Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 4

Well the rain stopped early in the morning while I was still sleeping although heavy rain is expected to start by mid afternoon today. I revise my plans for today to walk the area right around my Tiny House in the Point Arena – Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument.

Access for day use only this BLM land is situated along a rugged coastline adjacent to the town of Point Arena, offering spectacular views of coastal bluffs, sea arches, the  Garcia River Estuary and sandy beaches and dunes with 8 miles (12.8 km) of marked paths along the Point Arena Lighthouse Trail. I am going to concentrate on the northern section of the trail that leads to the Point Arena Lighthouse. This path will take me on a 6 mile (9.6 km) walk this morning.

It is a beautiful cold blustery sunny morning walking along the coastal bluffs observing the power of the ocean crash against the cliffs below my feet. This is a pretty level easy walk but the mud and water puddles from the last few days of rain has made some of the stream crossings an interesting jump to keep my feet dry.

 

At the halfway point of my walk stands an iconic figure in the landscape, the Point Arena Lighthouse. I have seen it grow in the distance as I have walk toward it. Prominently standing on a jut of land overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a barren windswept promontory surrounded on 3-sides with water. Officially established on September 30, 1869 the Point Arena Light Station #496 was first lit on May 1, 1870. As it is getting late in the morning I have a snack before entering the museum in the Caretakers cottage to view the exhibits on the history lighthouse and the rescues made in the surrounding waters. Enjoy the museum and take the walk up into the lighthouse itself to view the horizon from the top you won’t regret it.

 

As it is close to noon I decide to walk the 2.2 miles (3.5 km) on the paved road back to the room. With sky’s darkening in the distance the dirt path might be a quagmire at the low sections and stream crossings during the return journey if it starts to rain. A pleasant walk without many vehicles on the road I make it back to my Tiny House and proceed to fix a warm late lunch in my kitchen. It was a nice way to warm my body after the chilly walk this morning. Sitting with my book and hot chocolate next to the fire, the rain starts to come down in buckets for the next few hours. What a restful way to spend a vacation, a nice walk in the morning and sitting by a cozy fire warming my chilled bones into the evening.

 

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 2

After a very restful nights sleep I wake to find an indifferent day ahead of me. Rain is scheduled for the entire week so I’ll be dodging storms as I explore the area.

First up is to head about an hours drive back north to Fort Bragg, CA. There is a coastline park right beside the town I wish to walk before I explore the town itself. It rained on the entire drive north so I’m am expecting get a little wet today but magically the rain stops as I reach Fort Bragg.

Starting at the south end of town I head to the southern section of the Noyo Headlands Park. This stretch of coastline has been off-limits to the public and locked behind lumber mill gates for over a century It has a 5 mile long trail that is easily accessible and part of the California Coastal Trail. The California Coastal Trail will connect the entire coast of California 1,200 miles (1,900 km) from Mexico to Oregon. As of January 2017 the trail is only about 30 percent complete with signage.

At the end of the southern section of the trail is the Noyo Center for Marine Studies Crows Nest building. Closed when I was there the small building appears to have some interesting information inside as I peaked in a window for a look.

Retracing my steps back to my car I drove to the Northern section of the Noyo Headlands. Walking south to investigate the coastline I have noticed there have been some unsuspectedly high wave action due to the storm off the coast in the Pacific. I am staying off the beaches at this time as there have been some rouge waves in the area that have caught unsuspecting individuals unaware of the force of Mother Nature.

Leaving the North Headlands I make the short 1/2 mile drive into town and park to explore the old Main Street to find good place for a late lunch. Such interesting shops in the area. Naturally the typical tourist shops but also some rather nice shops owned by local artists. I stop in a bookstore that specializes in old/used books. I love these places as you never know what treasures you’ll find. And boy, do I find a great book. It was written in 1959 and is titled “The Klondike, The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899” by Pierre Berton. I have ben reading it and quite enjoying the history I’m reliving and learning fresh as it relates to my trip to Dawson City this last October.

Continuing on I spot an interesting place for lunch, Egghead’s. Such a wonderfully small intimate restaurant. I head in and grab a table to review the menu. The Wicked Witch Burger with Spicy Wicked Witch Sauce sounds interesting but ask about its heat index. The kind waitress says it has been rated an 8 out of 10. Oh, too hot for me right now so I decide on the Good Witch Veggie Sandwich with salad. What a delightful choice, I’m not a vegetation by any mens but this was outstanding.

Next stop was a visit to the Noyo Center for Marine Science main building on Main Street. Very nicely laid out with information and exhibits on the local shoreline, animals and coastal environment. I recommend taking some time to explore it’s exhibits.

The next block had the Medocinio Chocolate Company. I must have something sweet to make up for that healthy lunch I had earlier. Some very interesting chocolate flavors are available in this store. I got 3 different chocolates, the first was “Blueberry Hill” a milk chocolate center with blueberries, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with blueberry chocolate decoration. Next was the “Surf’s Up Peanut Butter” a peanut butter center, dipped in milk chocolate with a “peanut” decoration on top. Finally, a spicy one named “Pacific Fire”,  this dark chocolate center had a hint of cayenne pepper and dipped in dark chocolate and decorated with a red pepper which was just outstanding, heat but not a lot.

Well back in the car I have had a full day and I arrive back at my tiny house just as the sun is setting. It had sprinkled rain off and on all day but not enough to get soaked. Resting for the evening I read by the fire as it storms outside enjoying a peaceful night relaxing readying myself for the new day tomorrow.

 

Traveling south to the Mendocino Coast – Day 1

It’s been awhile since my past post although many things happened during the first part of the year with numerous day trips that I really didn’t take photos of, just deciding to enjoy the moment. Now it’s off for more adventures.

First trip this year was a trip south to the Mendocino Coast of Northern California for a week of relaxing, well sort of.

After a quick jaunt down Interstate 5 and then west along Highway 199 I arrived at the coast at Crescent City, CA. Turning south along Highway 101 I reached my first stop for the night in Eureka,CA staying the night at an Air BnB where I had previously stayed, the Colorful Corner. A small quaint private room with a wonderful host who met me at the door and we proceeded to gab away like old friends for about an hour. I had visited this town before and it has some wonderful Victorian Architecture scattered through it.

 

I asked her about a place to eat that I noticed was close to her house and she said it was a great place to eat. Good food and atmosphere. It was a very small place that you should have reservations for but it was still early and I sat at the bar to eat so I got right in.

The Brick and Fire Bistro has an outstanding rustic and cozy vibe. Sitting at the bar I saw directly into the kitchen and was right in front of the wood fire oven. I had a wonderful meal talking to the friendly staff and seeing how the food was prepared was a great benefit for a seat at the bar. I decided on the chicken, brie & asparagus pizza that is served on a classic Italian white crust with pine-nut sage brown butter pesto, roasted chicken, shaved asparagus, red onion, brie & parmesan cheeses which was baked perfectly in the wood fired oven. DELICIOUS.

 

After filling my belly it’s back to the room to sleep. As I was leaving in the morning my host opened her front door and we again talked for about an hour before leaving to continue my southbound journey. What a delightful host and the room is beautiful, well stocked and very clean. I will be back many times here if the room is available when I pass through.

A short dive took me to the town of Ferndale, CA. The town is off the main Highway by a few miles but worth the detour. This small Victorian town is vintage America with an historic Main Street to browse and enjoy a meal. First settled in 1852 it is at the northern gateway to the Humboldt Redwood National and State Parks.

 

Once in the Parks I got off of Highway 101 and proceeded on a parallel road named Avenue of the Giants. This scenic highway is the former alignment of U.S. Route 101 that continues to be maintained as a state highway (State Route 254). A drive among the redwoods that is lined by gigantic trees along it’s 31-mile length providing a much slower more scenic route through the redwoods with many stops for hiking and day use activities. Stopping at the Drury-Chaney grove I took the two and half mile loop from the parking lot wandering along it’s path under the majestic canopy of these large Coastal Redwoods.

 

Back on Highway 101 after that invigorating walk, I continue my route turning on Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway) to my room for the night at Lighthouse Point Resort near Point Arena, CA. The resort is made up of small cottages (tiny houses actually) in a wonderful setting set back from the ocean by about a mile in a grove of trees. There are no entertainment facilities of any kind nearby and limited cell service and no or very expensive WiFi, although there is cable TV provided. But that’s what I so enjoyed about this location, secluded and very quiet where you could unplug from the modern world in a comfortable setting.

 

Day 19 – Onward to Jasper and Banff

Getting up in the morning goes a little slow today. It has been a great adventure but many days dong so many things has left me a little tired. After having breakfast and packing up, it’s time to get on the road. Continuing along Highway 16 there is so much to see along this stretch of road from natures wonders to historic sites. I will be back to visit Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and many of the Provincial Parks along its route.

Crossing back through British Columbia’s 9th largest city, Prince George, the route continues east for Japer and Banff National Parks along BC Route 16, The Yellowhead Highway. Traffic passing through the city is a little strange on my senses, there have been so many empty stretches of roads that all the traffic is hard to come back to. I remember going through Whitehorse, Yukon with the same feeling. So many people it seemed.

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Stopping at the Ancient Rainforest Trail to hike on wooden walkways through an ancient forest located in one of the upper Fraser River Valley’s few remaining antique stands of western red cedar is just jaw dropping. These stands include cedar trees that are 800 – 2,000 years old in an area farther from the ocean than any other temperate rainforest in the world, it feels like being on the west coast, such as Vancouver Island. Huge cedars, all kinds of moss, skunk cabbage, wild flowers, and vibrant green ferns flood your senses. Interpretive signs along the trail explain the forests history, wild life, as well as the plant life.

Along the longer trail you can pass a beautiful 30m (98ft) waterfall named Tree Beard Falls, clusters of colossal cedars known as the Sacred Circle, a cedar called Tree Beard that towers mightily with a display of unusual arms, and then to an especially large based cedar that makes up for it’s lack of height in it’s girth. This last is named Big Tree, being 16 feet (5 m) in diameter it is the largest cedar in the Ancient Forest as it stands in silent vigil beside a fallen comrade.

These resilient inspiring ancient cedars are beautiful in their old age, although broken and falling apart in places, they continue to reproduce and contribute to the ecosystem.

It was the weekend and campgrounds were full in the area. Finally finding a place in the group camping area of Mount Robson Lodge. This open area was in a meadow with picnic tables spread around. It was a little far away from the facilities but very quiet even with all the neighbors around.

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Day 5 – Into the Yukon Territories

Leaving the Northern Rockies Lodge we continuing traveling on the Alaska Highway heading toward the Yukon Territory.

 

 

Lower Liard Bridge built in 1943 is a 1,143-foot (348 m) long suspension bridge is the last remaining suspension bridge along the Highway.

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is a day use area with some camping. A short hike leads back into the Hot Springs Pool and has been a favorite stop along the highway to soak away those long days of driving. Passing through Liard River Hot Springs there are buffalo all over the road. It was like I was transported to Yellowstone National Park where I was stuck in a Buffalo traffic jamb. The buffalo here stuck to the shoulder of the road not creating a problem for traffic.

 

The Alaska Highway travels east and west for a portion of the route today so you pass into and back out of the Yukon Territory for a few miles until you enter it for good about the 7.5 miles (12 k) before the town of Watson Lake.

 

Next stop was Watson Lake, a town 612 miles (980 km) along the Alaska Highway is best known for the few acres of the offbeat at the Sign Post Forest. Designated in 2013 as a Yukon Historic Site, was started by Carl Lindley by adding a sign at this location pointing to his hometown with the mileage. Other G.I.’s added more signs to the post for their hometowns. started this collection of signs and license plates from all over the world during the construction of the AL-CAN. Numbering about over 80,000 signs travelers are still adding to this collection. Right behind is the Alaska Highway Interpretive Center, which has a video on Yukon history with photos and displays of the construction of the AL-CAN. This was town was important during the construction due to the airport and being one of the major refueling stops of the Northwest Staging Route.

 

Turning north along Canada Highway 4, The Campbell Highway, a 362-mile (5983 km) paved but mostly gravel road will lead to Highway 2.

 

Named after the first white man to explore the Yukon area, John Campbell, this all season road leads from Watson Lake to just north of Carmacks on Klondike Highway (2). This rougher road is shorter in mileage than continuing along to the junction of the Alaskan Highway and the Klondike Highway but it is much slower. Services are few and far between along this highway.

At Ross River, a supply and communications base for prospectors in the area that is now a jumping off point for hunters and canoeists, it was decided to stopper the evening at Lapie River Campground. Setting ups camp we took the short walk down too the river to enjoy the sounds.

 

Day 4 – Onward to Fort Nelson and Beyond

Waking up the next morning there was a light rain dropping on the tent. Packing up quickly and having a quick breakfast we cross the Kiskatinaw Bridge and link back up with the Alaska Highway a little further north from where we left it last night.

Here are some sights that are located along the drive today. Medium to heavy rain meant we continued on praying that it would stop for the evening camping.

H. Maclean Rotary RV Park at Charlie Lake has a memorial for 12 soldiers that drowned in May of 1942 when their pontoon boat sank transporting equipment to the job site on the opposite bank of the river.

The treacherous Suicide Hill was a grade that welcomed travelers with a signpost reading “PREPARE TO MEET THY MAKER”. Guess you had to have a sense of humor if you were traveling up here in the early years. The Highway now bypasses this hill.

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Suicide Hill

Sikanni Chief River Bridge was the first permanent structure completed along the highway. Built by African American army engineers it was destroyed by an arson fire in 1992. Only the original pilings are remaining.

The southern end of the Trutch Mountain Bypass is at Historic Milepost 191. This section of the Highway was bypassed in 1987 with a new road eliminating a steep mountainous winding drive. The original roadbed is a gravel road still in use by gas and oil patch crews.

Fort Nelson 283 miles (454.3 km) north of Dawson Creek is another town offering lodging, services, campgrounds and a few attractions. Originally based on the fur trade, the town was built in 1865 along the Fort Nelson River’s west bank after the second town was destroyed by fire after the local aboriginals killed the 8 inhabitants in 1813. A upward growing population in the 1940’s and 1950’s got the town recognized as an Improvement District in 1957 and finally a village status in 1987. Mile zero to clearing crews of the AL-CAN, this town is where the first clearing crews started work along the AL-CAN as a winter road already existed between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

Arriving in Fort Nelson it was still raining pretty good so went into the Visitor Center for a break from the drive and to discuss the plans for the night. This is a very nice Visitor Center with a great information desk, a souvenir shop, visitor information brochures, a short movie on the area and a large sitting area for resting. Going onto WiFi it was shown by weather apps that the rain will not subside anytime soon and is scheduled to be pretty heavy at times.

Searching the road ahead it was determined to try and get a place to stay along Muncho Lake at The Northern Rockies Lodge. This is a nice lodge but a little expensive. Oh well, this might be the last time for a room and shower for awhile and the rain was coming down pretty good.

Asking the information desk on a nice place to have a late lunch it was recommended to try a restaurant just down the street. The Gourmet Girl is a small establishment that serves very good food in a quaint atmosphere.

Veering west for 200 miles (322 km) the Highway enters a dense forested area with distant wilderness vistas of 100 miles (161 km) or more.

Gardner Creek is named for local trapper Archie Gardner who helped recon this part of the AL-CAN. He is remembered in Earl Browns book “Alcan Trailblazers” by Harry Spiegal as “An old trapper….who has lived up here all his life, is the wrangler and is in charge of the string. He wears homemade moose-hide beaded moccasins; Kentucky-jean pants [and] a big beaten slouch hat. A hank of grey hair protrudes from his old hat and half covers his eyes. He sports a half growth of stubby grey whiskers and smokes a crooked, big bowl, sweet smelling pipe…..Archie is 62 years old and even though quite thin and weather beaten, he is as straight as a spruce tree and as nimble as a boy in his teens…..Archie knows this country like a book and I’m sure his knowledge of this terrain is going to be very helpful for our work.”

A required stop along the Highway is Testa River Lodge, Services and Campground for some world famous cinnamon buns. This is a very nice location with small souvenir shop, campground with showers and laundry, and a nice outside covered sitting area to rest.

At Historic Milepost 392 is the highest pass on the highway at 4,250-feet (1,295 m).

Another reroute of the original Highway is at Muncho Lake. The original highway is far above the lake on the mountaintop and required considerable excavation by the crews. It was relocated to a benched terrace right above the lake; hikers and mountain bikers now use the original road.

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Arriving at the nights destination, Northern Rockies Lodge, it is a lovely place. This historic highway lodge is open year round providing accommodations, a full service restaurant, gas, seasonal camping and a flying service.

Day 3 – To Dawson Creek

It was a short drive to Dawson Creek, B.C. from the campsite.

Along this section of Highway 97 is the Town of Chetwynd with its chainsaw carving project that began as part of the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska (Alcan) highway. Located along the main roadway and at the Visitor Center these carved chainsaw statues are something to admire and are exquisite as you pass through.

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The Alaskan Highway formally starts in Dawson Creek, BC at Mile Marker 0. The 1,422-mile (2,288.5 km) long formal Alaskan Highway ends in Delta Junction, AK while the unofficial end is in Fairbanks, AK, 1,523 miles (2,451 km) from Dawson Creek, BC.

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Dawson Creek was incorporated as a city in 1958 and is a principal railhead of the British Columbia Railway and the intersection of 4 major highways in the area. Make sure to get your photo at Milepost 0 Cairn, visit the Pioneer Village, Dawson Creek Art Gallery and the Alaska Highway House to name a few of the sites in town. And if you have time visit the Northern Alberta Railways Park.

We saw the Mile Zero Cairn / Sign Post for a photo op, the Surveyor Statue, visited the Alaska Highway House Museum, walked the couple of blocks to see the Official Zero-mile Post a few blocks away and had a nice lunch at Hug a Mug’s Coffee House and Eatery.

It is sad the original, official mile post mark was a part of countless pranks and kidnappings with this new one replacing it in the 1980’s.

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Driving 20 minutes north of town, the stop for the night was at the Kiskatinaw Provincial Park. This campsite is located right next to the curved, wooden Historic Kiskatinaw Bridge. Kiskatinaw means “cutback” in Cree. Constructed in 1942-43 by the US Public Roads Administration it replaced an original 3 span timber trestle. With a 9 degree curve to accommodate the Steep grade change and the need to notch a cliff at the east end. It was one of 133 permanent bridges built to replace the temporary bridges built by the U.S Army. At about 122m (400 foot) long it was the first curved bridge to be constructed in Canada and one of the last in North America to remain.