25 March, 2012

Corvair road trip: Giant trees and a surprising lack of car trouble

If you're ever in need of a little bit of attention, take a classic car to California. 

We sailed out of Oregon on Highway 199, out of the blazing desert sun and into the cool coastal breezes, mists and giant redwoods of northern California. The Corvair hummed along happily in the cooler air. After a pitstop at the Crescent City Denny's--no road trip is complete without Denny's--we switched to the 101 and took our time cruising along the rugged coast and under canopies of towering trees to the unassuming hamlet of Klamath.

Crescent City

Klamath is located within the Yurok Indian Reservation and is home to such attractions as the Tour Thru Tree and the kitsch yet somewhat endearing Trees of Mystery. The museum of Native American artifacts at the Trees of Mystery is quite good. Though it is quiet, Klamath is a good base for a trip to the redwood forests or a fishing trip on the Klamath River. I can recommend staying at the Ravenwood Motel, a nicely renovated collection of rooms with an above average continental breakfast run by a very kind man who recommended eating smoked tri-tip at Country Market, which we did. Twice.

Ravenwood Motel
Country Market
Our full day of sight-seeing through the Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park started on the Newtwon B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Aptly named, the scenic parkway held many opportunities for hikes and short excursions into the redwoods as well as numerous pull-outs when we simply needed a moment to take in the grandeur. There were also attractions like Big Tree which, no surprise there, was indeed a really big tree.
Where's Potato Woman?

Every parking lot brought a slew of sidelong glances, pointing fingers, and outright inquiries about our little Corvair. Mostly people wanted to know what kind of car it was. Some knew the car and wanted to know the year. Some knew it, loved it, and wanted to have lengthy conversations about it. And then there were the annoying few who thought they were being clever by mentioning Ralph Nader without even knowing why the Corvair was included in his book, or by warning of the Corvair's propensity for gas tank explosions with the rear engine and all. I wonder if they felt clever when they found out the gas tank is in the front.

Around midday, we trundled out to Gold Bluffs Beach on a dirt road and ate leftover pizza. It was a nice diversion from all the trees, but as we were there to see trees, we got back to it at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Dedicated to the former first lady in 1969, it is a lovely and peaceful grove of massive, ancient trees.
Gold Bluffs Beach
Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Our southernmost point of the day was Freshwater Lagoon just past Orick. On our way back to Klamath, we passed through a herd of grazing elk and stopped to snap a photo at the Tour Thru Tree.

Freshwater Lagoon

We visited the Trees of Mystery on our final damp and misty morning in the redwoods. The giant Paul Bunyan with his blue ox and oddly formed trees coupled with the mist and bizarre 1950's era signs and recordings created a surreal experience. The panoramic view at the top of the cable car was a good idea in theory, but fog was the reality, so we didn't hang around. As I mentioned before, the museum attached to the gift shop is nicely and thoughtfully curated.

Paul Bunyan and Babe
Mysterious trees
Coming up--Bandon and the Oregon Coast!