I think I am a wee bit in love with Grants Pass. It's small and quirky and filled with whimsical charm - and bears. Loads of bears. Holly took us on a tour down the main street, and we came across these delightful chaps:
Grants Pass would be the perfect place for an Artists' convention. And looking at their website I have just found about three other places I would like to go - there's a wolf rehabilitation centre in Williams, and a wildlife one too (near Merlin). So.... already I find more reasons to be going back!
Along the way, I found inspiration, in the form of the Burl Gallery:
And we actually DO have fruit on board. But they are not concerned about bananas and blueberries, only cherries, and we are waved through.
The trees become larger, and larger.
We come to the coast, where the fog rolls over the ocean like steam, making everything look spectral. Crescent City is quiet, almost looking abandoned, and we purchase our lunch from Safeway - a sandwich for me, chicken for Tim, and eat it by the waterfront, watching the fog burn off and revealing to us the ocean. It is early afternoon, but feels like early morning. We have heard that the Californian coast can be quite foggy, and hope that this does not bode ill of things to come.
Then we are back into the redwoods for a time - they are skinnier here, more primeval. Then the coast again. The shimmering mist dances across the waters and cloaks the trees. The water seems a lighter blue than that of Oregon, with a greying tint. The shimmer of mist adds a spectral quality. Outside the Trees of Mystery, Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox tower, whether they are luring in tourists or scaring them away, who can tell?
On the Klamath river, golden bears stand sentinel.
We stop at Arcata, further down the coast. Here shimmering crystals of light dance off the lagoon. It looks to me rather like an alternative/student town, and the median age is in fact less than 30. We park by a grassy square whilst I run off to find myself a moleskine journal - having seen Holly's accordian book, I want one of my own and have done a wee bit of research. I find one easily enough, and we are soon on our way. Arcata has said "no" to fast food and chain stores. It also seems to have said no to public restrooms, though.
We bypass Eureka and Fortuna, diverting from the main freeway and into the eldritch gloom of the redwood forests, along the Avenue of the Giants. Although this road loops back and forth, sometimes quite near the newer freeway, it feels secluded. The looming trees cast the road into deep shadows and render everything else tiny and insignificant.
We come out in Garberville and I am immediately glad that I decided against staying here. It feels unkempt and rough, with stores like "Cannabis College" and "Stonery". We had intended to eat here, but none of the restaurants have received good reviews, and he finds another place further south called the Peghouse Diner. I stop at the supermarket to pick up some breakfast supplies and we rejoin the highway and continue south.
The Peghouse Diner is not hard to find - it is in fact right beside the freeway. There is a cop car parked beside it - but it is part of the decoration. A simple enough place - dairy/takeway with space for outdoor concerts. We place our order and eat it at one of the picnic tables in the courtyard. My salmon burger is delicious - the meat juicy and the only thing that marrs the experience is the wind.
Then we have to find Stonegate Villas. Easier said than done. We take the correct exit, following the instructions on the printed out map, which puts the villas near the Drive-thru tree. This turns out to be wrong. A fact we discover as we drive along Drive-thru-tree road, hunting desperately for our accommodation. There is a general store and a camping ground, but little else. We cross over the freeway, past a motel for sale, reach the end of the road and turn around. Coming back, I identify the motel for sale - "that's it!" I cry, finally seeing first the correct number, and then the sign. It looks rather rougher from the front than I had expected. We pull in, with a little trepidation. Unearned trepidation as it turns out. The place is lovely. The rooms are small, but the bed has been neatly made, and a flower basket hangs in one side. Worn, but clean and obviously well cared for. It is also very, very quiet. I think there are maybe two other rooms occupied. This little place, off the main trail and somewhat secluded, is probably a sinking venture. No wonder it's for sale.
I undertake a little night-walking as the sun sets - hoping to see a raccoon, but all I see are Californian quails (the first state bird in the state they live in) and a lot of small, biting insects that eventually force me indoors.