Long Beaches, Redwoods and Rocky Points on California 101… The North Coast Series

Treasures are often found by those who wander off from well-tred paths. This bit of driftwood I found on Clam Beach north of Eureka, California is an example.

Treasures are often found by those who wander off from well-worn paths. I found this bit of driftwood on Clam Beach north of Eureka, California. I am forever taken by grains and texture in wood. What better way to find them!

Far too often, travel consists of hurrying through a number of must-see stops. I understand this. Some places are rightfully renown for their beauty, history shopping, etc., and time is limited. So you have a check-off list and a timeline. If you are on an organized tour, your travel is even more directed and options for wandering are close to nil, which is one of the reasons that I rarely travel that way.

Sometimes I like to travel without an itinerary and stop willy-nilly when something captures my attention. I realize that I run the risk of missing something worth seeing, but I also open the door for new adventures. When Peggy and I visited California’s North Coast in October, Mendocino was our must see stop. We even had a reservation, which is rare for us.

After Mendocino, it was wander time. We followed Highway 1 as it wound its way up the coast and then cut across the coast range to Highway 101 at Leggett. We zipped up 101 to Eureka so we would have more time on the coast north of the city. Eureka, BTW, was apparently what Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, shouted when he discovered a way of determining the purity of gold. It means, “I found it!” California 49ers shortened the concept to mean, “I found gold!” It became the state motto.

Our first stop above Eureka was at Clam Beach for no other reason than we hadn’t been there before. What we discovered was something of a rarity for the North Coast, a beach that went on and on. A small trail wound its way through brush, eventually leading us out to the beach.

Clam Beach off of Highway 101 north of Eureka, California.

We found golden Dune Grass…

Pampas Grass growing on the California Coast.

And golden Pampas Grass. Its beauty is countered somewhat by the fact that it is an invasive plant from South America, often replacing native plants.

Pampas Grass on Clam Beach in Northern California.

For fun, I shot the same Pampas Grass backlit the sun.

And then had Peggy stand next to it for perspective.

And then had Peggy stand next to it for perspective.

A final shot of Clam Beach.

A final shot of Clam Beach with golden Dune Grass and Pampas Grass in the distance.

Usually when we are in this part of California, we spend some time in the Redwoods. Our views this time, however, were limited to what we saw from the road, except for one ancient giant we found at a rest stop. It had burned years and years ago, leaving nothing but a charcoal remnant of its once magnificent self. Still, it stood as a testament to the miracle of life…

This ancient victim of fire amused me when I noticed that its top was creating a new forest!

This ancient victim of fire amused me when I noticed that its top was creating a new forest!

Patrick’s Point State Park returned us to the rocky shoreline I associate with the North Coast. Peggy and I followed a muddy path down a steep cliff to get to the action!

Patrick's Pt. State Park north of Eureka, California on Highway 101.

Hiking down to the ocean at Patrick’s State Park, we spotted a rock that was lit up by the sun.

Close inspection showed it to a home for California Brown Pelicans.

Closer inspection showed it to be a home for California Brown Pelicans.

Edging my way around a cliff provided another view.

Edging my way around a cliff provided me with another view.

Waves breaking at Patrick State Park north of Eureka and Arcata, California.

Including this…

And this.

And this. I really liked the dark and light contrast, along with the massive rocks.

Inching my way back to where Peggy was, the ocean waved goodby.

When I was inching my way back to where Peggy was, the ocean waved goodby.

NEXT BLOG: “There are elk!” Peggy yelled, almost causing me to crash. “There must be 300!”

24 comments on “Long Beaches, Redwoods and Rocky Points on California 101… The North Coast Series

    • The North Coast can take days, and even weeks to explore. I’ve been wandering up and down it most of my life and never tire of its beauty and diversity. Thanks for checking in. –Curt

  1. Curt, loved how you included Peggy in the shot to show just how tall the Pampas Grass was. Beautiful pictures as usual. I have to agree with you that wandering without a schedule or set itinerary is the BEST way to travel. As much as we have appreciated all we have seen and experienced on our hectic tours, I do prefer the unplanned method. Hoping our upcoming RV adventures will get us back into that mode. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

  2. Pampas grass looks lovely and it was very popular some time back in Australia. I believe it escaped and became a noxious weed. I believe it is now banned.
    To travel hither and dither is the best way. My H likes to know where she will be sleeping next though. Curling around the ashes used to be the norm some years ago. Now, a good bed is important.
    I loved that redwood tree shot.

    A happy Christmas to you and peggy.

    • It escaped and became a noxious weed here as well, Gerard. It is all up and down our coast.
      Peggy is pretty laid back normally when it comes to travel. We rarely get in trouble because we always stop early whether we are staying in motels or campgrounds. Plus our small RV carries most of the amenities of home. When we are backpacking, we are usually far away from people.
      Wasn’t the redwood fun. I really liked its little topknot of trees.
      A very Merry Christmas to you and your family as well, Gerard. –Curt

  3. So gorgeous!!. Makes me wistful for that coastline. Love all your photos, but particularly those of the wild grasses. So incredible finding beaches that are not full of construction nor litter. Just stunning!

    Peta

    • The golden wild grasses provide a great contrast, Peta. As for the beach areas, there are numerous county, state and even national parks along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington that help to protect their beauty and wilderness status. Plus there are now strict zoning laws. It wasn’t always the case. We are very fortunate. Thanks. 🙂 –Curt

  4. This is the kind of travel Dave and I look forward to in the future. An unhurried wandering and discovering. This will be an area on the list to explore! How about that grass?

    • One of our travel goals for this year, Sue, is to spend a lot more time on the Oregon Coast. It is so close— an easy 3-5 day escape. I am also hoping to make it back south to the Big Sur/Carmel/Monterrey area and north up the Washington coast. Should be lots of posts. 🙂 –Curt

  5. What a treat for me to read your post and admire your photos! My husband and I drove through (and stopped many times!) this same area in the early 1990’s. Our two first kids were very little and slept everywhere, which allowed us to drive from the Bay area to northern California (the real northern part of the state). I loved how remote and raw it was. Less popular than the Central and South Coasts, I fell for this rugged part of the golden state. These wild grasses are so beautiful!

    • It is easy to fall for the north coast, Evelyne. I have always considered myself very lucky to have it a couple of hours away from where I live and have taken full advantage of it. Glad you were able to experience and explore it. –Curt

  6. One reason I’m charmed by blogs is that the photos give me a mental comparison to something similar I’ve seen but never experienced. We have sand dunes where we vacation at Pawleys Island, SC and sea grass. But nothing like what Peggy’s standing next to. Thanks for letting me travel vicariously this morning.

    • You are welcome, always. Spanish Bayonet is found up and down the West Coast, Rusha. It’a a beautiful plant but very invasive. Peggy provided a good perspective on how big the plant grows. 🙂 –Curt

  7. Fantastic post and pictures! I have just moved to Eureka from England and just love being able to explore the local area – it really is fascinating! Did you visit Trinidad on your travels? Its my favourite place, just north of Eureka and Mckinleyville 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed it! And yes, Trinidad is quite beautiful. I was there in November. The whole coast from San Francisco north is gorgeous. You have much great exploring ahead of you. –Curt

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