with Steve McCarthy
OK, so we got to Dunsmuir and poked around at some great sights along the way. Now we need to get on with the next two days of our NoCal backroads trek. From dunsmuir, we’ll be trotting across more pine covered forests towards the coast. For us SoCal folks, all those pine trees give us a whole new perspective on the Golden State. I mean yeah, we have trees here. At least a few are left from the various rounds of fires, but up there, they have TREES! this section of the lower Cascades is actually a rain forest. What’s that you say? “Rain Forest? Isn’t that like jungle? In, like, BRAZIL?” Well, yes and no. Yasee, not all rain forests are equatorial jungles.
This is a Forest, and yes indeedy do, it rains here. A LOT! That’s a hint to be prepared. Especially if you drive an open car. Expect rain even in the summer. In the winter, it snows. And since we’re talking some really minor backroads, you can’t drive them in the winter. They just flat close the roads down, rather than spend the bucks to keep them open. there’s no one up there to keep them open for!
That should give you pause. If not enough people use these roads to bother to plow them in the winter, do many people use those roads the rest of the year? That would be NO! So, a bit of extra care in your driving and extra care in your preparing the Auld Crate are in order. And cell phone service? What’s that? I also hope you packed a picnic lunch because there may not be many places that actually sell food here. Unless you brought your fishing pole.
So, after wandering around such great places as Big Bar and burnt Ranch, you will reach the next night’s lodgings in Eureka. This is a neat town. It started life as a seaport for the logging industry and still performs that function today. Check out the Fort Humboldt State Historic Park & Logging Museum 3431 Fort Avenue Eureka, CA 95503-3828 (707) 445-6567. It’s got great exhibits and plenty of old equipment. It’s amazing to think of guys cutting down redwood trees as big around as your house with giant handsaws and axes! Again, I put this drive together in shorter legs so you could have time to poke around a bit.
The next treat is dinner! Actually, what I said about lunch? forget it. Don’t eat all day. You’ll need the appetite. The Samoa Cook House, is across the bridge (head north on 101 from the motel and look for Hwy 225 to Samoa--Ya can’t miss it! I’m sure the people at the motel can tell you haw to get there as well.) in the tiny town of Samoa. this place is Legendary! In fact, constant readers will remember a while back when I held a poll on best roads, on of the questions was about favorite places to eat. This was on several lists. From their website (samoacookhouse.net): “Breakfast, served family style, can include eggs, french toast, pancakes, sausages, biscuits & gravy, hash browns, coffee and orange juice. Lunch and Dinner, served family style, include entrée, soup, salad, bread, vegetable, potato, coffee, tea and dessert.” And LOTS of it! This was an actual cook house for miners up until the 1970’s and has stuck to it’s basic format of Fill the Hungry Bellies of Hard Working People. It is also worth looking at the museum on the premises. Eureka is also a neat town to explore, so walk off dinner by strolling the streets. Find the Carson Mansion at 143 M St. this place is spectacular!
So, still sated from dinner, it’s time to head back to St. Helena, or indeed home to SoCal. The rest of the trip should be familiar. It parallels Hwy 101 and takes you through the Avenue of the Giants. This side trip is not to be missed. neither are the funky tourist places along the way. Trees of Mystery, Confusion Hill, the Drive Through Tree, all of it is worth the stop. Experience how simple being a tourist used to be. Set aside your jaded 21st Century outlook, suspend disbelief and just enjoy. I recommend going back to St. Helena for the night. It will allow you time to poke around more, as well as hit some of the great wineries in the area. So, enjoy October! In November, I plan to suggest some reading material to put on your Christmas Wish List. Books that I THINK we can find at a particular store in Burbank!
The exact directions can be had by buying a copy of the October issue of ACE from autobooks-aerobooks.com. There is a link at the top of this page!