Well, this is going to be another one of those marathon travel journal posts with WAY too many pictures for its own good.
Our Fourth of July plans came together last minute but we have talked for a long time about doing a trip to northern California to see Redwoods National Park. So Thursday morning (the morning of the 4th) we headed out early. In true roadtrip fashion, we stopped at tourist traps all along the way north. First up was a drive-thru tree. I got out to take pictures and to let Clara sit up front with daddy while they drove through a tree so large that a tunnel has been carved out of it.
We made another pit stop to stretch our legs at one of the many wood carving stores along the way where there are a bunch of kitschy figures carved out of redwood stumps.
Oh yeah, and apparently this area is known for Bigfoot sightings. We didn't catch a glimpse. Maybe next time...
We got to Ferndale, CA right around lunchtime, just in time to catch the start of their Independence Day parade. Ferndale is a tiny town with a bunch of Victorian houses along a cute main street. The guidebook says it basically hasn't changed in over 100 years. It seemed like half the town was in the parade and the other half was lining the route watching.
There weren't any floats or anything - just old cars and tractors and a few horses - but people threw candy which Clara thought was pretty awesome.
We stuck around after the parade and enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich for lunch then found a shop on main street that sold pie and ice cream. I ordered apple pie a la mode (because what is more American than that?) and Paul ordered a chocolate milkshake. It was all divine.
I love pie. Clara was clearly pretty excited about it too.
After leaving Ferndale, we made it to our destination for the first night - Eureka, California. We checked into our hotel (an awful, gross Super 8 but it was pretty much all that was left since we didn't book until the day of for this trip and apparently that leaves very few options on a holiday weekend) and then went to a street fair where Clara and I went down the giant slide at the carnival a couple of times and we listened to a band play music while people watching (and boy were there some interesting and bizarre people to watch). We claimed a spot for the fireworks around 9:00 and enjoyed watching them go off out over the water.
For a couple days before the holiday, we had been telling Clara about the fireworks to get her a little hyped up about it and boy did it have a big impact. All day long on the road she would ask "fireworks?! boom! boom!" and we would tell her "once it gets dark". She was not disappointed. Her little oohs and ahhs and hoorays! were so fun to listen to and she would narrate by commenting on the color or the size of the different explosions.
The next morning, July 5th, we had breakfast at an awesome creperie, then went for a walk on Trinidad beach.
Then we headed to Redwood National Park, which is where the Ewoks live, or at least where scenes from "Return of the Jedi" were filmed. Clara was so good about taking her naps in the car while we drove between destinations. And she was a great sport about all the hiking that we did.
These aren't even the tallest trees but look at how huge they are. It isn't like we are unfamiliar with redwood trees since we have them where we live, but to see a forest of them with huge 6 foot ferns covering the forest floor is a whole different story. It was beautiful.
I taught Clara to be a treehugger. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but she was reaching her arms out to hug the tree just like me.
We had heard about another hike in Redwood National Park called Fern Canyon, which is where scenes from "Jurassic Park 2" were filmed. It is a really narrow canyon with steep 50-60 foot walls going straight up on both sides that are completely covered in ferns. It was beautiful and cool and very ancient feeling. I have no idea why Paul and Clara were doing gun poses in this picture but it cracks me up.
We made another stop at a tourist trap called "Trees of Mystery" just so we could take a photo with the giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. On our way there we actually had a really scary experience where we saw a bad accident happen maybe 5 seconds in front of us on the highway. A car just sort of veered off the road up an embankment and flipped, landing upside down on the windshield and skidding to a stop, trapping the driver and passenger. We immediately pulled over along with another car and I jumped out already dialing 911 (Paul was driving so he stayed in the car with Clara) while two men from another car ran over to help. I could see diapers in the back of the car and the woman driving was screaming "my baby! get my baby out!" and there was blood going all down her arm (pretty much the only thing I could see). I don't know why she had diapers in the car, but it turned out that she was talking about her 8 year old son who was with her and the guys who had stopped were eventually able to get the doors open and pull both her and her son out of the car (I think everybody's initial fear was that the car was going to catch fire and explode given the way it had crashed) and we stayed until the police got there. Her shoulder and arm was pretty messed up but they were going to be fine.
We spent the night in Grant's Pass, Oregon where we swam in the pool and tried unsuccessfully to get Clara to fall asleep before 10:00 p.m. The next day (Saturday) we wanted to go blueberry picking at a farm in Medford, but the berries had all been picked over, so we headed back to California (we were doing a big loop) and made a pit-stop in a town called Weed to fill up with gas.
A shop in Weed had a bigfoot carving that was just Clara's size. He is her new little buddy. Pretty cute, right?
We drove up Mt. Shasta as far as we could go, then did a little hike until we decided we were ready for lunch.
The town of Shasta at the base of the mountain was doing their own little street fair that day so we wandered up and down the main street looking at the goods for sale and grabbing a bite to eat, including a phenomenal freshly squeezed lemonade.
Our last stop for the day was Burney Falls - a really beautiful set of waterfalls that Theodore Roosevelt described as the 8th wonder of the world. We think that is going too far, but they were very beautiful. We did a nice little hike around the falls and Clara even hiked a substantial part of it on her own.
Paul always picks wildflowers for Clara when we are outside and she loves holding them and smelling them while we hike.
After Burney Falls we drove through Lassen Volcanic National Park but only stopped for a few minutes to take a picture of this beautiful meadow because Clara was asleep through that part of the drive and we didn't want to wake her up.
We stayed the night at a motel just outside of the park since we planned to go back in on Sunday morning. It was such a dive with half the walls and the ceiling being covered in wood paneling from the 60's and the other walls being cinderblock but Paul said he loved it. I, on the other hand, thought it was something straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie or an episode of Criminal Minds and had nightmares. But again, you take what you can get when options are limited and most places were already booked.
Clara just thought it was cool that there were cows in the meadow across from our room.
We headed out early to drive back into Lassen National Park and spent some time at the visitor's center, then went on a really nice hike. Apparently there are 4 different types of volcanoes and Lassen is notable for being one of a very few places on earth to have all 4 types in one spot. The last time a volcano erupted in Lassen was back in 1914-1921.
Clara was such a good sport the whole trip about hiking and was always pointing out trees and rocks and birds and flowers, but this hike was not her favorite. I think she was tired and hungry and we were hiking to an area with mudpots so there was a strong stink of sulfur in the air that she wasn't loving.
You can see from her pose here that Clara was getting pretty bored with this hike and was ready to be done. Poor little gal being dragged all over tarnation by mom and dad to experience the wonders of nature...
This area of the park is known as Bumpass Hell because back in the 1800's a man by the last name of Bumpass was acting as a guide for some tourists and right after warning them to watch their steps because of the delicate ground here his leg broke through the surface and was coated with boiling mud. Mr. Bumpass ultimately lost his leg because of it and since the area smells of brimstone and the unfortunate Bumpass went through such agony here, it is aptly named Bumpass Hell.
If you notice the clouds of steam behind me, they stank something awful. Paul was taking a picture of me and Clara later on when a sulfur cloud engulfed him and he said he just about threw up it was so disgusting. But it is worth suffering the nasty stink to see such an unusual volcanic area and watch the mud bubble and hiss and plop and know that the crust of the earth is super thin there.
Even when Clara is tired and hungry and ready to be done with hiking, she will oblige with a cheesy grin when coaxed. When she would get tired on this trip she would ask to "go home!" and on the way out of the park she was repeating "go home! go home!" over and over. Paul asked her if she wanted to go home or to Disneyland thinking she would say "go home!" again, but she mulled it over for a second then squealed "DISNEYLAND!!!" Oops.
And that was our trip! It was a ton of driving with a bunch of random stops but we felt like we saw a part of the country that we had never seen before and it seemed very patriotic to get out and enjoy the country that we are so grateful to live in and be a part of over the holiday.