California’s usual image is one of bright sunshine and sandy beaches, and in the southern part of the state this is largely true. However, in the northern reaches of the state, the beach towns are completely different. Fog, forests, feathers, and fur are the norm in Del Norte County, which hugs the coastline and the Oregon border. Travelers wishing to see a less populated area of the state will be rewarded with beautiful countryside, big trees, and amazing wildlife.
This is the territory of Redwoods National Park, a good six hours north of San Francisco. Sandwiched between the cities of Arcata and Crescent City, the area is rural and majestic. The Yurok tribe makes its home here, as do the giant coast redwoods of California. Visitors to the area can visit the lighthouse in Crescent City, hike in one of four state and national parks, fish in rivers and in the Pacific Ocean – the area is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Artists of any form will be inspired by the wilderness, and visitors should definitely bring cameras, sketchbooks, paints, or the like.
The Historic Requa Inn makes a terrific home base for visitors. It is located in Klamath, California, literally in the middle of the national and state parks. The Inn was built in 1914, and offers rustic yet comfortable accommodations as well as mouth-watering breakfasts. Dinners at the Inn are special affairs, as the cook is well-versed in gourmet techniques; it is well worth the extra charge to be ‘home’ in time for the meal rather than partake of the limited fast food offerings in the area.
This scenic area is made up of interlocking puzzle pieces of parks. Redwoods National Park is the big draw, but smaller areas such as Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Del Norte Redwoods State Park all have attractions for the hiker, fisherman, photographer, or artist. The 101 freeway within this area contains twelve miles known as the “Redwoods Highway”, where travelers will surely slow down to snap photos of the amazing scenery.
The park areas are bordered by the towns of Crescent City and Eureka/Arcata. Crescent City was made briefly famous in 1964 when an Alaska Earthquake triggered a tsunami that wiped out most of the town. Today, visitors will see signs warning of large waves and evacuation routes, a reminder that this northwest town is part of the “Pacific Ring of Fire” – a series of volcanoes and earthquake areas that reach up the coast of North America and down through Siberia and Asia. These signs are also seen in Hawaii, which is located in a much lower latitude but shares similar geological features all the same.
Because of the treacherous waters, the Crescent City lighthouse was built in 1856 in a Cape Cod style. Visitors may visit the building; those interested should contact the Del Norte Historical Society, which maintains the premises. The lighthouse tower is still in use, and known as the Battery Point Light. Artists will find this to be another area that provides inspiration, as the lighthouse and beach area are atmospheric.
The parks are prime sites for wildlife and bird sighting. 300 bird species, Roosevelt elk, whales, and salmon can all be found here. In addition, there are seasonal flowers. However, the greatest attraction in the area is undoubtedly the trees. They are huge, ancient, and brooding. An easy walk through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park will provide a sense of the area; those who wish to see more of the habitat will want to spend extra time in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Redwoods National Park.
This rural area can be accessed from San Francisco or Portland International airports; renting a car at either site will then require around 450 miles of driving. Visitors who want to spend less time on the road should check out flights to Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (OTH), which around 200 miles from the area. Visitors will find that the remoteness of the California Northwest coast and forests allows for a completely different vacation – one that is quiet, relaxing, and filled with natural wonders.