When we looked at the local tourist brochure for sights to see around Eureka, one seemed to stand out – a driving trip through a quaint little town called Ferndale and then onto a deviation from the main Highway 101 to the ‘Forgotten Beach’.
The first part of this drive took us to one of the most gorgeous town that you could imagine. Ferndale has remained relatively untouched since the early 1900’s. It has a beautiful streetscape in the main street and then a whole collection of beautiful Victorian ‘Gingerbread’ houses scattered around the streets. I took dozens of photos and still don’t believe that I effectively captured all of the charm off this little town.
From Ferndale, we followed the road across to the coast through a settlement called Petrolia. It turned out that this road crossed the King Mountain Range. In the first 5 kilometres, it climbed 1300 metres via a narrow windy mountain road wth a rough surface that had patches on patches. It then crossed the range and for over 35 kilometres, there was not one bit of straight road. Petrolia did, however, have a cafe where we could get a cup of coffee. The coffee shop doubled as the local bar and to have a man sitting at the bar at 11.30 am drinking a beer says something abut life in this back country town. From there, the road followed the coast for a short distance and then returned back over the mountain range at a more southerly point. It took us 4 1/2 hours to just get to the same point that we had driven to from Eureka in 1/2 an hour on the day before to see the Avenue of Giants.
It wa quite an experience. As we crossed over the mountain range, we came across dense areas of wet forest. The trees were literally dripping with moss.
The coast was actually not all that spectacular. The road dropped steeply down to sea level, past a cattle ranch to where we could see a few rock stacks and black sand. Our Lonely Planet Guide told us that this road followed an old stage coach route and is one of the most remote parts of California. It also warned us that this is one of the most prolific areas in the state for growing marijuana and that we wouldn’t receive a very warm welcome if we entered any private land, or wandered too far from the road. It’s called ‘Forgotten Beach’ because the authorities realised hat the stage coach route would never make it as a modern highway, so a new highway was built bypassing the narrow step sections of road on which we have travelled. As a result, no one but local people, hippies and backpackers and mad Australian tourists travel around here.
Just as we were about to return to Highway 101 after driving back over the mountain range, we came across some more groves of giant redwoods. They were so magnificent that I couldn’t resist taking use a few more photos.
We had a stop for a late lunch in Garberville which was a little further south on Highway 101. It seems that this coastal area of California is a haven for hippies and alternate life-stylers. In every town that we have come across we see run-down looking people wth long hair and earring clothes out of the hippy days. Every one seems to have a dog with them – even when they are trying to hitch a ride to somewhere.
We continued down Highway 101 until we reached a town name Leggett where we turned right across some more mountainous country and back to the coast. This was Highway 1 and it was in much better condition (and much faster travelling) than the road we had travelled on in the morning. Most of our time was spent driving through coastal redwood forest although the trees on the hillsides were much smaller than the ones back in the Eel River valley. We came across some interesting sights like this old logging camp, now deserted and looking very sad. At one place, we even found some deer that scurried off as we approached.
Te coast was quite attractive and demanded many stops so that we could take in the view. As time went on and we reached late afternoon, the sun lit up the landscape with its lovely afternoon golden glow.
Just before we reached our destination at Fort Bragg, we stopped to view the sunset which was quite grand. It’s not very often that we get to see a sunset over the Pacific Ocean. In Australia we only see a sunrise over this ocean, so tonight’s view was a little special.