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Mendocino To Eureka: Beaches, Redwoods & Mansions

Our Annus Horibilis Mini-Vacation (Part Two)

Mendocino To Eureka: Beaches, Redwoods & Mansions

Day Two: Don’t Step On The Glass, Motorcycle Down, Oh … DEER!, Watch Out For That Tree, Confusion Reigns, What Info?, Land Of The Giants, Picnicking With A Mass Murderer?, Another Aztec Defeat, Signs Signs Everywhere Are Not Signs, Happy Rockefeller Hike, Eureka We Found It, Historic Carter House, Stormy Stormy Night and Car Surfing Ends Badly

Tracy awoke earlier than me, proving that everything is out of whack in 2020.  While I crawled in the shower Tracy took some photos of our view from the Sea Foam Lodge.


Soon we exited our lodging …

… and were back on the road.  It was quite a coincidence when Blondie’s Heart Of Glass came on the radio. That’s because our first stop on our drive toward Eureka was Glass Beach. I asked the group if they thought the beach would be half empty or half full.  Within a minute they scampered out of the car and about 100 yards ahead of me.

Glass Beach is located on the southern side of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. We first headed out on some bluffs to take photos.


It seems no matter where you are on the northern coast, the views are stupendous …

… from so many vantage points.

Glass Beach was actually once a trash dump where local residents would dump their garbage cans (recycling was not yet in vogue). That trash included lots and lots of bottles. The area has now been transformed into “little treasures to be found.” Although it is illegal to to remove glass from Glass Beach, it seems some do take some of the remnants away.

Mary, showing off her yoga skills, picked up some of the fragments to look at.

I don’t know what this little guy was looking for.

I will have to say the “Glass” part of Glass Beach was kind of a let down. “It must have the same press agent as the Mona Lisa,” Tracy quipped.  On the plus side, however, the ocean vista views with waves crashing on the rocks made it a worthwhile stop.  Tracy did make the morning exciting when she got way too close to the edge of the cliffs as she took some last photos. She survived, and we started heading north.


We rocked on.

It was a short drive to our next stop. Kim, Mary and Tracy took a short hike to check out the lay of the land, which I think was part of the MacKerricher Ten Mile Estuary.

I stayed behind to make sure the car wasn’t stolen. Either that, or I was lazy.

We kept hugging the coast for about 45 minutes …


… but just north of Rockport, Highway 1 puts you into the Redwoods for about half an hour until you reach Leggett. It was an eventful half hour.

The road is very twisty, and Mary, sitting in the back seat, was feeling uncomfortable from all the twisting and turning (potential foreshadowing). I asked if she wanted to sit up front, but she declined.  Soon,  we found ourselves behind some slow moving cars. Up ahead, at a bend in the road, a motorcyclist had taken a tumble. Forgetting her dizziness woes, Mary, our own Florence Nightingale, reached into her purse, which carries more medical materials than many hospitals, and asked Kim to stop to provide aid. When we reached the scene of the accident, the rider was sitting up being attended to many passing motorists, so we traveled on.

Not too long afterward, there was shouting from the backseat. “Deer!!!”  Oh deer, indeed. On my side of the car, a deer leapt out of the forest. It seemed as if the deer, with antlers the size of Texas, was coming directly at my front window. At this point, I did not want to go out stag.  Kim slammed on the brakes, and the deer made a move that Barry Sanders would have been proud of. As our car came to an abrupt halt, the deer hastily reversed course narrowly averting tragedy. (below is an artist rendering of the near tragedy … no deers were injured or killed in this trip report)


Tracy, always the one to compliment my driving skills, said that it was lucky Kim had been driving, because had it been me behind the wheel, I would have either crashed into oncoming traffic or hit the deer, ultimately impaling one of our passengers. Well, I thought, “She’s never been one to fawn over me.”

Shortly we were in Leggett, and I began singing the theme some to George of the Jungle, because we (well, Kim) were going to drive through a tree. “Watch out for that tree!”  In Underwood Park stands the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree that I really wanted to visit (yes, I am a child). As the story goes, a married couple who were dairy farmers bought a tract of old growth redwood forest back in 1921.  Sixteen years later they hired foresters to carve a 6-foot wide and 6.75-foot tall tunnel through, which was big enough for cars to drive through the trunk.  Supposedly, the tree is named “Chandelier” because it “resembles an ornate chandelier with enormous branches balanced on each side of the trunk.”

After paying the $10 per car fee, Mary and Tracy quickly exited the automobile before entering the tree just in case we got stuck. The website states “most vehicles will be able to drive through the Tree.” Kim was hoping so, too, as he does not have a surplus of cars.  As Tracy took the photos, Kim started inching his way through the tight space. At one juncture I asked Kim if it would be considered ironic if his trunk was damaged by a trunk. Judging by Kim’s quick glance, that might not have been the best question.


In any case, we came out the other side unscathed. I was going to send out an Instagram post as we were driving through, however, in a piece of pure irony, I was unable to log in.


My poor traveling companions were forced to indulge me one last time about ten minutes north of the Chandelier Tree. I had Kim pull into a parking lot for a place called Confusion Hill, which is a perfect name, since Kim was perplexed that I had us stop here.

Why “Confusion Hill?” For the past 71 years, Confusion Hill has been described as “a place of “mystery, fun and family entertainment.” I had wanted to visit the Gravity House, where it seems up is down and down is up.  Alas, it and the rest of Confusion Hill was closed during Covid.  Although closed, we were able to view a 40-foot tall standing redwood tree carved by chainsaw into a totem pole. It is the “tallest free-standing redwood chainsaw carving,” and was featured in Ripley’s Believe or Not.


Also closed was the “historic Mountain Train Ride,” which takes visitors through “redwoods, tan oaks, fir and madrone trees” on a 1 1/4 mile ride on 20 gauge track.

At least I did get to see the Redwood Shoe House, where Tracy took my photo. I guess we really are sole mates.

It was back on Highway 101 on our way to the Avenue of the Giants.  We passed by the Benbow Historic Inn where we planned o stay on our last night (more sad foreshadowing).  Photo is from their website.

Since we had missed breakfast, we pulled into Garberville to find a place to eat. Ten minutes later we left Garberville with nary a restaurant open for dining.

As we headed toward the Avenue of the Giants, with no Willie Mays or Willie McCovey in sight, we witnessed three signs alerting us that information and brochures of the area could be found just ahead.  Where that info and brochure really is located was as confusing as Confusion Hill.  As it turned out, we could have printed one online before we left. Live and learn!  The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of old Highway 101 that contains more than 51,000 acres of redwood groves. To see it best, you exit 101 and take the backroads that parallel the main highway. Even without a brochure, it’s quite a sight to see these massive redwoods in all their splendor.

Mary had packed some picnic supplies, so instead of a restaurant, we decided to pull into a secluded spot in the heart of the Avenue of the Giants.


It was a gorgeous spot, but it did not remain secluded for long.

After driving by our parking/picnic spot a few times, a white car pulled up right next to ours with license plates from Maine.  The guy seemed a bit off as he started hunting for something on the ground while putting on his hiking boots (what could he have lost since he just got there?).  Obviously Tracy has watched too many crime shows, because she was definitely on “red alert.”  Then the guy then started rummaging under the front side of the passenger’s seat.  This alarmed Tracy, who thought he might be looking for a gun to either carjack or kill us all, so she picked up  a stick to defend us.  Meanwhile the rest of us obliviously munched on our delightful picnic meal consisting of crackers, cheese and salami.

Finally, the “killer” locked his vehicle and walked by us, while Tracy wielded her stick like a sword. He then wandered into the wilderness, not utilizing a nearby trail.  We all mocked Tracy, but we did get the heck out of the area fast just in case her instincts were correct.

We drove by the little town of Meyers Flats where Kim floored-it past another Drive-Thru Tree before I could speak.

We stopped at the Visitor Center, which was closed, but did have open bathrooms and that elusive brochure.  Near the Visitor Center is a cut of a tree that fell in 2006. The beginning ring at the center of that cut shows the tree dates from 912 A.D.  The dates and facts were very interesting, although when I read that in 1521 “Cortez conquers Aztecs,” I became less impressed. “Big deal,” I said, “in 2008 the Aztecs were defeated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.”  It can be tough being a San Diego State football fan.


Using our new trusty map we decided to visit Rockefeller Forest. It was easier said than done as signage in this part of the Avenue of the Giants could have been a little better. The signs are brown with yellow lettering and only about a foot off the ground, so they’re a little difficult to see, even for our “Sign Queen” Tracy.

After passing the entrance to the Rockefeller Forest … twice, we found it, and Tracy wrote “we drove off a cliff to get to the parking area” (well, it looked like we were going of a cliff from Tracy’s vantage point in the back seat, but it was just a steep driveway).

We decided on taking the Rockefeller Loop through some of the largest remaining contiguous old-growth coastal redwood forest in the world.  I read that John D. Rockefeller Jr. had visited this beautiful expanse of giant trees with members of the Save-The-Redwoods League Company. “The Save-the-Redwoods League purchased the land with a pair of million-dollar donations from Rockefeller and matching funds from the state.”


The loop took us past gorgeous giants that looked like they were touching the sky as we peered upward.  It was tough to get good photos with the diverse light.


Tracy and Kim looked skyward often attempting to photograph these mammoth trees, craning their necks for every shot (another possible foreshadowing event).

The fallen trees were sometimes as, or more, interesting than the ones towering up to the sky.

As for some of the trunks, you could let your imagination run free attempting to describe what you thought they looked like.

We contemplated taking another hike, but decided we could do that in a couple of days when we stayed at Benbow Historic Lodge, but you all know better than that.

We hopped back on the 101 and in about 40 minutes we were in Eureka, where we would (ostensibly) stay for two nights at the Carter House Inn, a historic hotel situated among some beautiful Victorian homes in Eureka’s Old Town.

We had a gracious and masked greeting in the lobby, and wandered past a cool-looking bar, where I would have a fantastic Manhattan later in the evening.


Sadly, due to the pandemic, the hotels renowned Restaurant 301 was closed, so we made reservations at the nearby Humboldt Bay Bistro, which will be reviewed in a separate post.


This post first appeared on Great Maple Pasadena, please read the originial post: here

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Mendocino To Eureka: Beaches, Redwoods & Mansions


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