Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

02-17-2021 Camping Beside the Trinity River at Hayden Flat

The sun was shining on Wednesday morning when we left Eureka.  We knew that our weather on the route home from Eureka was going to be a bit of a challenge. The possibility of skipping the Trinity River and Highway 299 route east to Redding and instead driving back north on 101 was eliminated by the road closure due the the slide south of Crescent City.

With weather predictions for snow on I-5 on the way home, we accepted the possibility that we might have to stop in Redding before we hit snow at Dunsmuir and Mt Shasta.  The other option was that we might have to stop in Yreka.   We thought about simply driving fast and going directly home on Wednesday, skipping our planned night of camping at Hayden Flat.  The thought was so disappointing to all of us, especially Deborah, who said she had no problem returning a day or two late since she was still on work leave for the rest of the week.

When we left Ferndale and drove back north to Arcata the sun was shining brilliantly and the weather reports for the day ahead were close to perfect.  Traveling east on Highway 299 is a beautiful route and the best way to cross the coast range of California from the ocean to the Sacramento Valley.  There are other routes that Mo and I have taken and said “never again” in the MoHo.

The initial climb to Berry Pass isn’t particularly difficult, with a few steep hairpin curves.  The road is wide and well marked and we arrived at the Burney Point Vista just west of the pass in time for lunch.  The parking area wasn’t full but there were several Cal Trans work trucks lined up. 

Must be their lunch time too.  We parked with a view over the distant mountains, opened up the slide for comfort and settled in for a nice lunch.  The sun was warm inside the MoHo but it was brisk and breezy outdoors.

I brought out the frying pan and the olive oil and we managed to turn our cold limp french fries into something delightful for a yummy lunch.  Deb and I enjoyed a bit of the sandwich meat also heated up and much tastier than it had been the previous evening at the restaurant.

We switched drivers, so that I could drive and Deb could be in the front seat during the next section of highway which was much more curvy than the first part.  The route along the Trinity River is beautiful, climbing several hundred feet above the river far below and then dropping down again to river level. 

Mo and I had camped at Hayden Flat several years ago, and hoped to do so again.  There are two sections of the campground, with the lower section on the river side of the highway and the upper section across the road from the river.  As we approached the campground, we saw the road down to the river camp, but missed the turn. 

It seemed impossible to get down there in the Mo Ho from the vantage point of the road.  As we continued a few hundred feet toward the upper camp we were disappointed to see strong green gates announcing that the campground was closed.  Previously reading on the internet (when we still had a signal) we also discovered that the upper camp had been converted to a group site campground. We wouldn’t be able to camp there without reservations even it if had been open. An important side note; we had NO internet signal on any of our phones from Berry Pass on Highway 299 until the next day as we approached Weaverville)

A bit disappointed we slowly continued east along the highway, exploring the possibility of boondocking in one of the wide flat areas along the river.  There are many access points and even a spot with porta potties for the many people who kayak this river.

Continuing past an RV Park which looked a bit iffy and very crowded, we decided to turn around and keep looking for a pleasant roadside night spot along the highway.  Surprise surprise!  On the return trip we saw a wide spot for Hayden Flat Lower Campground, and pulled off to check out the access road.

It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  We unhooked the car to drive down and explore our options and decided getting into the empty campground was a piece of cake.  I drove down in the motorhome while Mo and Deb walked around to select our site. 

We finally settled on the perfect spot, with a fire ring overlooking the river and a nice level place for the MoHo.  As is often the case, an empty campground provides way too many choices to make it easy to decide where to be. The road was above us so there was a bit of road noise, but we didn’t imagine that would be a problem as evening progressed.  The sound of the river was loud as well, so that masked anything unpleasant that drifted down from the road.

Within minutes of getting settled in, Mo had unloaded the firewood and started a nice campfire.  She had packed enough wood for a possible fire on one night, and decided that it was time to get it going even though it was only 2:30 in the afternoon.  Mo does love her campfires.

We sat in our chairs in the warm sunshine, enjoying the fire, the river and a glass of wine letting the afternoon slide by peacefully.  Deb laughed and said she had wondered what we might have had planned for our time between parking and dinner.  She said we usually had some kinds of plans, but this time our only plan was to simply sit and enjoy.  She loved every minute of it. 

Our firewood was getting low and the fire was burning low as well when we all tried to find some kind of wood lying around camp.  Deb offered to drive off in the car to the RV Park we had seen earlier to get some firewood.  Sure enough she returned with a big bunch of wood for only 5 bucks.  In state parks it costs 5 bucks for about a quarter of what she got.  The extra wood extended our campfire long enough that we were able to heat the enchiladas over the fire and still have plenty of coals left for roasting marshmallows together.Dinner was delicious, with homemade enchiladas heated on the fire and another bit salad.

Deb and I both said we didn’t really like marshmallows, but roasting them was fun.  Somehow the marshmallows tasted delicious.  I can no longer say I don’t really like roasted marshmallows.  We talked about how our marshmallow sticks were just a bit short and Mo mentioned the telescoping sticks we had seen once in the past.

It doesn’t take much for Deb to notice small details.  This morning (a week later) a package arrived on the porch. It was a gift from Deborah thanking us for the trip and a nice little canvas case of telescoping marshmallow sticks!!  Yayyy!

The night was dark and cold and beautiful if not starry.  The clouds moved in shortly after sunset and we all slept well.  By morning, it was dark and dreary once again, and as we packed up to drive east the rain began.

I drove for a time, following the river and watching the rain get heavier and thicker until it turned to sleet and then to snow.  We were still 50 miles west of Redding as the snow started sticking to the road in earnest.  At a particularly snowy summit we decided it would be best to unhook the Tracker. 

Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker.  As fate would have it, very soon after we passed the summit the snow once again turned to rain.

A few miles before we reached Redding we pulled over again to hook up the Tracker and continued toward town.  Stopping just outside of the city where 299 intercepts I-5, we once again checked the weather.  Although we thought we might stay in Redding for the night, the predictions for I-5 over Mt Shasta were encouraging.  Mixed rain and snow over Shasta was predicted, however the weather cams for Siskiyou Pass at the Oregon state line were daunting.  We decided to continue north toward Yreka with a plan to stay at an RV park there to wait out the storm.

Crossing Shasta was easy, with just a bit of snow, but nothing Mo and I haven’t managed in past years traveling to and from Grants Pass on I-5 over Mt Shasta.  Once down in the valley south of Yreka the snow let up and it began to rain.  We searched the internet and found the Waiika RV Park.  Near the Rain Rock Casino, it was an excellent choice.

We pulled in, signed in, and settled in for a night of waiting and watching the weather cams over the mountains on our route toward home.  The park was pleasant enough, with a level site with full hookups, and very nice, very clean bathrooms with great showers.  A quarter for 5 minutes of good hot water seemed like a real luxury.  I used three quarters and I think Deb said she used 4.  Another big salad and leftovers for supper were perfect.

I don’t think any of us slept very well, wondering what the next morning would bring.  We didn’t know for sure if we would be able to get home or not.  As soon as it was light, I started checking the web cams, Trip Advisor, ODOT Road Conditions, and any other resources I might find to let us know how the route ahead was being affect by the weather.

We were thrilled to see that the route looked do-able and packed up the MoHo and were on the road by 9.  With only a tiny bit of ice and fog at the Siskiyou Summit we were pulling into the driveway at home by 11:15.  It rained off and on along the way, but once again for the last time on this trip the travel angels kicked in and the rain stopped just long enough for all of us to unload the car and the rig as we settled back in here at home. 

From the beginning to the very end it was a perfect, delightful trip and a wonderful way to share our travels with my daughter.  I will treasure the memory always.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

02-16-2021 California’s Lost Coast and More Redwoods

With predictions for sunny weather on Tuesday, we were happy that we had saved the best day for driving the wild Lost Coast roads.  There was only a little bit of fog lingering in the morning at the fairgrounds as we packed up snacks and jackets, water and supplies for our day trip.

By the time we began the long ascent up the grade toward the ridgetops, the fog was moving through the hills, sometimes obscuring the views. At other moments we could see bits of blue sky and ocean in the distance.  This was the third time Mo and I have driven this scenic backway, and somehow it wasn’t quite as scary as it has felt in the past.

I guess we might be getting used to it a bit.  Still, sharing it with Deborah added a bit a newness for us as well, seeing it through fresh eyes.

The steep grades and ocean views provide some thrilling moments. Negotiating oncoming vehicles is sometimes a bit daunting even though the road is technically a two lane road.  However, a UPS truck passed us as we were parked taking photos, and barely slowed down.

A bit later, as we were crawling down toward the ocean we suddenly were confronted with a big two trailer gravel hauler coming up the 16 percent grade around a narrow curve.  How in the world can they do that?

The steep grade from the crest of the hills south of Ferndale and the Black Sands beach at ocean level are no doubt the most exciting part of the journey.  The views open up in all directions, with peeks at the distant ocean framed by beautiful hilly fields of grazing cows.  We took our time descending, stopping often for photos.


At the bottom of the grade we stopped near the black sand beaches at a viewpoint for Shiprock.  I think this one looks more like a ship than the one in New Mexico.

The sun was gorgeous, but the wind was definitely chilly.

After passing through Petrolia I thought to check the map on Google Maps.  Because Mo and I had driven this route in the past, it didn’t occur to us to remember to put the California Gazetteer in the Tracker for the trip. Just south of town we came to an intersection for the road toward Honeydew or another road heading west called Lighthouse Road.  With no map, no internet, and no clue where we were heading, we decided to explore.  If it was called Lighthouse Road maybe it would lead to a lighthouse or at least to a beach, right?

After seven questionable miles, some through flooded and wet zones, we emerged at a wonderful campground with camp tables for picnicking right  on the beach.  We were at the outlet of the Mattole River and the Lost Coast Trailhead.  It was a delightful spot, with plenty of full color brochures of our location and a wonderful map to use as we continued our explorations of the remote roads leading back to Highway 101.

After lunch we walked over the dunes to the wild empty beach.  Mattie could run crazy free in the sand and Deborah was thrilled at the magnificence of the wild storm-induced surf


The roads through this part of California are narrow and winding and nowhere along the route is there a cell phone signal.  Even with the printed map, it was hard to gauge just how long it would take us to get from point to point.  The scenery along the way was often spectacular as we drove from dark forests to high ridges and back down again. 

As we got closer to Highway 101 there were more and more residences and farms tucked into the forest, often surrounded by very long, very tall, very expensive wooden fences.  Although Humboldt County prided itself for being the marihuana capital of the world, I would imagine that may have changed some.  We did see evidence of many grows, both small and corporate.  The climate of this area has always been among the best for growing good weed.  

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived back on Highway 101 and continued north toward the southern entrance of the Avenue of the Giants.  Being so late in the day, traffic along the byway was light, and we had no competition for parking at the roadside mileage stops.  We found a printed map of the Avenue, with mile markers listed for each interpretive stop.

We drove quite a distance to find the Bolling Grove, especially noted for its plethora of beautiful gnarled burls on the grove redwoods.  We all remembered milepost 10.5 but not one of us could remember that we were in the Bolling Grove parking area.  That became somewhat important a bit later during our visit when Deb needed to make a 911 phone call to let rescue workers know where we were located.

We thought we were the only ones in the grove until Deb saw a man lying in the creek.  I was walking toward where I had seen Deborah go into the woods but I couldn’t manage the trail to get down to the water.  Deb found a route through the thick undergrowth climbing over the huge downed redwood logs to get down to the water to the couple.

Here is her story in her words.

“When I first saw them, same vantage point Mom took this pic from, the woman was trying to help him crawl out of the creek. The creek was so loud it was hard to hear them. She said he had broken his leg but while on the phone with emergency services he told me he broke his finger. I said you broke your finger, incredulous, he said again and I heard femur. I ran back up and Mom and Mo gave me Mattie's little wool blanket to cover him while we waited. EMT's were there pretty quick and were going to hoist him up with a rope. I showed them the easier way around the trees how I got down there. Then two more times as more EMT's arrived. They were able to get him in the basket and carry him out but it took a bit. They think he fractured his hip. He only had light long sleeved shirt on and was soaked when I found them. Mom said he was pretty gray as they loaded him into the ambulance but his wife said they told her he would be OK. Still don't know if he was trying to cross over on one of the logs or fell in the rushing water. He had on good hiking boots so that was a good thing."

It was just a truly lucky thing that we were at that grove and that Deborah’s phone actually had a signal.  My phone and Mo’s phone and the wife’s phone had no signal and there was no one else around. The wife was afraid to leave her husband alone to try to climb out to find a place where her phone would work.  I suppose if we hadn’t been there she would have eventually have had to leave him but I am glad she didn’t.

After that bit of excitement that turned out OK, we were all a bit shaken, and Deborah’s adrenaline was running very high.  We had planned to have dinner in Fortuna at the Eel River Brewing Company and Pub, and were glad that Fortuna was only about half an hour north from our location in the park. Deb had read the reviews and the online menu and we were all a bit excited to have a real meal in a real restaurant.

The pub was empty except for a few folks waiting for tables in the outside tented dining area and we settled in for a short wait.  Once at our table, we noticed that most of the customers were the kinds of people you would expect to find in a popular pub.  There were lots of good looking strapping young men drinking beer and eating simple food.  We ordered a Philly cheesesteak sandwich that advertised peppers onions and cheese on their own special beef, a mac and cheese that was glowingly described and a simple french dip for Mo.  We waited a very long time for our food, happy that we had ordered an appetizer of yummy onion rings.

Sad to say, the food was so bad that we considered it nearly inedible.  Such a disappointment!  The mac and cheese  and the french fries were cold, and there were no peppers or onions to speak of in Deb’s philly cheesesteak. The smoky flavor of the meat in her french dip didn’t appeal to Mo.  However, the amber beer was excellent and the red wine that Mo and Deborah had was OK! 

At first we weren’t going to take our food home.  It was obvious from the fact that we didn’t eat much that we weren’t exactly happy, and Deb indicated to the waitress.  The waitress avoided us as best she could and we made no more complaints.  In the end, we finished our drinks and asked for boxes.  We agreed that thinking we might get good food in a pub that catered to a young working type male might leave something to be desired.  Still, I am glad we took the food with us because with a bit of reworking it tasted just fine the next day.

Our day on the lost coast was almost a complete success.

Monday, February 15, 2021

02-15-2021 President’s Day in Victorian Ferndale

As we were planning our trip, we kept a close eye on the weather.  In spite of the predictions for rain throughout the trip, there was a small weather window for Tuesday, the 16th.  A slight chance of sunshine and only partly cloudy skies were predicted on several weather websites.

We talked about the options of visiting the tiny town of Ferndale on Tuesday rather than Monday.  Walking around a Victorian themed town in the rain might not be nearly as delightful as enjoying it during that sunny weather window. We were also a bit concerned that our visit to Ferndale coincided with President’s Day in addition to being on a Monday when small town shops are often closed.   

However, we had bigger plans that would require sunny weather much more than a simple day in Ferndale.  The Lost Coast backway was an experience that Mo and I have shared a couple of times and we wanted to share it with Deborah.  We woke up to another very gloomy day Monday morning and prepared to follow our original plan for a slow easy day moving and visiting the little town.

We took our time with an easy morning, sharing coffee, playing one more hand of Hand and Foot.  Around ten we packed up the MoHo, hooked up the car and prepared for our very short travel day. 

It was a short 21 mile jaunt from our park in Eureka to our next camping location near Ferndale. Between Eureka and Ferndale is the tiny historic hamlet of Loleta, once the location of the Loleta Cheese Factory.  As we planned the trip, knowing Deborah was a cheese lover, we included a cheese factory visit.  Sadly, that was not to be.  The cheese factory succumbed to bankruptcy just last fall.  The wonderful aged white cheddar is no more.

Mo and I have camped at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale in the past.  When we were last there the park was nearly empty but due to the wet grass the park host put us on the pavement.  This time, when we arrived, the park looked partially full and the wet grass sites were soft and there was a lot of mud.

The caretaker was an extremely friendly, talkative, jokester full of pithy comments who finally decided that the campground was much too soft for us and instead helped us settle in along the midway area of the fairgrounds.  We were behind a gate, although it was never locked so that wasn’t a problem.  He assured us the “homeless types” were not a problem here because he made sure they weren’t encouraged.  He also assured us the the police drove through repeatedly throughout the night so we shouldn’t be worried.  It hadn’t occurred to us to be worried but we smiled and nodded and said Thank You.  He also was completely unconcerned about taking our money and said he would get back to us for that part in the next couple of days.

This photo was taken on our sunny Tuesday, not the day we arrived in the rain.

We settled in, unhooked the Tracker and let Mattie have a nice little run on the thick very wet grass.  Our friendly camp host also called around to some of the local restaurants to check if there was inside or outside seating available.  Deb wanted to treat us to a nice dinner out while we were on this trip and our fish and chips luxury from Crescent City wasn’t enough to satisfy her.  We decided to save the eating out day for Tuesday, when we knew we would be tired from a long day exploring the Lost Coast.

The trip to town was walkable, but not on this day in the gloom, and probably not for me.  When we arrived in Ferndale, I decided it would be best for me to try using my walker instead of sticks.  It was an excellent choice.  Sometimes standing around gives me a lot more trouble than walking and I had the option of not being in a rush and being able to sit down while Deborah browsed to her heart’s content.

Ferndale is a truly charming place, and even in the pandemic it was lovely to visit.  The architecture is beautiful enough from the outside that indoor shopping wasn’t needed to enjoy the town.  However, a few shops were open where we meandered and perused the lovely offerings.  One store we especially enjoyed has delightful linens, soaps and lotions, art and jewelry.  It was a shop Mo and I had visited in the past and it was nice to see it thriving in spite of Covid.

After browsing the main street of the charming town, we decided to visit the cemetery.  I managed to walk the distance without having to reload the walker and Mo drove there to meet us as we arrived.  I think the Ferndale cemetery is one of the most charming we have visited.  Only one I remember that comes close is the beautiful cemetery on the hills around Natchez, Mississippi.

Mo stayed with Mattie when we discovered a sign saying no dogs were allowed.  She took her for a nice walk and by the time Deb and I returned she and Mattie were on their way to the car as well.

After walking the cemetery, where I was most grateful for my little red walker on those hills, we discussed exploring the beach just five miles west of town.  Not surprising that all three of us were happy to give up more explorations and return to the warm and cozy MoHo. Deb and I played cards and Mo again watched news as we whiled away the chilly afternoon all snugged up and happy.

Dinner was precooked ribs I brought from home and a big salad.  I thought of my friend Jeanne who loves my ribs. I know that if Jeanne comes west from her Vermont home to visit, those ribs are an absolute must! We shared a bottle of Druid’s Fluid, a lovely red blend from our local Troon’s Vineyard that Deb brought along on the trip to celebrate Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  It was just as good with our ribs!

It was a perfect day even with the gloomy weather and we were excited to read weather reports that indicated our Tuesday day of explorations would be lit by brilliant sunshine and no rain.