The California coastal highway 1 and the Redwood Highway 101 both run between San Francisco and Arcata, so from Sacramento we headed due west to take highway 1 as far as possible. Since it mostly hugs the coast, and occassionally cuts to the hills and forests, the road winds a lot and going is very slow. The drive between Sacramento and Arcata was without a doubt the drive that took the longest – we left around noon and arrived in McKinleyville (bordering Arcata) at approximately 11pm… However, it was absolutely worth the ride! Word to the wise though even on a motorcycle, the 10 hours of windy roads, steep uphills and downhills really left me drained and I probably underestimated the ride a little, but it was a good stretch of road to conquer in the end.
Researching this part of our trip we kept reading and hearing that the coastal highway here is not to be missed, and it’s easy to see why. The beaches are gorgeous, though the water is cold, and I think what made the views of the beaches so much more special is the fact that you’re not driving along it all the time – you see just enough to admire the view, then the road winds through the hills again before opening up to the ocean again. Amazing! 🙂 We kept curving into the hill then opening over and over onto beautiful beaches, cliffsides and viewpoints all before sunset. The forests too… They look like fairie forests, though I’m sure I’m going to say that again about the redwood forests! Deep green and brown all around, the ground covered by leaves and equally bright green grass. It looked like the kind of place you can camp for a week and completely forget that there is any other world around you.
We spent most of the day on this highway, and I’m pretty sure we switched to highway 101 where highway 1 ended. It was getting dark quickly by this point, so even though we knew we were driving on the Redwoods Highway, we didn’t see much other than gigantic peaks surroundingus. We did get excited when we saw signs for Humboldt State Park, since we had heard magical things about this park too and was already planning on spending most of the next day there.
Our couch host in McKinleyville was really cool about waiting for us and he was super interesting to talk to as well! He’s a serious horticulturalist – his house is full of plants in various stages of growth, he’s got a bunch of raised flower beds outside, his bathroom had a couple of moist plants hanging from a railing and I’m pretty sure he had a little climate controlled greenhouse in a cupboard too. The place looked so alive! 🙂 He had been to a couple of the National Parks we just passed through, and as a former hiking path maintenance guy for Humboldt State Park, he gave us great advice for hikes up there. The rest of the time there we didn’t see much of him though; our schedules were completely different as he is doing some substitute teaching at the moment, so he was up & out quite a bit earlier than we woke up but was nice enough to lend us a key so we could make our own schedule.
The next day we went to experience the magical redwoods in Humboldt…not a disappointing moment at all 🙂