As I entered California the weather kept getting better and better.
Almost immediately I entered the Redwood National and State Parks. I had wanted to see this area for quite a while and it did not disappoint. Although the climb into the first section of the park from sea level to 1400′ was long, it was worth it. As I rode down through the narrow winding roads in the late afternoon I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road. The redwood trees so immense and tall I wanted to stare into their canopy as I careened down hills. The feeling of insignificance; a flash; from the anthropomorphic perspective of these trees, some thousands of years old, was amazing. I have never seen forests like these. Mt. Rainier I love, North Cascades I love, Jungles of India; Costa Rica I love, but this place blows them all away. It’s the feeling you get when you first visit Paris or New York and you step out of the subway. Like you are on the sea floor of a Metropolitan ocean; only this is twice and deep, magnitudes more beautiful, and no Redmond in sight. It’s that little spark of magic you remembered at Christmas time as a child.
If you haven’t seen the redwoods; I would recommend doing so. Especially Humboldt State Park to the south. I do wonder, however, if I would have had the same mind-blowing experience if I had been in a car. So if you go, get out and walk some or bring a bike with you and coast carefully down the hills.
I camped in the redwoods for a few nights over a week. I met a lot of friendly people, including one who can be seen at the bottom of this page in a tomato suit. I was fortunate enough to meet my first southbound cyclist on tour. For some reason this time of year isn’t a popular time to tour the coast. Did the sarcasm convey? I rode with Galen for a day from Eureka down to Burlington Campground in Humboldt State Park. Thanks again for the eggs dude! This stretch was some excellent riding. The redwoods in the State Park seemed to have less underbrush which somehow made them even more striking.
From there on down the coast to San Francisco I followed highway 101 until highway 1 split off at Leggett. This also marked the start of Leggett hill, the highest point on of the US leg of my route at 2000 feet. The winding road climbed ever further up, traffic very light, a nice bit of sun, and an excellent view. All in all, certainly easier than climbing into the Redwood National Park. The descent from Leggett hill was the best of my life. Around seven miles of 10mph hairpins with, sometimes, several hundred foot drops just feet from the fog line. I love riding down hills on my bike. Riding on a light race style bicycle is one thing but a fully loaded touring bike is quite another. With 70lbs of gear on my 28lbs bicycle it takes off like a locomotive and stopping can be a hopeful event. I am typically one to cast fear aside and go big or go home. Riding a touring bike down hills such as this one is truly a terrifying experience. I can’t overstate how insanely fun it is.
I do keep reminding myself that I need to be conservative when riding since I am alone and I have no residence from which to recover from catastrophe. I remind myself, but I don’t always listen. Life is too much fun when lived; I gotta do it.
Shortly after highway 1 splits from 101 it parallels the coast; rolling up and down hills. Some great riding. I managed to catch yet another storm on my way down, soaking me for a few days.
One notable town was Westport CA. If you ever pass through and need a place to stay, Otto at the Westport Inn has some great stories and if you are nice he will make you coffee and toast in the morning.
The coastline brought lighter traffic, glorious sunsets, numerous falcons; hawks; and turkey vultures, and a few more sets of hills. I also passed the steepest hill on the west coast route, a very short hill climbing out of town of Elk. I managed to find some steeper hills in San Francisco to ascend.
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