Road Trip We haven’t been on a road trip for a while and wrapping up the last two of California’s National Parks seems like a great reason to hit the road. We head up to Lassen first, then off to the coast on the longest windiest narrow road ever: over 200 miles of twisty highway 299, turning, ridges and valleys. Beautiful, but absolutely exhausting to driver. Stumbly kicks ass.
No! After a long day of driving and a strenuous long hike, we pop open a bottle of wine, have a glass, and take the rest with us to the property’s diner, the only place to eat within tens of miles. As soon as we walk in the innkeeper barks at us that we can’t bring our own wine. We ask if we can take it to the patio. No! Can we sit on the patio without our wine? No! Dinner ends up being ice cream and pie that we eat in our cabin… with our own wine! Whatever.
Simple Pleasures At Lassen, we stay at a cabin in Mill Creek, about 10 miles from the park. When they say “rustic” they really mean it! The place is small and everything in it is old and tired, but Assana doesn’t care: it indeed has a flush toilet! (You ask why? Check out our trip to Yosemite). And the toilet is actually in a separate room… and the bedrooms have beds… the floors are clean… It is all about simple pleasures! Overall, though small and old, it is quite comfortable.
Magmatic Gas We pretty much cover the entire park by mid afternoon, including a hike to Bumpass' Hell — yes, someone’s name! — which Assana does in her tire-truck shoes since she forgets her hiking shoes in the cabin. Whoops! To anyone who has been to Yellowstone, Lassen will seem a bit anemic. Not to say it is not cool, but its entire geothermal area is a fraction of Yellowstone’s. It turns out that unbeknownst to us, out trip coincides with a NASA weekend and the park is full of astrogeeks. We go back to the park at night for star gazing — amazing telescope sighting of Saturn with all its rings and moons — and lectures. Talking of not knowing your audience: this super geeky scientist girl geeks out the campground crowd by lecturing them about chemical and physical details of magma, volcanos, eruptions, microbial life, etc. There are a lot of glazed-over eyes on grandmas and 3 year olds. Though she is a peach compared to the dude who spends 15 minutes talking about green laser's wavelength!
Twisty Next we take the world’s longest winding road to the coast, both to see the Redwoods, and to escape from the forest fires that started at Lassen. The coast won’t have fires, right? Wrong. The following day, as we head home, we driver thru such a thick cloud of smoke that our visibility is reduced to 50-100’. Turns out half of Mendocino county is also on fire.
Giants But the coast is what the coast is: cold, foggy, and drab. Redwood National Park is redwoody, but what we love the most is Avenue of the Giants, which is officially part of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It should be part of the National Park. The drive is amazing, both inside and outside the park. Hard to believe that this road used to be Highway 101!
Victorian We spend our last night in the adorable victorian town of Ferndale, in a cute victorian inn called Victorian Inn. A rustic aperitif and a nice dinner at Hotel Ivanhoe ends our trip, and wraps up our California National Parks.