Sunday, May 8, 2011

From Fab Giants to Ferndale

Northern California along the 101 is really something to see. Much has already been written about the Giant Redwoods in the prior postings - These Giants with excellent posture standing guard on each side of the road gawking at the passerby. At the north end of the Avenue of the Giants, one leaves the redwoods - drives through farm country that makes you think you are in the middle of our country - ascends a mountain covered with lush greenery that makes one think they have been magically transported across the Pacific to Hawaii - and the ocean appears! This was our day;-)

First there was Scotia - a “Company Town” created in the 1880’s by Pacific Lumber Company to house the loggers needed for its logging operations. Within 30 years two sawmills had been built, with the second becoming the world’s largest redwood sawmill. To support this activity in an ‘out of the way location’ Pacific Lumber built 100’s of homes, a hotel, saloon, bank, elementary school, hospital, theater, the Company’s main office and created a Volunteer Fire Department. Some of these buildings were destroyed by fire over the years and rebuilt. Today Scotia is owned and operated by the Town of Scotia Company, LLC and the still existing buildings serve other purposes - such as the Scotia Museum or medical offices. The town is ‘neat as a pin’ as they say - so much so it almost looks like a movie set - maybe where they filmed the Stepford wives!! Very eerie feel. Since not much was open on this Saturday morning - except for a very wonderful pharmacy/Hallmark store and the grocery store - we hopped back in the car and headed to the next town north for lunch.

While the town of Fortuna is billed as one of the most beautiful natural destinations in all of Humboldt County - we would beg to differ. The Chamber of Commerce clearly pays their writers well!! One of the larger towns, therefore providing basic services, it provided a good place for lunch (Eel River Brewery), a grocery store stop for a few needed supplies and a Starbucks! Otherwise, nothing to brag about and certainly nothing to take a picture of!!

The next stop, however, made our day! FERNDALE. “Road Trip USA” writes this of Ferndale:

“Well worth the 10-mile detour west of US-101, the historic town of Ferndale (pop.1,331) is an odd fish along the woodsy Northern California coast, a century-old dairy town that would look more at home in middle America.”

Strolling through this Victorian village is like a walk through the past. The entire Main St. has been designated a National Register Historic District due to its finely preserved commercial and residential buildings.

Downtown Ferndale, Rexall Drug Store and all.

Ferndale is nestled against coastal hills and near the Eel River. Rich bottom land provides plentiful grass for the area’s thriving dairy industry, which has sustained the community since the late 1800s. The ornate homes built by successful dairy farmers became known as “butterfat palaces”.

One of many Victorian homes in this small community.

A wonderful, picturesque, OLD cemetery is a big part of the town. Many of the headstones have birth dates from the early 1800’s. This time of year it is especially beautiful with all the flowering plants and trees.

The Ferndale cemetary.

A hike to the top provides a great overview of this old Victorian town.

If you look closely, you can see the ocean in the back center of this shot.

Only in a town of 1,300 would one find a sign like this posted on the local grocery store;-) Reminds you of how special a small town is!

I wonder if the 3 or ? boyfriends are all named Schmoe.

Ferndale is also the gateway to the VERY remote Lost Coast (lost because you can't get there!) and Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point on the coast of California.

Cape Mendocino and "The Wall" in the distance.

The VERY narrow, twisting, 17% grade road leading to (or from) the Coast was included in a century bike ride we encountered on this day. We marveled at those who were completing this ride - as at 85 miles they had this 17% grade (which is referred to as ‘The Wall’) to climb. Sooooo glad it was them and NOT us!!!

Ugh..Glad we are not riding with these guys!

Winding our way through this farm country and cow pastures - I couldn’t resist another ‘Sound of Music’ moment - only this time the ocean was in the background.

Sound of Music moment ...Take 3.

All of this activity made us hungry - and the Ivanhoe provided a wonderful meal and evening with lots of local color. Don’t miss it if you are in Ferndale.

In all of these little towns one building or facility serves many purposes. The general store might also be the post office, visitor center and check in for a hotel. For the last couple of nights, we stayed at a pleasant, quiet ‘resort’ - in the redwoods in Redcrest - which also housed the Redcrest Volunteer Fire Department. Thankfully, there were no calls while we were there - as we thought we might get called into duty!

Magic makes nice with the Volunteers' fire engine.

In the last 8 days we have stayed in 4 different places - and each move was an average of approximately 30-40 miles (some as little as 20 miles!)! We have traveled a distance in the last 8 days that took one travel log writer we are reading on the journey a total of 6.5 hours to drive!! BOY IS IT FUN TO BE RETIRED AND HAVE THE ABILITY TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES AND ENJOY THE SIGHTS!!!!

Loving it - Elizabeth and Gary from Northern California

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