California Road Trip



I managed to pack lots of family fun and scenic wonders into a weeklong road trip. I began by driving to Elk Grove, CA where my oldest son, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters live. The big social event was my son’s 50th birthday–how in the world did I get old enough to have a 50-year-old son?? On the way I stopped for the usual Mt. Shasta photo op. Where did all the snow go??

Temperatures were well over 100 for the weekend, so dear old friends Judy and David invited us to enjoy their pool and gorgeous garden. While Emma practiced standing on David’s shoulders in the pool, our 15-year-old chef Katherine put together the fabulous chocolate and strawberry dessert. Sunday Isabella and I searched the Vacaville outlet stores for a winter coat as she ventures to chilly upstate New York next month to attend Cornell University.

By Monday I was ready for some cooler weather myself, so I hit the road to San Francisco. There I picked up my younger son Loren and we headed down the peninsula to Pacifica. Our old friends Julie and Blue discovered this nice little town on the ocean just a few minutes from the city. Unfortunately, everyone’s discovered it now, and the price of houses has doubled in the few years they’ve lived there.  But the town is still charming and offers great views.

After lunching on fresh locally grown salad, we took the dog for a walk up the Milagra Ridge trail, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area.  Besides the ocean views you get some local history up here–although it seems like wilderness today, this area was part of the West Coast’s military defenses in WWII, as you can see by the remains of Battery 244.

The passion flower is growing in Loren’s San Francisco neighborhood, which is also full of great restaurants. Another favorite stop on my way north is the Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint. I never get tired of this view.  After a long day of stopping for construction on Hwy. 101, I spent the night in Crescent City, CA, with a view of the harbor.

Next morning I started my leisurely trip along the Oregon Coast. I don’t get to the extreme southern end often, so I planned enough time to stop at almost every State Park and viewpoint. If you’re making this trip yourself, try to do it in the opposite direction–didn’t work out for me this time–if you’re heading south, you won’t have to make dangerous left turns on blind curves to get in and out of the overlooks! But these stunning views are worth a little danger. First big stop was Harris Beach State Park near Brookings, OR, which I’d never visited before.

This area is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which we’ll see more of a little farther north. It’s home to a huge variety of birds, plants, and sea critters, not to mention the beautiful vistas featuring hundreds of rocky little islands spread out along the shore.

Pistol River State Park has a slightly different look, due to its location at the far southern end of the Oregon Dunes section of the coast.

In the charming town of Bandon, near the city park, is the spectacular Coquille Point. This is probably the most popular stop for viewing the Oregon Islands refuge. This refuge is part of the Oregon Coastal Refuge Complex, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other parts of the complex include estuarine and old-growth forest ecosystems. This part of the complex protects the marine environment.  You can see lots of sea birds on the rocks, as well as people kayaking and enjoying the beach. Does anyone know the name of this flower? I tried doing a reverse Google search for it, and the result was “flower.” Duh.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, just north of Florence, is known as one of the most photographed lighthouses in the US. It’s my favorite stop along the way to Lincoln City, where I spent the evening enjoying the sunset from the Ester Lee motel. The lighthouse is operated by the US Forest Service as a bed and breakfast, and the breakfast alone is worth the price of admission. Next morning I headed back over the Coast Range to Portland.


6 thoughts on “California Road Trip”

  1. It is a cow parsnip. (the flower you were asking about) It’s all over the coast at Fort Bragg and here too.


  2. Again thanks Andrea for the beautiful pictures and your outstanding commentary. We were in Bandon some years back, but not aware of the beach highlights.


  3. What a wonderful trip! I love the scenery in the Northwest. But, Phyllis, some of my friends won’t visit me because Texas is too far south. However, it’s true that it is too far north, but only in the winter.


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