A Northern California Jaunt

We are fortunate to have a getaway in Siskiyou County, off the grid and remote, and just 20 minutes from a small town in Scott Valley.   We decided to head over to the coast for a visit to the redwoods and a stop in the beautiful town of Arcata…so packed for a few days, loaded the car with stuff and dogs, and drove north on Hwy 5.

As we climbed over the mountains into Oregon the snow started, and by the time we were at the summit we were bound on both sides by semi truck-trailers and the road was slushy and getting icy as the temperature dropped.  But by the time we were getting close to Ashland the snow had turned to a spitty kind of rain and though it was uncomfortably cold outside the roads were easy again and a coffee stop fueled us on to Grants Pass where our plan was to wander the town and then make our way down 199 to Crescent City.

Knowing nothing about the environs we went to Yelp which listed the Rogue River Visitor Center as a helpful stop so we drove back up along the river to get some advice about the route to Crescent City.

The Visitor Center is a small house with a small parking lot so in I went as David walked the dogs around.  An elderly woman came to the counter and I explained our plan and asked for ideas about places to stop, possibly places to stay, or any places of interest.

“Hmmm.”  She shrugged and told me to go back to Grants Pass and catch 199.  “Yes, we know the way.  Any ideas at all about what we might find along the road?”  “Hmmm.  I’m not really sure.”  A woman’s voice came from the back.  “Take 199!”  “Yes, got it.  Any suggestions about where to stay or what to see?”  Again from the back, “When you get to the fork, go right and drive up to Brookings.  It is the cutest town in the world!”  “In Oregon?”  “Yes. Take the right fork.  That’s what we do, and then we go to Crescent City for clam chowder.”  “Any suggestions along the way?”  “Take 199.”  Okay, got that loud and clear.  The first woman was fiddling with the brochures in the wooden rack at the door.  “Any of these I should take?”  “Hmmm.”  Woman from the back, “Do you want a cup of coffee?”  Not really…first woman shrugged again, then gestured to the guest book, pointing to the next available blank line.  I took the pen and added our names and place of origin.  “Anything else we should know?”  First woman, “Hmmm.”  Second woman, “Be sure and go right at the fork!”

So off we went.  Back to Grants Pass for a quite good burger at Jimmy’s, and then down 199, a lovely road through tiny towns including the gateway to the Oregon Caves, Cave Junction, Selma, Kerby…we had seen little reason to stop until we came upon a sign about 30 miles out of Grants Pass “Boardwalk Trail” and took a quick right.  A few miles in we came to a parking lot for the Boardwalk, but decided to explore the Jeffrey Pine Loop instead–a beautiful trail leading down into rather open forest with the Illinois River in view.  With all the rain the river was rushing madly and we were anxious to get to it but a bit slowed by the all the mud and rivulets–some more like cascades–crossing the trail every 15 yards or so.  The dogs needed encouragement to jump over, and once they were so daunted by the speed of the water they headed up the hill looking for a way around it–which didn’t exist.  Then it started to rain in earnest so we turned back to try and get down to the river from the other direction of the loop but no go–slippery and wetter.  By the time we returned to the car we were all drenched but invigorated!  When we got home I found information about the Boardwalk Trail and am sad we didn’t get to it–apparently it goes through a unique botanical area with California pitcher plants!  Darn it!  A worthy jaunt for the spring.

On we drove…back to California, where the road becomes Redwood Highway (just how many Redwood Highways are there?) and the trees are closer in and the forest thickens.  And then at last The Fork!  To the right, Oregon.  To the left, Crescent City.  Right we went into “the cutest town in the world” Brookings.  Well, it’s hardly the cutest town in the world, but it is nice enough and the gas is cheaper in Oregon so we filled up and then stopped at the beach for a quick run with the dogs.

Then back down the Crescent City for the night.  David pleaded with me to agree to Motel 6, which was fine because I knew we would be at a beautiful cabin for the next two nights…but warning, Motel 6 has remodeled with heated floors.  Heated floors = VERY HOT ROOM.  Like the person who commented on Yelp “Even though it was 30 degrees outside, we turned on the air conditioner” we turned on the air conditioner but got little relief, and opening the window exposed the dogs to strange outside sounds which require growling and barking to keep danger at bay.  David was apologetic but it could hardly be his fault.  So we had a hot night with little sleep, big deal.

Before we dropped into bed we did have an old fashioned fish dinner at The Fisherman restaurant while the dogs slept in the car, preceded by another cold, rainy walk–Hops was shivering the entire time causing David great distress.  Both men survived–and we got a cute picture of the dogs to boot!


The next morning was lovely–sun was out and all we needed was coffee and a quick stop  at the Redwood visitor center which is part of a big park service office just a block from the motel.   With excellent advice from the volunteer at the visitor center–to take 199 back through the park (which we had missed when we went “right at the fork”) to Walker Road, which is the only dogs-okay place to walk in the redwoods, we drove away from Crescent City to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods.  Walker Road didn’t sound so appealing, but with dogs not allowed on trails anywhere in the National Redwood parks we had no choice.

First, coffee.  I was driving as David was heads down in Yelp looking for a Dutch Brothers or other decent espresso place.  As typical, he was flustered about the directions and hollering out conflicting instructions as I drove up and down the main drag.  Turn here, no go straight, make a u-turn…so when I saw a little building on the left that said “drive through espresso” I turned in while he was still fiddling with his phone.  We went around back (the drive through said “closed”) and parked.  Oddly, on this side of the little building were signs in the window for “perms” and “cuts” and “walk-ins okay.”  Apparently the building, small as it was, had two separate businesses, a coffee place and a hairdressers.  Okay, no problem, and we opened the only door into a room perhaps 8’x10′.  Straight ahead was a very small Asian woman cutting an older man’s hair, sitting to the left were two younger white men, standing in front of us a very tall black man, and to the right a white woman also waiting, and behind her a lunch counter-type with a coffee menu but no people.  We stood there for a few seconds while every person in the room turned to look at us–it felt as if we were being evaluated for our hair dressing needs–and then I asked if they sold coffee.  Everyone looked at me completely blankly, including the Asian woman, who paused cutting hair so she could stare at us.  No one said a thing for maybe 10 seconds, and then the waiting woman turned around, looked at the counter, and said “It doesn’t look like anyone is here to make it.”  We went back to the car and started laughing.  That was one weird coffee place.