Crescent City is the first city you hit when you drive the west coast Oregon to California. We had gotten a little use to the craft beer scene in Oregon so I convinced Brad we needed to go to Port O’Pints brewery. They gave us excellent advice about where to see the best redwoods (in their opinion) and even a free beer.
Redwoods National Park was highly recommended by many. We have been through a lot of forests slept in the van in a lot of forests, you wouldn’t imagine that another would be so great. But we spent the majority of the day doing short hikes through these amazing trees. They are actually breathtaking. You feel so small and insignificant especially when you start thinking about how much more time they have been on the earth. At a toilet stop there was a great representation on a fallen tree, there were indications on the tree rings showing when in the trees life historic events would have happened, the first was the year 1000 the Vikings discovered North America. These trees have seen a lot! So strong and sturdy. They towered above us, I was worried our necks would get sore from looking up. We kept seeing bigger, some bases were so wide it would take at least a chain of 8 tree huggers to cover it. They looked so much more impressive than the other trees we have seen because they were so uniform, they just seemed to grow straight up chasing the sun. I always thought that this was the only place the Redwoods grew but a ranger told us she had heard that they also grow along the coast of Australia and New Zealand, might have to go on a hunt down under an see if she is right.
That night we slept in the Bear Casino car park, the first and only time we pretty much got paid to sleep in the carpark. Once you register your car and they give you $10 poker chip to gamble, not my thing but would have been nice to win some $$ to get some fancy hotels…. Or extend our trip!
We got out of the forests and headed out to the coast we just wanted to enjoy the ocean and we scored some beautiful Sunshine. We went through a few cute towns like Fort Bragg and Newport. Then decided to set up right by the water for lunch in Medichino. It was the weekend so was nice to see so many people out enjoying the amazing weather. We travelled as far south as we could before we had to take the last road inland to Lake Tahoe. We found a really cheap hotel in Tahoe so decided to treat ourselves. We had also heard that Heavenly ski lifts were open. We had just bought an Epic Pass for the snowboarding at the end of our trip and it also gave us access to Heavenly Mountain so we were keen to try fit in a day of boarding. We headed up the gondola which gave us the best view of the lake, probably the biggest we had seen so far. When we got to the slopes it didn’t look that appealing, there were only three runs open, it was so crowded that the whole area was a slow zone. We decided to give it a miss and explore instead.
The Vikingsholm is an old house built on the Emerald Lakeshore of the lake. I had read that you could kayak to the only small island in this inlet, where there was also a old teahouse. I was really keen to do it, even though it was cloudy and rainy we were going to tough it out. We parked and walked the mile down to the lake shore but the kayak rental place made the decision for us, they were closed there was no one in sight. When the rain cleared we wanted to go for a run along the lake, it was pretty frustrating. There was not a continuous path. As I had discovered in California beaches, including lake waterfront can be privately owned, so not easily accessible to the public. So it was short we decided we would just take advantage of the bars happy hour and our hotel's hot tub and planned for Yosemite.
I called the park and asked if there were any campsites available, while Brad checked the website. The lady on the other end made me feel a little silly when she said…” ah no it's Thanksgiving week, everyone books very far in advance, there is no chance, if you want to try to get a cancellation you will have to be online at 10 am every morning”. I had a little moment of disappointment, then about a minute later, Brad said “ I've got one” he was on the website looking while I was on the phone. We couldn't believe it, had she just lied to me or were we just lucky? Regardless we were super happy that we would get to stay in the valley.
The drive to Yosemite was beautiful it was very dry, there were parts it where it reminded me of Australia. Until we were winding round crazy mountains approaching the valley.
Yosemite was bustling. Even though it was shoulder season, it was another reminder how lucky we were at the other parks to have such little crowds. Driving into Yosemite was very organized it was like driving through an airport, departing stay right. There were multiple pullovers crowded with spectators trying to get a shot of the giant walls of granite that were shadowing the valley. On our way to the campground I was eyes peeled for bears, Yosemite is known for bears before the trip we watched youtube videos of them breaking into cars. I asked Tom, the sweet volunteer checking us into camp if the bears were hibernating. “Nope Yosemite bears don't hibernate, they feed enough from campers, especially careless ones.” and handed us a “bear aware pamphlet”. Bears in Yosemite have been killed for getting too reliant on human food and getting too close to humans, which is really sad. I changed my mind I really hoped we didn’t see any bears in this park.
We went for a short walk up the river and watched the sunset over the cliffs.As we walked back from the river we could understand exactly why the bears come to the camp as we could smell so many BBQs and foodie smells with our human noses….
Walking through the campground I pointed out some of the biggest most impressive camp setups I have ever seen. Some people look like they bring all the comforts of home with them, I could not imagine driving some of these buses through the mountain passes. There were only a handful of converted vans like our little Jentastic. We lit a fire and enjoyed the stars. A little bit of a different atmosphere here. Instead of the quiet we had got used to we sat by the fire we listened to the hum of all the generators. Then a disco ball thingy pointer on the other side of the camp started flashing and shooting green laser light into the sky. What tha? Why would someone/need/want/ to bring that camping? I was looking forward to getting out and exploring the high cliffs in the morning.
The weather was fabulous. Probably one of the warmest days we had had so far, I only had to wear 2 layers and no gloves! The iconic half dome hike was closed for the season. We had all day so we choose the Glacier point hike. It was a grind, not quite as intense as the grouse grind, but there were a LOT of switchbacks to take us up 1042m above the valley. They incline didn’t seem so bad when we could rest and look to the other side of the valley and see rainbows in the stream of the 700m steam of Yosemite falls. Even though there were a lot of people in the park there were not many on the trail, it was kind of nice to get away from the business. Until we got to the top, where there were streams of people who had chosen to drive 45 minutes then walk just a few hundred metres to where we were enjoying the view towards the distant mountains and half dome. Would be nice to come back and conquer that crazy shape one day, but that day I was happy with our new longest hike at 18.45 km.
We headed out of Yosemite early on Thanksgiving. We stopped at a short hike to see the waterfalls up close and to try spot hikers on El Capitan, one of the biggest cliff faces in the park. Yosemite is a magical place, it makes sense we had to share it a little more.
On our way back to the coast had the best road stops. First a farm fresh fruit and vegetable. stand. We got a little carried away with the colourful goods that hadn’t been air-freighted. I even bought Pomelo, which I had never seen before. We filled a whole box for about $15. SCORE.
Further down the road we saw a great deal at a diner serving a traditional Thanksgiving lunch, including all the sides & pumpkin pie. So we got to indulged it was so good. We had a little post turkey slump, extra coffee and the thought of salty air got us to the California coast.