Crescent City to Orick, California - Grampies Go Coastal - CycleBlaze

December 28, 2012

Crescent City to Orick, California

We had bundled up warmly, since the day was cold and drizzly. Imagine our surprise, then when just outside of Crescent City what at first looked to be seals turned out to be surfers. To boot, this was just after daybreak, and it was only just getting light. Golly, there are people crazier than we are!

While cycling you can try to fuel yourself with high quality food, but it's hard when for example your Super 8 considers this a good breakfast.
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A surfer at dawn just south of Crescent City
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The long hill that starts just out of Crescent City soon gave us an overview of the town and harbour. That was all it was giving, though, because after that it was slog up, up, up. As we had read in the guide book, the shoulder was often narrow or not at all, but the traffic was not too bad. On the other hand, even when there are two lanes climbing, some drivers insist on blowing by at high speed, riding the white line. A certain amount of energy is then spent thinking of what we would say or do to them if we ever caught them stopped up ahead. It's wasted energy, though, because there are too many of them, and besides we never do catch any.

Crescent City from a quite low vista point on the hill to the south.
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The most visible giant redwood groves are a bit south, in Humboldt County, but the forests here on the hill are mostly redwood too. Some trees have fallen on or near the road, revealing just how red their wood can be. Forests of any type are beautiful, and here there are some very colourful and serene sights.

The forest is colourful in its green sort of way
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Redwood leaves are much more fernlike than the rounded needles of fir
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Moss covered branches overhang the road
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A hanging fern garden
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Part of a branch that fell to the roadway - shows how red redwood can be
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When we finally made our way down the other side of the hill, braking heavily, we were rewarded by arrivinng at a bay where the surf was coming in in giant curling surfer waves. There were no actual surfers, but we stood entranced for a while, watching the perfect waves roll in.

Back to the beach after coming down from the Crescent hill
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The next thrill was the tourist trap "Trees of Mystery". We gratefully stopped in to the gift shop, since our hands were freezing. Outside are the statues of Paul Bunyan and his ox, Babe, surely photographed by every cycle tourist through here, including us.

Trees of Mystery is actually a legitimate sort of tourist thing, offering a gondola ride through the tree tops. We did not have time for this, but naturally we did have time for the gift shop. It is large and well stocked with tree and Indian stuff, games and puzzles, and local crafts. We did pick up some stuff for Avi and Violet, so now we have to drag it around until we find an open post office!

Mandatory photo of Paul Bunyan and Babe at Trees of Mystery
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Paul Bunyan and Babe salt and pepper shakers. No way to take them on the bikes, though.
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Gift shop staff try to help us with the route ahead. Lady on the left is from New Zealand, came here in 1981. She never thought she could make a life here, but she did and her daughter was married under the Catherdral Tree.
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Unlimited redwood clocks on sale
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The staff in the store were very nice to us, and both mentioned the upcoming Newton B. Drury scenic parkway (a 15 km alternative to 101) and the possibility that it would be closed due to falling trees. They thought we should try it, whether marked closed or not because (a) it was not very hilly and (b) if we could not get through we would only have to backtrack a short distance of maximum 15 km. This is a good example of what we already know well: people who travel only by car have not idea of (a) what a hill is and (b) juswt how long it takes to backtrack 15 km, and what a dent the total loss of 30 km can put into a day.

FLASH: Apologies to the Trees of Mystery ladies. We just found out that any hills on the Drury road are nothing compared to what is on 101 as an alternative. They say we would have climbed into the snow!

The Golden Bear is special to the Yurok tribe.
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The parkway turned out to be open, with any warning signs referring just to a gravel coastal road that is accessed from the parkway. However, any image that the word "parkway" may conjure of a broad, open, level thoroughfare is not the one for what we found. This baby started off from 101 going straight up for 3 km through not so scenic terrain, then it curved its way down and more down for 12 km. The drizzle had turned to full out rain, and we lost feeling in our hands as we rode and/or pumped the brakes on the descent.

Scenic usually means hilly!
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However, the "scenic" part of the parkway really kicked in. We remembered have been on this road before, because in fact it is unforgettable. All along are either giant redwoods or trailheads leading in to groves, with names like the Lady Bird Johnson grove. We also passed "Big Tree" and then the elk meadows at the bottom of the road. No elk were in residence at the moment, though there was a group of deer.

We rejoined 101 as it headed for Orick, which is right in the middle of the Redwood National Park. Unlike other towns in national parks, like Banff or places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Orick has no rustic charm. In fact it lacks almost all charm and is downright shabby, what little there is of it. However, to us it was an oasis, and we unclenched our frozen fingers from our handlebars to enter the office door of the Palm Motel (and Café). The man, though, was friendly and the room though old and yes, shabby, was large and reasonably clean. There was no microwave, coffee maker, or kettle and since we have now mailed back even our little stove, we dragged our selves over toe3 the cafe.

This place had gotten some good reviews on Tripadvisor, and we were more than pleasantly surprised to find that they were deserved. The café was staffed by two men, one the waiter, salad chef, and dishwasher and the other the cook. Both were very friendly and described what was good on the menu and how it would be prepared. The waiter/salad man talked about his joy in making innovative salads, and guess what - it was great, featuring a certain number of pickled vegetables in the mix, including celery, green tomatoes, and beets. The dinners were also good, innovatively seasoned such as with coriander on the pork chops, and the pies were home made and excellent. Even the ice cream seemed high quality. Is this 65 km of hill cycling talking? Maybe a little, but really, we too would recommend the place.

Our waiter mentioned that it has been many weeks or months since he has seen cyclists through here, but that in summer this is a beehive of them, with many bikes often to be seen parked in front of the café.

We toddled back to our shabby but friendly room, and tried to plot out our next hill climbs on in to Eureka. In the meantime we get some blessed hours in front of the heater. Ahhhh.

Orick, shabby but friendly
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Just part of the Christmas decorations at the Palm Café
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Stunned cyclist looks at himself in a mirror after a day of climbing in the rain.
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Innovative salad at the Palm Café
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Good pie with good ice cream.
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Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 1,138 km (707 miles)

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