spiral and down the other 'side' you would end up walking a total of half a mile.
Our next visit was to the site of Fort Humboldt where, prior to the Civil War, a company of US Cavalry tried to keep the peace between Settlers and the local Indians. Unfortunately when the Us troops were called back to fight the Confederate armies the settlers massacred the indigenous people. So what's new? There were a couple of buildings from the original fort left but plenty of information signs. We also read about the timber baron and the industry he established which essentially built the town.
By now we were both hungry so we drove into the historic centre and began the recommended walking trail stopping at a bagel cafe for lunch. The bagels proved to be the nicest 'sandwiches' that we have had in America - Los Bagels (highly recommended). Continuing our walk we came to the exquisite Carson Mansion which had been built by the timber tycoon and is now an exclusive men's club (hiss, boo). Opposite is the 'Pink Lady', a house that Carson built for his son on the occasion of his marriage. Something that we noticed in town was the high number of apparent homeless people wandering about with bags containing their belongings. Some appeared to be away with the pixies as well, talking or mumbling to themselves, singing and laughing oddly or walking around with an odd gait. I reckon that quite a number were probably under the influence of some narcotic or other. We had not seen such folk at any of the other towns that we have visited.