Pacific Coast: Del Norte, Humboldt

Entering California, from Brookings towards Crescent City. There is food inspection at the border; the guy waves me away. This is Del Norte territory. Small farming towns, curious cows, barking dogs. One of them barks from the rear seat of a car just as it passes me, giving me a jolt. I find a Starbucks in Crescent City and have a different jolt and continue up a steep hill towards redwood forest. Humboldt County begins just after an enjoyable downhill outside Klamath. The road leaves 101 and enters deep into the woods. Last winter we drove here with Bengul and hiked among gigantic redwoods. This time I just admire them from the road, going very slowly and stopping often.

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Prairie Creek CG is in an open field. Elks are grazing at the edge of the forest and RVs line up the road to observe. I camp underneath a huge tree. There are a few cyclists like me around. There is also a family with two boys, riding their own bikes, parents dragging two trailers themselves. Night passes with rain and morning is foggy. Road closures slow down traffic and nothing to report in Orick. I enter a sideroad to check out a “lagoon” and have to walk back the %12 grade.

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After Trinidad, a coastal trail shows up – the Hammond Trail – which is not in the book. A pleasant ride between the busy highway and the coast, it passes through suburban streets at times and meanders through some farmland. It almost reaches Arcata, the last big town before Eureka. Being a university town, I guess that there must be a good-value eatery somewhere and I am not disappointed; I find a vietnamese restaurant and have a delicious vegetarian curry with coconut water. Does everything taste good after cycling?

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I am supposed to stay at a KOA campground but with the fierce east wind at one side and lunatic cars on the other, miss the sign and find myself in Eureka. It is unlike I remember it from last year. If there is anybody thinking that passing a highway through a city is a good idea, they must come and see Eureka. When I finally find KOA it is getting late. I do some laundry and eat a little bit before ending the day. Two cyclists and the family I saw earlier shows up later and we chat for a while.

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Next day I go into Eureka again and try to find a bikeshop to replace my bike’s rear tire; the threads on the left side are gone which has been worrying me for the last two days. Is it because I ride on the right shoulder all the time, or did I brake too much during that Klamath hill? Wandering around city steets I end up exactly where Bengul and I parked our car last winter when we stopped in old town. This is a very nice part of town, but strangely, there is hardly anybody around in early morning hours. I stop for a coffee and later find the bike store and get a new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire. That should last a bit longer.

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On the way out of Eureka I see a Walmart sign and go in to check out cellphones. While talking to a salesman, a security guard approaches and tells me bicycles are not allowed inside the mall. He says if I am worried (yeah) he can lock my bike inside their office while I shop (no thanks). I meet Matt and Holly just outside the nearest exit door. They stayed at a motel last night and one of the rooms got robbed; they saw a masked man running away. This is not a pleasant city to be around.

Leaving 101, I enter a sideroad which leads to Loleta and then Ferndale. What a difference. Lovely town, surrounded with open farmlands, nothing on the road except me and some chickens. Cows turning their heads slowly and chewing whatever they chew all the time. The wind carries me around and after a steep hill I stop for lunch and then inevitably rejoin the highway.

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“Avenue of the Giants” begins not far from Scotia. The family of four catches me at the entrance. I think they did the higway all the way from Eureka; too bad. Redwoods are impressive all the way to Burlington CG. There are two sites for bikers and both are almost full. A lot of cyclists I met before are there and a couple of new ones, too. I chat with the Vancouver group, Bob, Scott and Adam over some drinks and night falls too quickly before I can make dinner. Good thing I had a big lunch.

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While the trio went to the next town for breakfast, I eat some granola and leave early for a hard day. The map shows constant climbing up to and beyond Leggett. I break the route into two, staying at Richardson Grove SP the first and then descend into MacKerricher Beach SP the next day. As promissed, it’s a very long climb, but it is well worth it. This is where Highway 1 begins just before Leggett. It is also where Humboldt County ends and Mendocino begins. The hard thing to endure is the dryness and heat. I almost run out of water before reaching the next available water spout. Eucalyptus trees smell nice, but they don’t belong here.

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The site of the Pacific Coast once again is rejuvenating. The road is narrow and goes up and down, but there is little traffic. Wages Beach Creek Camp is tempting with its “beer and wi-fi” sign, but I manage to roll on. At Cleone I go into a corner store to replenish my tortillas but get icecream and orange juice instead. MacKerricher Beach SP is just there.

Next morning I decide to stay here for another night and explore the surroundings. I need some rest. There is a 3 mile scenic trail to the next pretty town Fort Bragg, a lumber economy.

19 days, 950 miles.

pc3View the full route

2014-09-30 Eureka KOA 57 05:35
2014-10-01 Burlington CG 63 06:14
2014-10-02 Richardson Grove SP 31 03:17
2014-10-03 Mac Kerricher Beach SP 57 06:16