Sunday, October 25, 2015

California Adventure - Red Woods and PCH

This post is about the 2nd part of Ryan and I's great California Adventure.  You can read about the first part HERE, where we backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail with an REI group for 3 days.

Mt Shasta is such a cute town.  It reminded us of Ashville, NC.  Just a little bit smaller, and with bigger mountains.  In the morning we stopped for breakfast at Mt Shasta Pastry.  Ryan had a slice of their pumpkin bread with walnuts, it was pretty tasty.  But the samples of their strawberry coffee cake were even better. Also, I don't normally get excited about potatoes, but their cook made the best breakfast potatoes I've ever had.  He used some kind of seasoning and got them nice and crispy on the outside. If you happen to be visiting the area, you really should stop in here.  Simply because the employees are so friendly!  Not sure if she is the chef's wife, but the woman who took our order and doubles as waitress chatted with us the entire time we were there. So did the locals. One gave us a few tips on where to drink wine in Napa, another two discussed fishing with Ryan.  After drinking our fill of coffee we were off to see the Red Woods.

Bye Bye Mt Shasta!
Our drive took us North into Oregon and then down highway 101 back into California, through the Red Wood forests.  Part of the reason this vacation ever came to be was Ryan's desire to drive 101 from north to south just so he could see the ocean from the right side of the road.

The redwood trees were amazing!  Just Massive! We stopped during our drive to walk along some short trails.
Toppled over tree.
"The Tree was this big..."
Our drive brought us to Crescent city, which is not where I recommend staying, but it's where we had reservations.  It only took us about 4-5 hours to get there from Mt Shasta, and that was only because we stopped to look at trees along the way.  It was lunch time and lets just say the city doesn't have a lot of great dining options. So we stopped at Safe Way and grabbed a sandwich for Ryan and a salad for me; then kept driving south till we found this amazing overlook with picnic tables for lunch.

On the way to our picnic spot we spotted a huge sign and Paul Bunion...The Trees of Mystery.  Of course we had to stop on our way back to Crescent City. This place is straight out of the 50s, it was so much fun, a great place to bring kids. They have a huge gift shop for those of you who need souvenirs, as well as ice cream and homemade fudge (which surprisingly we did not eat).  But we did take the gondola up the mountain ($15 per person) for some spectacular views.  It was pretty neat to see the different types of trees and get a birds eye view of everything.  You have the option to ride the gondola back down or you can can walk the 1+ mile down the mountain.  We chose to walk...when they warn you that it's a steep and slightly treacherous hike down, they are NOT lying.  Ryan and I were holding onto the ropes that line parts of the trail, it's probably a 20% grade at parts going down, with areas where water has created washouts that are slippery and rocky.  It was harder than our hike up Mt Eddy.  
Paul and Babe
In the gondola.
The Cathedral Trees
While there are a fair number of restaurants to choose from in Crescent city, there were not a lot that we actually wanted to eat at.  We settled on 101 Hawaiian BBQ since it got descent reviews on yelp and trip advisor.  Ryan had the teriyaki ribs which were terrific!  I chose the pulled pork which was very tender but without the soy sauce, it was kind of bland.  The pasta salad was also very bland, and a little confusing as a side dish; but maybe that's a 'thing' in Hawaii.  Since there isn't much to do in this small harbor town, Ryan and I settled on doing laundry at the laundro mat to keep our hiking clothes from fermenting in our suitcase.  Even a local who was there doing her laundry complained about how run down the town was, and how there is nothing to do there.

The rest of the evening was spent in our quaint retro motel, Curly Wood Lodge.  Part of the reason I chose this location was based on the fact that all the wood used to build it was from one Red Wood tree.  As far as accommodations go it's a little sparse.  No coffee pot, microwave, mini-fridge, or iron in the room.  But it's a cheap place to sleep at about $60 per night. 
 HOWEVER... there is a fog horn that blows every 10 seconds all day and all night long.  We were tired enough that falling asleep to it was no problem.  But at about 5am neither of us could fall back asleep so we packed up and headed out of town. (After stopping at Starbucks.)

Drive thru Redwood
Heading south on 101 we could see the fog over the ocean as the sun was rising above the mountains.  It was beautiful.  Since we were up so early, taking a short detour to visit one of the drive thru trees was no problem.  Hurray for no lines!  A little further down the highway, we spotted a heard of elk hanging out near a cabin resort.  
Elk grazing
After leaving the Redwood forest we motored on down the road in our Jeep Patriot rental (not what we hoped for), it's rather underpowered when it comes to driving up and down mountains.  Lunch was a quick stop at a Shat's Bakery/Cafe in Ukia.  The baked goods looked so delicious, but Ryan and I stuck with our usual sandwich or salad.  Shat's reminded me of Panera, but less franchise-y.  Which makes sense since they only have 3 locations.

A little over an hour later we were in the Russian River Valley!  Hello wine country!  First stop...Seghesio Winery in Healdsburg which specializes in Italian style reds, Zinfandel in particular. Their basic tasting is $15, which is a very good price for the area.  Most others are $20-25.  This winery was recommended to us by one of my dad's best friends who recently passed away after battling cancer for several years.  Cheers Roger to a life well lived, traveled, and tasted!  We bought a bottle of the 2011 Venom which is now out of stock, obviously it's tasty. The 2012 Pagani Zin was good, but didn't blow us away, so we passed on that as a purchase.  

Just for fun we tried UPTick Vineyard/Winery since we spotted it getting lost on our way to Seghesio.  The tasting room is beautiful; with a massive window behind the bar looking over their vineyard.  While the wines were good, it seemed obvious to us that they were not the owners true passion, more of a dream and hobby; enabled by lots of money.

Sticking with our road-trip theme, we took a few backroads to finish our drive into Napa and ended up at Thomas George.  This was one of our favorite wineries and wines of the trip. The tasting room is in a wine cave and you can see one of their concrete fermentation eggs in the barrel room.  I really enjoyed learning about the different types of aging process' that vintners use.  This was one of the first places that promoted the fact that they don't make the "Typical" california chardonay (big buttery and too oaky).  You know what...theirs was delicious, and I don't typically like Chardonay.  However, after you hear this line, "We don't produce the typical California Chardonay." you start to wonder what typical is?  We did purchase a bottle of the 2012 Baker Ridge Pinot Noir, and a bottle of their 2011 Chardonnay.

By this time we were ready to be off the road, driving to Napa we we hit some traffic, but once there we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, and found dinner down-town at Taqueria Rosita. This is definitely a place where locals go, it's not just for tourists.  The foods are your basic Mexican American fare, but done well and not slathered in excess cheese.  You won't be disappointed with anything you order.  The exceptionally fast service is a bonus too.  Next up, a few days of wine tasting.

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