June 30, 2013
You Don’t Want To Miss This Road Trip
Picture this: you are driving north on the road and to your left a forest of tall redwoods, spruce, ferns, moss, and rhododendrons flash past your vision while to your right all you see is ocean, miles and miles of sea water. Every now and then, you also find yourself driving between mountains and the ocean. If you roll down your window, the scent of ocean water wafts in and refreshes you. The sea salt caresses your face. If you stop to walk around one of the pullouts, you might be surrounded by forest or you might be able to take a stroll on the beach. Yes, this would be a nature lover’s paradise, would it not? Not to mention a scientist’s dream.
Well, have no fear because I have just the road trip for you. Recently I wrote about Highway 50 as my second favorite road tripping highway. Well, here is my absolute favorite road trip: The Pacific Coast Byway, aka Highway 101 and Coastal Highway, which runs from southern California all the way up into Canada. The entire Coastal Highway drive is definitely worth the time. Not only will you see views that will surpass your greatest imagining, but there are all sorts of activities and things to see and participate in along the way.
I will spend the majority of this post talking about the drive from Crescent City, California, to Astoria, Oregon, since it is my favorite part, but I wanted to write about a couple of great things to do while enjoying the ride up the coast in California.
Highway 101 will take you by two amazing redwood places. The first is the Chandelier Tree (otherwise called the Drive-Thru Tree). This is a redwood that had an opening carved in it during the early 1900s that most cars can drive right through. Most interesting of all is that the redwood continues to grow. So cool.
One of the other interesting nature activities that the California stretch of Highway 101 boasts is the Avenue of Giants. This is a 31-mile stretch of road that parallels Highway 101 so that you can take an even more scenic drive through the ancient giant redwoods. It is totally worth the time.
Plus, Highway 101 runs right through Redwood National and State Parks.
The Coastal Highway reaches its peak of beauty and diversity once you cross the Oregon border, though. Quite frankly, this is my favorite drive and favorite view in all of the world. The highway is sandwiched between two impressive natural bodies: ocean and forested mountains.
It really is a drive for all nature lovers. In fact, it is also blissful for scientists, artists, and writers alike. Highway 101 weaves along the coast, sometimes more inland and other times it looks right down on the beach or a cape. You can practically feel the waves as they crash upon the rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. Awesome, in its most true definition.
The ocean vista demands that you pull over and enjoy it. These are my favorite beaches in the world. Yes, they tend to be cooler, but that makes them less attractive to those who go to the beach for sunbathing. This means that you might be walking along the Pacific Ocean all by yourself with nothing to distract you from the peace of the sound of ocean waves creeping in to say hello.
These beaches are home to tide pools and ocean refuse, which irresistibly draw you in for exploration. You can easily lose yourself in the biology and ecology of any beach.
If you are not a beach goer, then have no fear. Highway 101 also has access to forest and mountain hikes. Plus, campgrounds dot all along the road, both with beach access and forest and mountain access. And, Highway 101 is part of the Oregon Bike Trail.
Other fun activities to experience along the Coastal Highway include lighthouses, caves, Seal Rock, Otter Rock, capes, scenic corridors, state parks, national forests, and small, coastal towns and cities. For the seafood lover, no other road provides the same options and freshness.
The fauna is as diverse as the environment. On this year’s trip alone, I saw the majestic bald eagles, the cheeky sea lion, sneaky seagulls and other fowl, and sweet deer and elk. I know that spending more time would yield more glimpses of the wild inhabitants. One of the best draws of the Pacific Coast Byway is the whale watching. This is the first time in several years that I have not caught sight of a whale. This is the drive to take if you want to see a whale. Click here for a link to Oregon’s Park and Recreation webpage about some whale watching
The road also goes by places such as the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where you can stop for a tour, taste, and purchase. It is pretty delicious cheese. Highway 101 finishes off Oregon at historic Astoria, with a history rich as a port and the final stop for the Lewis and Clark Trail. Astoria is home to parts of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
If you need just a little more proof that this is the road trip to take, Highway 101 has been awarded one of Rand McNally’s Best of the Road titles. I promise you the views and experience you will have on this portion of Highway 101 will definitely affect your life.
I leave you with these pictures, the first taken right off the highway in northern California and the other in Oregon:
Featured Image Credit: Rayshell Clapper