Wednesday 5th June 2013
We had looked at various maps the night before and were certain of what we wanted to achieve. Today we would visit some vine yards (vin yids) then head on further up to the see the giant redwoods. We were up and out a little earlier today, it was about 10am when we left the hotel , driving north on route 101. Actually why don’t we drive up to the top of the avenue of the giants then visit a winery or two on the way back? Good idea.
Armed with a variety of maps on different scales plus the sat nav we continued along the freeway through Sonoma wine country. Through Santa Rosa, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and then Cloverdale, by now we were starting to get hungry as we had missed breakfast. We decided to stop at the next McDonald’s for a late egg mcmuffin. We pulled off the 101 at Ukiah, where we sat outside to eat our cheeseburgers. The temperature had already climbed from 66° up to a very warm 80°.
Across the road from the car park/parking lot, there was a new hotel (it looked like it had only recently been completed) with some interesting wood sculptures . I was just preparing to take a photograph from my seat in the car (we had put the roof down now) when a truck pulled up and parked right in my way. But I did manage to take this photo. I set the sat nav for Phillipsville which is near the start of the Avenue of the Giants.
We stopped at a small place called Miranda for lunch which was exquisite. Again we sat out in the sun (we are only in the country for 2 weeks so we are making the most of it while we can). Once again when our food arrived it was far too much for us to eat.
By this time the temperature had soared to 90°. Before we left I grabbed yet another map from the visitors information rack. This one being ‘Color coded self –guided driving tours’ . I worked out that we could follow the road we were on until it rejoined the 101 then make our way to Fortuna before following the blue road west towards the coast. Down to Petrolia then back east towards the 101 and back home again. We were in no hurry so it didn’t matter how late we got back to the hotel.
By the time we reached Red Crest (still on the Avenue of the giants) one of us was desperate for a comfort break. Another photo opportunity beside the immortal tree. This was also where we did the tourist bit buying postcards, and a few other bits, a t-shirt for Owl and a bag for me (both depicting a shot of the giant redwoods). As we drove off the heat was still going up, 98° although the shade from the trees made it bearable.
It wasn’t long before we were out of the trees and to our dismay the temperature was going down. By the time we reached the turn off for the road to Fortuna we were so cold we had to stop to put sweaters on. We were amazed when we reached the town, this was nearer to our image of a typical old American town than anything we had seen yet.
We couldn’t not stop to take a few photos.
Setting off again we managed to miss the turning and found ourselves going around in a big circle around some farmland. Ending back where we had started. This was when we discovered the turning on to a narrow steep twisting road. Sat Nav proudly announced that we should follow Wild Cat Road for 14 miles. If we had known at that point what lay ahead I doubt we would have even started out. As I said the road was narrow, steep and twisting. We went higher and higher into the low cloud that nestled among the trees on either side of this crumbling track. We had gone about four miles twisting this way and that way getting higher and higher, occasion the road dipped lower but not for long before we came across another vehicle.
We had begun to emerge from the trees by the time we noticed the 4 x 4 catching up with us. There was nowhere for us to go to get out of the way, I wouldn’t let Owl go any faster. As far as I was concerned we were hurtling along far too fast for the road especially as we never knew what was around the next corner. Finally we had left the tight turns and heavily wooded slopes behind, opening up before us gentler slopes with fields of cattle. Farm buildings huddled together.
We caught up with a family car that was travelling as cautiously as we would have done had I been driving. Owl was becoming frustrated not being able to pass the family car whilst having the 4 x 4 trying not to become part of our boot/trunk. Luckily the family car was able to pull in beside a farm gate. Once we had passed the family car we were able to progress at a speed more agreeable to Owl until we found somewhere that allowed us to let the 4 x 4 pass us. Gradually we were making our way downwards around sweeping bends. (A relief after so many miles of tight turns and steep slopes).
I started to get excited though when I caught my first glimpse of the sea.I was looking forward to being able to stop, as I am sure Owl was after his tiring time behind the wheel. Still we continued to drive but now we had the Pacific ocean on our right. I find it odd that nowhere along our tortuous route were there any view points. Nowhere to stop and admire the view. Now that we were on the flat there were pull out places, each with prominent signs stating ‘No parking at any time’.A few miles later and we were back on the ever steeper slopes the trees becoming thicker again. I still can’t believe that we saw such stunning views and yet there was no place to stop and admire. Any photos I wanted to take were taken on the move. It took us an age to make it all the way back to route 101. When we did there was still 4 hours of driving to get back to our hotel.
Those mountain roads were very scary in places but we are so glad we did it. The views we saw were so special we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. If we had know before we set out what we were putting ourselves through we wouldn’t have done it.
It is a good thing that we didn’t know.