State #38 California – Golden Gate Bridge and Redwoods

Well the tranquil drive soon turned into this…

…San Francisco. We are trying to avoid the city so we are bee-lining for the bridge when we drove past this…the Dutch Windmill. Apparently, there are two of these. In the late 1800’s the Golden Gate park needed lots of water, as it was planted on sand dunes, so instead of paying crazy high prices to purchase water, the Park Commission constructed two windmills to pump groundwater. By 1913, electric pumps made the windmills obsolete. In the mid 1960’s, the windmill was restored. Just a little random fact for you today.

Que the Full House theme song music, because every time I think of the Golden Gate Bridge that song pops in my head. You know I’m fascinated with bridges. The original plan was to go to the recreation area and picnic and gaze out at the bridge. Instead we drove across, stopped at the viewing area, snapped a few pictures, tried not to get close to anyone, and got out of there. A nice man from Kentucky asked if we wanted him to take our picture and I was like, “No, that’s ok. But thanks.” I didn’t want him touching my phone. So I thought we were good and then he was like, “Oh ok, do you care to take ours?” Aaaaggghh. Trev being the nice guy he is, took their picture and I immediately whipped out the hand sanitizer I’ve starting carrying in my jacket pocket lately. I’m not a big germaphobe but traveling like we are, we want to be safe.

Enough about that, back to the bridge. Ahh, yes, the beautiful bridge. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This thing was designed in 1917 and constructed from 1933-1937. Back then it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world. Although, it no longer holds those records, its still pretty impressive at about 1.7 miles long and 746 ft high. I’ve seen part of a show that talked about how the bridge was constructed and it was insane the stuff people did to make this bridge.

It was pretty overcast and I had to zoom to get a picture of the city and Alcatraz in the background. Alcatraz was closed, so we could only see if from a distance.

The boys don’t have the same fascination with bridges that I do but they were still cool about stopping.

Mason had to stop and read about the Lone Sailor sculpture before we left. There are, at the time of this writing, sixteen of these in the world to honor the men and women of the Sea Services by the US Navy. The boys have now seen two of them, this one and the one in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor.

We kept driving north up the coast. I have to tell you, Northern California is so beautiful. I fell in love with it. The rolling hills are now mountains of towering redwoods and douglas firs. I didn’t even miss seeing the ocean as often. Our first stop was Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. It was kind of out of the way but it was worth it.

It was kind of cool and damp on the trail. Such a change from the dry desert hikes of Arizona and Utah.

It’s hard to get a good picture of the redwoods because they’re so big. If you take a picture from far way to get the tree then it just looks like a tree and if you put someone in the picture then you can’t get all the tree. Oh well, you’ll just have to trust me that they’re HUGE.

Here is the Parson Jones tree. It is one of the bigger ones in the reserve. Oh, and that big vine running all the way up it…it’s posion oak. No hugging this tree.

Redwoods don’t have deep tap roots instead they have shallow root systems extending over a hundred feet from the base and they intertwine with other redwoods to increase stability during strong winds and floods. They don’t fall often but when that do it’s crazy looking.

So the lady at the reserve showed us this tree and said it was ok if the boys wanted to crawl inside. They thought we were punking them and were a little skeptical at first but in they went. They said there was tons of room once you got inside.

I’m not quite sure why, but I fell in love with these trees.

Mason couldn’t get over how quiet it was. We didn’t even hear birds, just silence. How often do we really hear the sound of silence nowadays? It was one of those cool moments for him.

I almost walked right by this tree until Mason pointed it out. Someone put leaves in the breaks of the bark to make it look like a face. Cool, huh?

We saw lots of wineries, like the one below, in the area. We even saw one for Korbel.

There are three redwood trees that you can drive through (all private and charge a small fee). We chose the Chandelier Tree. I didn’t even think Trevor would be able to walk through it let alone us drive through it but we fit…barely. The lady inside the gift shop said people get stuck all the time and that they have a tractor they use to yank them out. Trev did an amazing job, not a scratch on her. Me and this Expedition have been on a lot of adventures together for many years.

Ten bucks seems pretty pricey to drive through a tree but it was well worth it to say we did it. The boys were jumping up and down. They were so excited we fit.

Yep, totally worth it.

The person who created these works of art, did an amazing job. Talent.

After driving through the tree, we got off of Hwy 101 to follow the Avenue of Giants. Take the extra time to do this. So cool. From the south when you first take the exit off 101, there’s a little pull off. Stop. Get out. And get one of the little auto tour pamphlets telling you about the stops. In case you feel like these forests make you think of Ewoks Battle for Endor, then you’d be right. Well, not this specific grove but not too far away in Del Norte County. Stop #1 was FK Lane.

The groves almost feel magical to me. I absolutely loved it.

Stop #2 was Bolling Grove. When we crossed the road to see the tree with lots of burls we noticed a path down to the river. Of course, we had to go. It was beautiful, just us and the river. The boys went to work on making a dam (as they like to do at every river for some reason) and Trev went to skipping rocks.

With all the news about the coronavirus swirling around us. This felt good; it felt normal. Calm and peaceful.

Our families don’t need a bunch of electronics and stuff. We just need time with each other, being together. Simple. It’s okay to be still. It’s okay to be bored. They will be better men for it.

Honestly, we could have all stayed there at the river for the rest of the day. The boys were so disappointed when we told them it was time to leave. Stop #4 was Weott, where in 1964 the Eel River experienced a catastrophic flood with waters reaching the top of that pole at 35 feet.

Towards the end of the Avenue of Giants is Founders Grove. This grove was full of standing and fallen redwoods.

After I took this picture of Tucker, I read a sign that said that in order to preserve the forest not to climb on fell trees. Oops. We did not climb on anymore trees but we did go in some.

So Mason on this log happened before Tuck climbed in the picture above. Tucker was being silly and pulled his pants up high and was sporting a grape kool-aid mustache, so when he smiled at me like that I had to take his picture. He begged me not to post this picture on Instagram so I didn’t but he didn’t say anything about the blog. Good blackmail for when he gets older. 🙂

When a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around to hear it does it make a sound? After seeing this one, I would have to say the answer is undoubtably, yes.

So is this brotherly love or meanness? Hummm?

Most amazing tree I’ve ever seen. The burls look like a man on a chair at the bottom with a mountain lion head above him and a dragon type creature above that. Or, at least, that’s what we all saw. Spooky.

With the pandemic going around things are changing. No longer are we served a hot breakfast. This is our new morning routine but we knew we couldn’t keep eating this for breakfast. Please don’t get me wrong here. I am no way complaining. I am just telling you how the virus has changed things.

We saw elk lying in the meadow this morning and then saw some more crossing the river that afternoon. We got out and watched them for a long time at the river.

The northern coast has black sand and on this cloudy morning, I told Trevor the ocean looked angry. There was just something about it.

The boys immediately started searching for rocks and sticks.

They had a little “spear” throwing competition.

This made me think of the old movie the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

After checking out the beach, we headed over to Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park.

This grove has a very different feel from the other redwood groves. This grove has many different trees. It definitely feels more like a forest and less like a grove.

At first glance you would think these are big clovers, like we did. But you would be mistaken. It’s actually called sorrel and the underside is this pretty purple color. I was told that it likes the shade and when the sun hits it, it will close it’s leaves up. It was shaded where we saw it so I can’t personally attest to that fact but it sure is pretty.

After our hike, we headed over to Prairie Creek Redwood State Park to hike out Fern Canyon. You have to really be looking for this park. It is out a dirt road with a creek crossing and lots of ruts.

We checked out the beach and then hit the trails. With signs like this, why wouldn’t you? Wait? What?

If this canyon looks familiar, then maybe you’re remembering it from Jurassic Park – Lost World.

There were lots of creek crossings out this trail. Super fun.

Not naming names but only one of us made it out of the canyon without stepping/falling in the water. When you hate to be wet, you watch where you step very carefully.

As much as we were loving northern California, with so many things closing, it was time to head to our next state. Should I tell you, OR ‘yE GON’ and guessed it already?

2 thoughts on “State #38 California – Golden Gate Bridge and Redwoods

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    1. Northern California was amazing. It was disappointing that Covid messed up our schedule. We would have loved to stay longer. If you get the chance to go, please do. It’s beautiful.

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