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Trip Report No. Calif, So. Ore coast trip report

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Starting Oct 3 -- Left Sacramento around 7 a.m. and drove up I-5 to Williams and then on hwy 20 across to the coast. It was so nice driving around Clear Lake w/o all the summer crowds and traffic. I'd forgotten how pretty the Lake County scenery is. The only fog, iffy weather I had the whole trip was right around Willits. All of a sudden it got REALLY foggy/drizzly. But as soon as I started down the hill on hwy 20 towards the coast it cleared up and by the time I got to Ft Bragg it was clear and warm. In fact it was warmer on the coast than it was in Sacramento.

From Ft Bragg I went south to Mendocino and spent a couple of hours wandering around the village that is almost too scenic for its own good. While Mendocino is still lovely, it isn't nearly as nice as it was 20 ' 30 years ago. This was on a Monday morning on Oct and the entire town was chockablock w/ cars. Had to do a double loop around and through town before I could even find a parking place.

Leaving Mendocino I took a slight detour into Caspar and the state beach. Years ago my folks owned property on Caspar headlands and I went looking for it. Then on to Noyo Harbor at Ft Bragg. Had a TERRIFIC seafood lunch at the bottom of the cliff and then went up into Ft Bragg to wander around and shop. Found a wonderful bookshop w/ LOTS of books about the local area, and some very nice clothing and kitchen shops.

By then it was nearly 4 p.m. so I headed north on my way to Garberville for the first 2 nights. The beaches/cliffs on hwy 1 between Ft Bragg and Rockport are truly beautiful ' sort of the Big Sur of the north. But a warning to anyone traveling this route ' once you leave the cast at Rockport and head east to Leggett the road is VERY winding. If there had been anyone else in the car we definitely would have had a car sickness issue. I love to drive those sorts of roads ' but even w/ the steering wheel it was a pretty urpy drive.

Arrived at the Benbow Inn in Garberville just after 6 p.m. I have wanted to stay there since I was a child ' and it was just wonderful. I had the smallest/cheapest room in the place and it was still great. Beautiful reproduction furniture, decanter of sherry, lovely view over the terrace and gardens, etc. The bathroom was very small but beautifully decorated w/ high quality linens, toiletries, etc. The public rooms are very comfortable/posh with roaring fire, reading areas, games tables and so on. The grounds are really beautiful too w/ gardens down to the river. And the pub bar was my 'home from home' w/ a very good selection of single malt whiskys and even Pimm's. The Benbow has a terrific off-season special ' 3 nights for the cost of 2 or 50% off the second night if you are only staying 2 nights. So my $130 per night room only averaged $97.50 per night. I will definitely stay there again ' maybe in one of the larger suites next time.

Garberville is a small logging town in the middle of wonderful scenery ' it is really the gateway to the best of the north coast redwoods. I have very good friends who live in Garberville so the next day we went to breakfast and then they took me on an all-day tour all over the country. We drove the Avenue of the Giants, stopped in several groves, went to Scotia, Ferndale and even stopped and paid 'dues' in one of the local Indian Casinos. Scotia is a 'company town' built by a lumber company more than a century ago to house all of its employees and is really interesting. And then there is Ferndale ' some of the most beautiful Victorian houses in N. California. Had a terrififc lunch in the old hotel and visited some really original shops and galleries.

After two nights at the Benbow I headed north on hwy 101 on my way to Gold Beach OR for the next night. The drive was very easy and pretty restful ' the only traffic of any sort was in the bottleneck where 101 goes through Eureka. The whole rest of the trip was practically traffic free. Stopped at a few parks and beauty spots. Went down to the pier in Trinidad and had a REALLY yummy fish/scallops/clams/prawn and chips lunch.

Interestingly, when I crossed the state line there was no big 'Welcome to Oregon' sign. The only way one knows for sure you are in Oregon is the different font on the speed limit signs. This part of the coast is really pretty and I stopped at just about every wide spot in the road to take pictures. Made it to Irelands (recommended by a couple of fodorites) in Gold Beach by about 5 p.m. Ireland's was a GOOD choice. I had a funky/old fashioned cabin w/ a wood burning fireplace and even a garage, only steps to a fabulous beach. There are also regular motel type rooms and fancier suites. I walked up the street to a small but nice supermarket and got all the fixings for a nice dinner in my little cabin. The weather was soooo nice ' I took two long walks on the beach and didn't even need a sweater.

On the way north my car had started leaking something that didn't look good so the next morning I took it to a garage recommended by Ireland's staff. They put it up on the lift, checked all the fluids, belts etc and decided it was just condensation/minor leakage from the a/c. The mechanic spent about 30 mins on the car and they didn't charge me a cent!

Left Gold Beach and headed to Port Orford ' w/ about 10 photo ops along the way. At Port Orford I walked to the beach near the visitors center. Then went to the coast guard station museum and hiked a couple of the trails out to look for whales and amazing views. The docents at the coastguard station were a couple who live in my hometown. They volunteer at various light houses/museums along the OR coast. Cape Blanco is right outside Port Orford and I stopped there and toured the Lighthouse.

Then it was on to Bandon. Stayed at a funky place ' the Sea Star guesthouse. This was just wonderful ' especially for the price. It is a hostel and café w/ some nicer units right on the harbor front in the old town part of Bandon. I had a fireplace, skylight, fridge, microwave, front deck w/ a bench and wonderful views over the marina/harbor ' all for $55. Wandered around old Bandon, had a couple of good meals and just basically kicked back.

After the one day/night in Bandon I headed east t to visit my favorite uncle who lives in Roseburg. Enroute I saw cranberry bogs, a covered bridge and lots of pretty mountain scenery and leaves just starting to turn. From there it was a couple of days down I-5 through Ashland, Mt Shasta to visit more relatives and back home to Sacramento.

I definitely plan on heading back up that way again ' to the redwoods, CA and OR coastlines, and the Benbow.

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