Traveling Up The Redwood Highway

Saturday, August 6, 2022

We left Fort Bragg on Thursday with around 160 miles to travel. There is no easy way to continue our trip north so we chose to stay on CA 1 which is the most direct route, the drawback being the highway is more narrow and winds its way up and down the coastal range for 40 miles until its terminus at Leggett. The plus side is the scenery along the rugged coast is reminiscent of the Big Sur Coast to our south and the road also takes us through redwood forest as we traverse the coastal range.

The drive to Leggett and US 101 is almost agonizing. It’s only 40+ miles yet take us over 2 hours to complete. Once we leave the coast we are unable to maintain 30 miles an hour for all the slow to 20 mph curves with a few 10 mph hairpins thrown in for grins, not to mention the grades. Not having much traffic is a bonus for us as there are few turnouts to allow passing. It’s a nasty little road for RV’ers that kind of makes up for it because of its beautiful surroundings………. kind of………

We pass through more redwood groves on US101. The National Park Service distinguishes the coastal redwoods from the giant sequoia thusly: The giant sequoia, a close relative of the redwood live on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in Central California at 4000 to 8000 feet for 250 miles. The redwood grows near the Pacific Ocean along the Northern California Coast for about 450 miles starting around Big Sur/Monterrey to the south and 15 miles wide. The giant sequoia is the largest tree in the world (General Sherman Tree 275′ tall, 36′ in diameter) in volume having an immense trunk; the redwood is the world’s tallest tree (the Hyperion Tree 380’9.7″) and has a slender trunk by comparison. The bark of the giant sequoia is bright reddish brown whereas the redwood is a dull chocolate brown.

Negotiating the Redwood Forest

We pass through several redwood groves located at Smith Redwoods, Richardson Grove SP, Humboldt Redwoods SP. We skirt many of them, only traveling through a couple of groves. It’s a nail biter navigating the big trees as the road comes within inches of the closest ones.

The “sights” in Redcrest

We drop off of US101 and stop in the tiny community of Redcrest (110 souls) to stretch our legs. As with most of the small communities along the Redwood Highway its economy is tourist driven. Jil treats us to an ice cream cone, the mutzos are treated to a good petting by a local gal, and we are on our way. We choose to stay on the old Redwood Highway for a while, enjoying the deep shade provided by the big redwoods.

The last 100 miles takes about the same amount of time as did the first 40 even with a half hour layover in Redcrest. US 101 is a much better road than the last 40 of CA1. We pass by Fortuna, then through Eureka on our way to Mad River Rapids RV Park located 8 miles north in Arcata.

Town Square- Arcata

Arcata comes from the Yurok term “oket’oh”, meaning “where there is a lagoon”. While here in Arcata (18,000 souls) we visited Redwoods Park. The park is really pretty with it big, beautiful redwoods. The ground is covered with bark dust, decaying needles and wood giving the duff a reddish tone. The park is located next to Humboldt Poly University. Jil’s brother went to school at Humboldt way back when.

Humboldt State

We went into downtown Arcata. The place is nicely layed out around a square but the first thing we noticed was not how nice the town looks but all the homeless folks- many of them staggering around as if drugged. What a pity! We walked around for a while noticing signs in storefront announcing weird things that were meaningless to us. We then went to a Safeway store and bought groceries.

Historic Minor Theater- circa 1914

Hike through redwoods in Redwood Park

The town was established in 1850 as a port and reprovisioning center for the gold mines to the east. Later in the 1850’s redwood timber replaced the depleted gold fields as the economic driver for the region. Neighboring Eureka also became the principal city on the bay due to its possession of the better harbor.

Usn’s at the Samoa Cookhouse
Samoa Cookhouse

Today we went on a little ride to Somoa (258 souls). Somoa is located in the northern peninsula of the Humboldt Bay. The Somoa Cookhouse is located there. It is one of the last remaining original lumber camp style cookhouses. The cookhouse was built in 1893 and provided dining facilities for the Vance Lumber Company. It served and still serves lumber camp style, or family style meals at long communal tables. The building is large enough to seat 500 people. The second floor served as a dormitory for the waitresses. Waitresses were required to be single at the time and were paid $30 a month. The dormitory had a curfew and was locked at night, the women not allowed to date on the weekdays. There was, however, a secret passageway that led to the kitchen that the waitresses used to leave the dormitory at night.

We then traveled over the bay via bridges to Eureka (45,034 souls). Eureka is the principal city and seat of Humboldt County in the Redwood Empire region of California. Its the largest city between San Francisco and Portland, OR and the westernmost city of more than 25,000 residents in the 48 contiguous states. Greater Eureka is one of California’s major fishing ports and the largest deep water port between San Francisco and Coos Bay OR. Eureka is home to California’s oldest zoo, the Sequoia Park Zoo.

Carson Mansion

The entire city is a historical landmark, which has hundreds of significant Victorian homes, including the nationally recognized Carson Mansion. It has retained its original 19th century commercial core as a nationally recognized “Old Town Historic District”. We drop by the district to ogle the splendor of the Carson Mansion. The house is considered the most grand Victorian home in America and with good reason. I enclose several photos of the mansion for your viewing pleasure.

Exquisite Detail on Exterior

The William Carson Mansion was home to one of Northern California’s first major lumber barons. It was sold and has become a private club, the Ingomar Club. Carson came from New Brunswick, Canada, following the goldrush of 1849. By happenstance, he came to Humboldt bay and contracted to provide logs for small sawmill. He and Jerry Whitemore felled a tree, the first for commercial purposes on Humboldt Bay. After logging all winter Carson went back to his gold mine claim.

He heard of a large sawmill being established at Humboldt Bay, went to the Sacramento Valley, bought oxen and returned to the bay by 1852 and remained in the lumber business permanently. His first loads of redwood timber shipped to San Francisco in 1854. Carson went into business with a fella by the name of Dolbeer. As the company advanced into areas more difficult to log, Dolbeer invented the Steam Donkey Engine which revolutionized log removal. Carson became involved in the founding of a railroad. Before commencing the building of his mansion, Carson said, “If I build it poorly, they would say that I am a damned miser; if I build it expensively, they will say I’m a show off; guess I’ll just build it to suit myself.” Construction of the house began in 1884. It was purchased in 1950 for $35,000!

Not Too Shabby Victorian acress from Carson Mansion

We spent the rest of the morning drive through portions of Eureka, then back to the RV park to walk the dogs and get ready for travel tomorrow. Weather remains typically NorCal coast- overcast almost entirely all day in the 60’s with nighttime temps in the mid-50’s.

We are heading up to Brookings Oregon in the a.m. See you then!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: