We knew it was there somewhere because the brochure told us it was … and we were determined. This was our journey … (Seriously, this would be a great challenge.)
Back to California. Well, I’m not really back in California … but blogging wise I am.
We headed away from the coast and inland through the town of Leggett and then north toward Humboldt State Park.
“You want to go there?” C. asks me, pointing toward a sign for the Chandelier Tree.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” I say. I do not care that we will see many other big trees. I do not care that it will take time away from getting to the park. I do not care that it costs $5.00 … because this … this very tree … is the site of a Weddle Family Adventure.
When our kids were young we went a lot of places on very little money. One of the ways we saved money was buying a box of donuts for breakfast. A couple dollars for a dozen donuts certainly was less expensive than $20.00 to buy four people breakfast at a restaurant. (Ok, nutritionists – we usually ate healthy breakfasts – just not on trips.)
On one of our many journeys, we drove through Washington and then headed south through Oregon and northern California on Highway 101.
We had stayed in Redcrest the night before in a quaint little cabin, surrounded by redwoods. I remember the cabin being cozy with patchwork quilts on the beds and … I digress. The next morning we started on down the highway and broke open the very nourishing breakfast of chocolate donuts. I had one. Kelli had one. Ken had one (maybe two) and Jeff … well, let’s say he sat in back of our station wagon in chocolate donut glory as he finished off the rest of the box.
Several more miles down the windy, bendy, slightly hilly road – the donuts once again made an appearance – this time rather forcefully. You have never (well, if you have kids, you probably have) seen such a mess – all in the back seat of the car.
We pulled over by the South Fork Eel River. And Jeff did what he could to get cleaned up. Didn’t help. We wiped and scrubbed and wiped and scrubbed the car. Didn’t help.
No way were we going to get this mess cleaned up without a for-real bathroom with for-real soap … and yet there we were out in the middle of miles and miles of California redwoods. The nearby outhouses didn’t really provide any kind of solution.
We decided to continue down the road and look for a place to do the job.
And that’s when we found the Chandelier Tree. And paid the money. And used their restroom. And we’ve always teased Jeff about having to pay to drive through a tree to clean up the chocolate donut mess. (We had already driven through a tree for free further up the road.)
So how could I miss the opportunity to drive through it again?
The Chandelier Tree is called that because supposedly the branches look like a chandelier, but I didn’t really notice that (either time) and didn’t know that’s why it was called that until I got home and Wikipedia clued me in.
The place consists of the tree, a picnic area and a gift shop.
C. and I were there on a March morning and we had to wait for one other car. I’m guessing summer Sunday afternoons there would be quite a long wait. Because you just don’t wait for the cars to go through the tree, but for the passenger to take a picture of the car while the driver drives through and then for the driver to trade places and the other person drives and the … You get the picture (no pun intended).
But wow – what a nostalgic memory … and to this day, Jeff no longer eats chocolate donuts.
We had had a busy day – all in the blustery wind. We had done the Skunk Train, walked around Mendicino, visited Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and climbed the rocks at Glass Beach. Now we were hungry. The first night in town we had eaten at an Italian Restaurant which wasn’t bad, but we wanted something “oceany.”
We asked at the desk and they told us to go the wharf where there was a lot of restaurants – but where was the wharf? We had seen trains and gift shops and the ocean … but no wharf. Turns out the wharf was tucked into a small bay, surrounded by hills – hidden away from the main thoroughfare.
The wharf looked exactly like you would expect a wharf to look – no tourism here, just some fishing companies and a few restaurants. We headed for Silvers and asked for a seat overlooking the water.
When Cindy asked if I wanted to put Glass Beach on our itinerary, I immediately said, “yes.”
When we first moved to Wisconsin, we used to spend hours walking along the Lake Michigan beach, picking up glass. We’d fill up jars and put it on our windowsills and the sunlight sparkled in beautiful colors. However, the last few times we were in Wisconsin, we looked but couldn’t find any glass. I guess when they turned North Beach into one of the best beaches in the country, that included cleaning up the sea glass.
So seeing the Fort Bragg Glass Beach seemed like the thing to do.
Although I think the Wisconsin glass was mostly from people having picnics and late night campfires on the beach (illegal or not), but the Fort Bragg Glass Beach is a result of people back in the beginning of the 20th century actually throwing garbage over the cliffs into the water. In fact, at that time it was called “The Dumps.” Every once in a while, fires would be set to burn the trash. However, as the beach was cleaned up, the waves would bring in the broken glass, rounding out the sharp edges to smooth pieces.
They even have a Glass Festival. (And are thinking about replenishing the glass.)
But even though they make it known that you are not supposed to take glass from the beach, many people do. Reading the Trip Advisor reviews, many said they didn’t see a single piece of glass left.
So don’t get too excited.
The wind was extremely chilly on the day we went and walking on the high bluffs of course, made it even more windy and chilly, but we made our way across the bluff and then had to climb down some rocks. They weren’t too treacherous, but it wasn’t a well laid-out path either. I’m guessing many would choose not to climb down.
The part of the beach we headed for was small and in between some rocks (that you couldn’t get over), but there was at least some glass there. And the ocean view through the rocks was pretty.
Once we got off the Skunk Train and back on land, we headed to Mendocino and walked around town.
Ok, this is weird. I took a couple books with me to enjoy during the vacation days. And the one I chose to read was, coincidentally about Mendocino. As we were walking around town I saw a store called Corners of the Mouth. The name stuck out with me because I wondered how mouths could have corners.
But one of the people in the fiction story worked at Corners of the Mouth.
We passed a small Baptist church.
The girl in the story talked about attending her “small Baptist church.”
Kind of interesting.
We then started back to Fort Bragg with a stop at the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Actually it was when an opium brig wrecked off Point Cabrillo back in 1870 that led to the exploration of the area and the discovery of the nearby redwood forests and thus the beginning of the lumber camps in the area.
The lighthouse was built in the early 1900s and started service in 1908.
The parking lot is about a 1/2 mile from the light itself – so first you walk to get to where you’re going. The wind was still whipping around and the closer we got to the point, the whippier it got.
I have seen beautiful lighthouses (the one we lived by in Racine is one of the best) – this lighthouse was more on the “cute” side (if lighthouses can be cute). However, the point itself was beyond compare. Standing on the edge of the bluff overlooking the Pacific and listening to the waves splash against the rock was beyond compare. I think heaven will have some scenes like that.
I wish I could have put it all in a box and brought it home. Pictures don’t begin to tell the story.
Outside of the coastal town of Fort Bragg, California, train tracks head through the redwood forest (but new growth redwoods, not as magnificent as the trees in other areas), along Pudding Creek and then along the banks of the the Noyo River into the town of Willits, forty miles away.
The track, part of the California Western Railroad, was originally laid in 1885 to carry redwood logs to and from the lumber camps. The approximate halfway mark is a stop called Northspur.
Originally the trains were powered by steam but were then replaced by gas-power. People said you could smell them before you saw them, so the name “Skunk Train” became popular.
Now the Skunk Train mostly carries tourists, although some of the people who live in isolated houses on isolated land along the isolated route, still depend on the train to bring needed supplies. I think (not positive) the conductor also said that some of the kids from the few camps along the route get to ride to camp on the train. (Again, not sure, but that’s what I understood.)
Because of the season – the train (on the day we rode) only ran from Fort Bragg to Northspur where we had lunch and then returned to Fort Bragg. We went through a deep and VERY DARK tunnel (which collapsed last year and almost closed down the railroad. Enough donations were given to fix it and last August, the train again began to run). The tunnel was dug by hand back in the day.
From what I’ve read, the second half of the ride between Northspur and Willits might be the more exciting – the train travels up the mountain until it reaches a tunnel at the top. (The train actually travels 8.5 miles of switchbacks to go less than a straight-line mile.) The first half (from Fort Bragg to Northspur) was pretty, but to be honest, not spectacular. Don’t get me wrong. I truly enjoyed it and would do it again, but it did not have spectacular scenery such as, for instance, the Georgetown Loop Train out in Colorado.
But I’m thinkin’ that second half might have had some spectacularity to it.
The ride did a lot to simply help me relax, however, after going nonstop the past couple months. I needed that and that made it all worthwhile. We passed some interesting mining camp remains, had good narration by the conductor and were serenaded by a young man who specialized in train songs. (I’ll see if I can post a video.)
After about an hour and a half or so we arrived in Northspur and had a 45 minute break. You could purchase hotdogs, brats and hamburgers and fortunately, hot chocolate, since it was a just a little cold. The food was grilled right there in front of a miniature train set. The place smelled like camp … which is a good thing. Picnic tables were set up – but it was damp and cold so we didn’t sit very long.
Then we got back on the train and returned to Fort Bragg.
After checking out what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like under the clouds, we headed up the coast on the windy Route #1. We passed miles of beautiful shoreline – and headed for Bodega Bay. We had heard there was a great little restaurant there – a great place to get fish and chips.
And we found the restaurant, but both got the clam chowder bread bowl. Wow! Very, big-chunks-of-vegetables delicious. Even though it was a little chilly and cloudy, we ate outside on the patio.
A great Pacific Coast meal.
I’m all over the place with these posts and I’m so far behind it’s almost useless to attempt to catch up – but little by little …
Another gold-mining town we visited last fall was Columbia, California. Part of the town – is part of the Columbia State Historic Park and has some of the original buildings. The day we were there, was quite crowded because Yosemite was closed during the whole close-the-National-Parks-and-save-money thing or whatever — so tours were bringing their visitors to Columbia. Not quite Yosemite, but an interesting place.
Once gold had been discovered back in the mid 1800s, thousands and thousands of miners came to to town and by 1852 Columbia had 8 hotels, 4 banks, 2 bookstores, 3 churches … and more than 40 bars and other places you could get drinks.
In the years between 1850-1900 – 150 million dollars worth of gold was mined near Columbia … and is in fact, how the North funded the Union Army the Civil War.
A very energetic place. In fact, during its peak, Columbia was the second-largest city in California and was considered for the capit0l, but alas …
Some pictures of Columbia …
Angels Camp is the only incorporated city in Calaveras County, California. Well … it is at least the only incorporated town – it has approximately 4,000 people.
Angels Camp is also in the heart of Gold Country, California. But it’s other claim to fame is that Mark Twain heard the story of the jumping frog at the Angels’ Hotel – thus the classic short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
In fact, they still have a jumping frog contest every year and the winning frogs each year are immortalized on the sidewalks – sort of like the Hollywood handprints (except I’ve never seen the handprints, so who knows).
Interesting town – especially the laundry hanging across the main street.
The early part of October I was out in California and while there, Cindy (my hostess) and I took a day to drive up into Gold Mine country. I’ve been to a lot of places in California, but not Gold Mine Country, so this was extra enjoyable because I hadn’t seen it before. Expectedly (just made that word up), there were a lot of hills and “crannies” in the landscape and a lot of towns with the word “camp” tacked on the end. In some spots, you could even imagine a couple prospectors appearing on top of a hill, their equipment hanging off of them at odd angles. Alas, we didn’t really see any prospectors – but we did have a fun lunch in the courtyard of Murphy’s Hotel in the town of Murphys.
A long, long time ago (1844), John and Daniel Murphy came to California as part of the first group that brought wagons across the Sierra Nevada. they started their California career as shopkeepers, but then got caught up in the Gold Rush like everyone else.
This area was so rich in gold that miners weren’t allowed to have claims any bigger than 8 square feet – but even so, many became rich. The Murphy brothers, however, soon discovered they could make more money with their store than mining. And so that’s what they did.
The Murphy’s Hotel opened in 1856 and was a popular stop on the stage route to Big Trees. When most of the town burned down in 1860, the hotel escaped a lot of damage because of the stonework in it’s walls. What a charming place for a charming lunch.