Day 34: Prairie Creek to Crescent City

Today started with a slow climb out of the park. It was a really small gradient so we couldn’t see that we were climbing a hill, but certainly hoped we were since neither of us could ride too quickly. Along the way we saw “The Big Tree” so we stopped to see it. We also met a couple toures from the Montreal area so we talked to them briefly. They are also documenting their journey their website.

The climb continued but it was an enjoyable ride along the small park road which had little traffic and was in the forest. Eventually we reached the top and could being a long descent. The rest of the ride was enjoyable, even though it was in an area that the Adventure Cycling maps warned us about for being busy with a lot of traffic and no shoulders. The traffic didn’t seem to be bad at all, perhaps since it is still very much off season.

We had another large climb into Crescent City. It was one of the hottest days we had experienced so far and it was a pretty decent climb we had to do. After sailing down the long decent, we rode right into Crescent City into strong blowing winds. I found Jesse up ahead at an abandoned building waiting for me (he’s always significantly faster on both the uphill and the downhill). Finally he had cell reception and found out we did have a Warm Showers host in Crescent City waiting for us. While Jesse got the directions I went to the nearby gas station to purchase two large bottles of PowerAid. We had about another 10km to go to reach their place, so after making contact with them and finishing our drinks, we made our way there.

They had wonderful salads ready for us, as well as the wonderful news that tomorrow we should have tailwinds to ride in. We setup our tent in their backyard then went inside to enjoy dinner with them.

Day 33: Blue Lake to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

We left Chris’ early and went into town to check out the local cafe, which we heard had fresh baked muffins every morning. Walking in it was surprising to see a guy inside with his guitar playing American folk music.  He was really good, but seemed to be a travelling musician who was not used to playing in front of people. He said he was learning how to take compliments, and hid his face behind his guitar when someone tried to take his photo. We spent a while here watching people coming and going, and watching as it seemed like the locals delivered their fresh baked goods for the day.

Eventually it was time to get going, so we took the same nice quiet road towards Astoria, then continued on backroads toward the town of Trinidad. Just before arriving in Trinidad we passed a beautiful beach which we spent a few minutes looking down at. In Trinidad we went to the Beachcomers Cafe. it had many interesting sandwich options and seemed to be owned and run by a group of fairly young women.  They were swamped when we arrived so we waited a little while for our food, but the quality was great and we weren’t in a rush so the wait was no problem.

We had a very long afternoon break, during which we spoke with a couple from Washington who invited us to stay with them when we pass by. With 30km to go, we eventually left late in the afternoon to find the campground. In Orik we stocked up on snacks, and discovered our 30km was actually 40km.

There were many signs warning of elk in the area, and specifically as we entered the park that the campground is located in.  We saw many small deer in the fields as we approached, which made me wonder if perhaps elk looked a lot like deer as babies. As we reached the campground I saw they had 4 or 5 large plastic elk animals lined up so we could see what they really looked like. However, watching for a few moments I realized they weren’t plastic but the real thing. And those animals we saw in the fields certainly weren’t elk.

The elk were very calm and not too bothered by the humans present around them. We did have to wait as they moved slowly ahead of us so we could reach our campground. We didn’t want to disturb them too much. Eventually we were able to reach our camp and setup.  The later sunset and open area of our site allowing for later and more relaxing evenings.

Day 32: Eureka to Blue Lake

We stayed at the motel until checkout, maximizing our time there and not worrying about an early departure. Before leaving Eureka, we had to find more fuel canisters for the stove so we visited a couple outdoor stores. Eventually being ready to leave, we started riding on the route past the old town and near the waterfront. I had expected more of the old town, but there wasn’t too much there. It was particularly entertaining yesterday when we walked past the prison and across the street was the huge 24/7 Bail Bonds store.

Before we got out of the city, while we were checking our maps, someone on a scooter came up behind us and stopped. His name was Chris and he stopped to see if we needed a place to stay for the night and offered to let us stay at his place. He lived in Blue Lake which was about 10km farther inland from Arcata. We weren’t too sure at the time what our goal for the day was, so we took his information and after chatting a bit more with him, we went our separate ways.

We quickly decided we would accept his offer and spend the afternoon in nearby Arcata. It was a short ride on the freeway before reaching the small hippy town of Arcata. While riding into the city we were surprised when someone yelled out “no riding on the road!!!” but then after turning back we saw Jim Frogs, the man we’ve seen off and on the past couple day who is also going northbound. We caught up briefly with him, circled the town, then returned to a small cafe in the main square and spent a few hours there.

There was another brewery in Blue Lake that was apparently quite good and had happy hour ending at 6, so with this news we road quickly along the small farm roads to Chris’ home in Blue Lake. It was a great ride and felt more like a leisurely after-dinner ride. While riding the small back road, a man stopped us to tell us about the hen turkey that had come back this season – he was very excited.

Coming into the town, it seemed like everyone was enjoying time at the river. We found out after the day was warmer than most days previously experienced in this area so people were exceptionally happy with the weather.

We found Chris’ place, quickly settled in before heading to the brewery. The brewery was a small, community place with live musicians. After trying a couple types of local brews, we returned to Chris’ place for dinner and to help him catch their baby chickens and return them to their bed for the night.

Day 31: Burlington State Park to Eureka

Waking up before the sun had come over the mountains gave us time to get going before the most magical time in the redwood forest, when the morning beams of sun come sparkling through. We leisurely rode through the forest on the quiet Avenue of the Giants so we could fully appreciate the trees and the views.

With a hint of melancholy, we reached the end of the Avenue of the Giants and returned to the 101. Our goal for the day was to make it to Eureka, an 80km day which we’re trying to make our new ‘average’ day. Aside from the headwinds, the ride on the freeway was without any problems given the large shoulders. Pushing onward to Eureka, we only stopped briefly in Rio Dell for lunch. There was a great roadside General Store/Deli where we each had a sandwich. They were very friendly and well setup to accommodate lots of people in the peak season. From there the next destination was Ferndale. We were told it was a nice Victorian town, but the headwinds were quite strong riding there so we took a shortcut across a farm road straight to Fernbridge. In Fernbridge we crossed a narrow bridge where all traffic lined up patiently behind us as we pushed into the wind to get across the bridge.

We eventually arrived in Eureka, riding the busy 101 into town. The town wasn’t too impressive, but as we got further in we did see some improvements. After checking into a motel, we walked to Radio Shack so Jesse could get another month cell phone plan, and then we went to the Lost Coast brewery for dinner.

Day 30: Hickey State Park to Burlington State Park

We returned to the Peg House for their famed breakfast burritos only to find out that they didn’t have any this morning, so we settled for bagels and cream cheese, and two huge cookies for the road.

Today was supposed to be an easy day – mostly continuing the descent we climbed up yesterday but at a very low grade. This was a very good thing since it seemed like my legs weren’t going to do any more work today. From early on, there was extreme headwinds coming down the river towards us. I had hoped by being inland we could avoid the winds, but it didn’t appear that way.

Along the way we met Danny, a southbound Pacific Coast tourer. He was also doing distances similar to ours and happy to hear not everyone does 100 miles per day. The only other tourer he had talked do was doing this type of distances and made him feel quite inadequate.

Along the way we saw many roadside stands and attractions, some seeming quite desperate for their portion of tourist money. We were on and off the 101 a few times today. With the 101 being quite busy we were usually happy to find our turn off. One turnoff into Redway didn’t seem to reduce the traffic at all, but we found our way into town and stopped for lunch.

Avenue of the Giants was coming up, so we continued on into the park area to find a campground for the night. We didn’t make any plans today for where to camp since there seemed to be many options.

Avenue of the Giants finally took us off busy roads and was a great ride through the huge trees. We made it to Burlington campground in the middle of the redwoods, setup camp and made dinner.

Day 29, Leggett Conquered: Fort Bragg to Standish Hickey Campground

We were ready for Leggett, at least as ready as it was possible to be. Our stay in Fort Bragg put us farther away from the hills than we had planned for today, but laundry and a shower was a priority yesterday so that gave us a 75km day today including many small climbs before we started ‘mini-Leggett’ and then finally climb the real Leggett hill.

Mini-Leggett is a 600ft climb which we then sail back down before starting 1800ft climb to the top. And because we’re north bound, we’re climbing from sea level to the peak, unlike those southbound who have a slow and gradual incline for a day or two before reaching the campground before they start their Leggett climb.

Even when we first got on the road at 7am there was a headwind. It pushed back at us all morning. We stopped at a scenic outlook where there were many people up and out early fishing for Abalore, since its their season. We heard about a few people who had drown in the pass day in the rough waters.

We decided to look for food in Westport, and when we arrived the general store was the only place we could get something, so we both got a bagel sandwich from there and sat in the warm sun hidden from the wind to enjoy it.

We knew the climbs were coming and were procrastinating, but eventually we had to get back and start climbing. So we went back to the road and continued along the windy coastline of rolling hills before turning inland and starting mini-Leggett. Although it was a steep climb on a narrow road without shoulders, there was very little traffic and plenty of turn-out areas, and by being on the outside of the road, not right next to the cliff, we felt more visible. And did I mention there was no wind? It was a peaceful climb and at a slow calm pace it wasn’t too difficult. Eventually we hit this peak and sailed back down to near sea level, getting a few more kilometers accomplished.

Then came time for the real climb of the day. We just went slow and steady, me slower than Jesse, however I had a bag of cherry gummies to snack on as I went. I kept looking at the kilometer reading on my bike computer.. counting down, and thinking ‘we have 6 more hours of sunlight…even if i can only go at 5km/hr it will be okay…’ and consistently adjusting this as the climb went on.

The roads were still narrow but the calm quiet of the forest meant we could hear most vehicles before they came close. At one point I was sure we were reaching the segment where the 101 and the 1 came together, and thus also then the peak, but soon I realized I was just able to hear the traffic from the 1 up ahead, since it was some loud logging trucks coming down the hill. We road for what seemed like a quite a while near the treeline, and continued climbing steadily. Eventually, with nothing to mark it, we reached the peak with only the warning sign to oncoming traffic about the grade of the descent to let us know.

We sailed down the hill quickly with only a couple cars passing as we went. Just before reaching Leggett there was a very minor climb, which felt a lot larger than it should have. The town was to our right, including the Chandelier drive through tree which we couldn’t miss. We went uphill a bit farther to get to the tree, and paid $3/each (a car is cheaper – $5 total) and we were able to ride through the tree a few times to try to get a decent picture. A worthwhile event given we had just finished Leggett, but if we were Southbound I’m not sure if I would have gone to the effort. There is a decent picnic are there but otherwise nothing of note beyond restrooms.

We continued on to the campground, and merging with the 101 we thought would mean more traffic but also decent shoulders. We were right about the traffic, wrong about the shoulders. Instantly we had large trucks passing us, but we were still on a descent so we were happy that our incline was on the quiet highway 1, not the busy 101 freeway.
Very quickly we reached the campground, setup camp and talked with another northbound tourer, then went across the street to another general store/restaurant for burgers, snacks, and then called it a night.