Port Orford to Arcata, CA: Walking with the giants.
02.09.2016 - 11.09.2016
It was a beautiful morning and we wanted to hit the road.
We made our way to a nearby bakery and grabbed gooey, cheesy, eggy bagels loaded with tons of bacon and hit the road.
Tasty Kate’s was one part bakery and one part 1973 museum, but all delicious.
We had a 3 hour drive and it would take us from Oregon into northern California and through the Redwoods National Park, where we planned to do some hiking if time and weather were agreeable.
What we didn’t realize was that the views along this stretch of coast would be so jaw-dropping that we would creep along the road at a snail’s pace, stopping constantly to “Ooooo…” and “Aaahhhhh….” at every turn.
The beauty of it was ridiculous.
There. Are. Not. Words.
We knew we were getting close to the Redwoods Park when we passed a 60 foot tall Paul Bunyan and his anatomically correct sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox. File this under the best roadside bathroom stop of all time.
We made a detour to take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the Redwoods, planning to stop and do a 12 mile hike along the James Irvine Trail to Gold Bluffs Beach.
The magic of the James Irvine Trail wasn’t just the enormity of the trees (they were) or the deep greenness of the forest (it was), but that the trail was virtually empty. We saw almost no one else and, after a few miles in, we felt completely immersed in an ancient, primeval forest. There was no sound – not even the sound of birds. It was hushed and still and we felt immersed in a fairy tale.
We fully intended to set off at a brisk hiking pace, but we literally spent the first 15 minutes doing a snail crawl, necks craned skywards, guffawing every 2 minutes like Jed Clampett seeing his first skyscraper.
There was a weight and a power to their presence.
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” -John Steinbeck
That. Exactly that.
The massive redwoods began to thin as we grew closer to the ocean, replaced by alder and spruce.
And then, as though the forest had never existed at all, we suddenly found ourselves on an immense beach scattered with driftwood and elk.
We found a piece of driftwood that was only slightly smaller than our house and decided it would make a perfect place for lunch.
The 6+ mile hike back to the trailhead was equally awe-inspiring, despite aching feet and fading light. We hiked in silence, tired and pensive, overwhelmed by the magic of this place.
We emerged from the forest weary and dusty but invigorated by all we had just witnessed.
We piled into the car, pulled off our dusty boots and headed back down the road.
When I chose Arcata, CA as our stopping point for the night, I only knew it was based close to the redwoods. I was sucked in by clever marketing, “Arcata’s lovely downtown, proximity to the expansive redwood forests, and laid back style is sure to put a smile on anyone's face.”
What I was blissfully unaware of was the fact that Arcata is the Napa Valley of cannabis, better known for its free-spirited culture than its redwoods.
Home to the Mushroom Fair and the Hemp Festival, it is a place to find gypsy jazz bands and bohemian drum circles. Apparently, the town even passed a law that women can go topless around the town plaza if they so choose. It’s known as a place where stoners, nudists, and hippies can live in relative peace without being too bothered by the rules of conservative society.
It seemed ironic, given that I am pretty sure I am the sole member of my generation that has never smoked pot and who would rather eat a live cockroach than expose her breasts in public.
The heart of Arcata is its town plaza (maybe because you can see boobies there….), so this is where we chose to stay (BOOBIES!). We found a cozy little apartment with a terrace right on the square.
The upside was that, due to their abhorration of “outsider influence,” the good people of Arcata didn't allow chain stores or restaurants. What we found in their quaint town square was a unique, delightful, one-of-a-kind experience.
And it wasn’t all hemp shoes and henna. We found PASTA!
But no boobies.
Abruzzi Ristorante was located in the basement of the historic Jacoby Storehouse. It was dimly lit and invited us in warmly with the smells of freshly baked bread and roasted garlic.
We stuffed ourselves with warm, local olives; fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; grilled peppers; and hearty pasta, washed down with local red wine.
We passed a drum circle, an artisan cooperative, an herb store, a bead shop, and a yoga studio on the way back to our little apartment, but I never spotted any boobies.
I was beginning to think that, much like the colorful sunsets and tales of a giant-ape man in the forests, the Boobies of Arcata were more myth than reality.