Wednesday, May 22, 2013

North Coast Road Trip with the Family

After spending the last 36 hours in the San Francisco area, we headed up the North Coast toward Point Reyes National Seashore. We had hoped to spend more time at Point Reyes, but because we were delayed due to the San Francisco Bay to Breakers 12K and 101 road construction, our time was cut short.

Coming in on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, we found the Farm House Deli in Olema. The food was local, fresh, and delicious! Our 8-year-old declared the chicken fingers the best he'd ever tasted, and he's something of an aficionado.

Since we only had time for one stop at Point Reyes, we chose the remote McClures Beach. It turned out to be an excellent choice! The trail was downhill toward the beach and covered with loose sand so a walking stick would have been helpful, but we all made it without incident. The beach views were magnificent -- definitely different than the South Carolina beaches we are familiar with.
With careful eyes on the way to or from the beach, we were able to see some of the tule elk that were reintroduced into the area in 1999. The impressive creatures appear to be thriving.

Leaving Point Reyes and grabbing a quick bite and fill-up in Petaluma, we readied for the long drive to Arcata. We had hoped to drive through the Avenue of Giants on the way up, but due to all our delays, we knew we weren't going to make it before dark. We were a little disappointed but figured we'd get our fill of redwoods the following day. The drive is pretty remote, so a brief stop in Willits at the local McDonald's provided our last rest stop before Arcata.

After a good night's rest at Arcata's Hampton Inn, we headed up Highway 101 north to the Redwood National Park. We took the scenic Patrick's Point Drive which led us by Patrick's Point State Park. Paying the $8 entry fee, we chose Wedding Rock from the selection of park highlights which turned out to be a great choice! It provided gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean via a short, easy walk from the parking lot.

After lunch at the local Palm Cafe in Orick (one of the only options since we had not packed a lunch), we found the Trillium Falls trail in Redwood National Park by Elk Meadow (which was appropriately populated with Roosevelt Elk). It was a beautifully stunning trail, but we turned around at the waterfall so we could move on to other park trails.

We took the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway to Prairie Creek Trail, a wide, level trail that our boys loved. It was a little longer than we anticipated, so we cut it short to get moving further up the north coast.

Next stop was Klamath River Overlook with an expansive view over the Pacific Ocean and the mouth for the Klamath River. The spot is reportedly good for whale watching (bring your binoculars), and we are pretty sure we saw one!

It had been a long day, so on we drove to Crescent City for the night where we crashed at the local hotel, The Lighthouse Inn. Dinner was next door at the Northwoods Restaurant which was also locally owned and operated. Both are recommended.

Our plan was to float down the Smith River the following day with Redwood River Trips, but much to our disappointment, we were rained out. So, instead of spending the day in the hotel room, we headed on for the next leg of our journey -- the Shasta Cascade region. If you missed the first leg (San Francisco) see here. And also check out the last leg (Napa Valley) here.

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