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USA 2015
Big trees, black bears, high sierra, ancient volcanoes and a long stretch of coast

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Saturday, June 6 - Lassen Volcanic Park

Weather: up to 31 °C a.m. sunny with a few clouds, p.m. cloudy and some rain


That morning we got up early as thunderstorms had been announced for the afternoon. After breakfast in our room we left at 6:30 and 30 minutes later we were at Lake Tahoe. We were looking for the famous Bonsai Rock but may not have found it. Instead we used some other rocks for the foreground in some of our photos.

1.5 hours later we were back in Carson City. We didn't plan to make the side trip to Virginia City as this would have taken too much time. We passed through Reno on the Interstate and arrived in Susanville and California around 10 a.m. where we picked up some bagels and coffee.

We entered Lassen Volcanic Park through its south entrance at 11:45 a.m. The park fee is $20 but this was covered by our annual pass. We followed the road through the park. There was still some snow at the higher elevations (2600 m / 8500 feet) and the Bumpass Hell trail was still closed. Up here we had 10 °C. We had some pretty views of the snowcapped Lassen Peak from the northern side. After 1.5 hours we left via the north entrance. It was 1:15 p.m.

On highway 44 we turned south until we get onto the 6 miles long dirt road to Butte Lake. After a short lunch break we started on the Cinder Cone Trail. It was 2:30 p.m. and down here we had 25 °C. The huge old lava flows were impressive. After 30 minutes we reached the bottom of Cinder Cone. Then it was a climb with 200 m elevation on loose gravel to get to the top. It took me 30 minutes. Volker did it in half the time. By then dark clouds had come up and there was a light drizzle. We were hoping that we wouldn't get any lightning! But the rain stopped again soon and the sun came out again between clouds. We had a great view onto the Painted Dunes from above and Lassen Peak in the distance. Eventually we followed the path down on the other side which was even steeper. Then we moved around Cinder Cone to get back on the trail to our car. By then it was almost 6 p.m. The hike was 4 miles (6.4 km) with 258 metres elevation.


We drove north towards Burney which we reached at 6:45 p.m. We had reserved a room with king-size bed at the Green Gables Motel. For dinner we went to the Outpost Restaurant across the street where we had salmon fillets with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Miles covered: 325
Animals: 1 deer
Accommodation: Green Gables Motel, Burney ($89 plus tax)

Sunday, June 7 - McArthur-Burney Falls, McCloud Falls, Mount Shasta
Weather: 38 °C sunny

The motel provided a continental breakfast with cereals, pastries, juice, coffee. We left at 8 a.m. and had just a short drive to McArthur-Burney Falls State Park ($8). Part of the falls were still in shade but nevertheless it was a beautiful sight.

At 9 a.m. we continued north on highway 89. After 30 minutes we reached the turn-off to Lower McCloud Falls. It’s just a small waterfall, not very impressive. Instead of following the trail along the river towards Middle Falls, we took to the road again. From the parking area it was just a 10 minutes’ walk to the bottom of the waterfall which was a great sight. We made another stop at Upper Falls which were not too impressive.

At 11 a.m. we returned to the highway and soon after reached the town of Mount Shasta with the snowcapped mountain of the same name in the backdrop. They had a yoga festival that weekend. We had lunch with wraps and coffee at an organic food grocery. Then we took the Everitt Memorial Highway to make the climb to the slopes of Mount Shasta. At 1 p.m. on a sunny Sunday we were lucky to find a parking space at Bunny Flat at 2100 metres (7000 feet) elevation. It was 23 °C. We followed the Bunny Flat trail 1.6 miles to Horse Camp and back again. There’s an unmaintained mountain hut at Horse Camp where a bunch of mountain climbers and snowboarders were taking a rest. After 1 hour and 40 minutes we were back at the car.

At 3 p.m. we drove south to Dunsmuir. From the parking area at the Dunsmuir Ave/Siskiyou Ave exit it was just a 5 minutes’ walk to Hedge Creek Falls which didn’t have much water though. You can stand behind the waterfall. Here we had 38 (!) °C so it would have been nice to cool off a little.

At 4 p.m. we drove south on I-5 to Castle Crags State Park ($8). A narrow one-way lane took us up to a Vista Point towards the Castle Crags and Mount Shasta. Then we followed the easy Root Creek trail (1 mile one-way) through the woods to a little waterfall. We didn’t see any wild orchids though.

It was 6 p.m. when we left the park and drove back to Mount Shasta. Here we turned off to Lake Siskiyou. From the lake you can get a fantastic view of Mount Shasta, in particular at sunset.

It’s a few more miles to Weed where we had a reservation at Motel 6 for a (remodeled) room with two double beds. For dinner we had Mexican (super burritos with shredded beef/chicken and a Margarita) at Dos Amigos at the other end of town. The Chinese waiter thought we were Russian - „Doswidanja!“

Miles covered: 159
Animals: none
Accommodation: Motel 6 Weed ($62 plus tax)

Monday, June 8 - Crater Lake, Rogue River Gorge, Jacksonville
Weather: 42 °C sunny

We had breakfast in our room and left Weed at 7:30 a.m. The view of Mount Shasta along the road north to Klamath Falls was fantastic. We crossed the border into Oregon. At 9 a.m. in Klamath Falls we did some shopping and stopped at a coffee shop for bagels and coffee.

At 11 a.m. we entered Crater Lake National Park ($15 but included in the national park’s pass). We stopped at Watchman Overlook but the trail up to Watchman Tower was still closed due to snow and the East Rim Drive was also still closed for the season. We made another stop at Rim Village. From here we had a great view of the lake with a mirror effect of Wizard Island and the crater rim. It was 23 °C. Then we drove to Vidae Falls and had some lunch at the nearby picnic area.

At 12:30 p.m. we left the park towards Medford. On OR 62 we stopped at Rogue Gorge. It was 1:15 p.m. From the parking area a short, easy trail follows the Rogue River to several viewpoints. At Union Creek Resort we stopped for an ice-cream (Huckleberry Cheesecake and Peanut Butter Chocolate - yummy!). Then we parked at Natural Bridge and followed the trail to some more viewpoints along the Rogue River which flows through a lava tube at this spot.

At 2:30 p.m. we reached Prospect and stopped at the parking area for Mill Creek Falls. It’s a short walk to the cliff from where you can see the 54 metres high waterfall. Almost next to it is the 60 metres high Barr Creek Falls. It was hot down here: 36 °C. But the trail is in shade. A little further along the road into Prospect is another unmarked parking area with a few picnic tables. From here another forest trail leads to pretty Pearsony Falls within 5 minutes.

At 3:30 p.m. we were back on the road going south on highway OR 62. We stopped at Peyton Bridge across Lost Creek Lake and in Eagle Point at the historic Butte Creek Mill of 1872 and Antelope Creek Covered Bridge of 1922.

At 4:30 p.m. we were back in the car, crossed I-5 and reached Jacksonville at 5 p.m. Here we walked around the historic center at California Street. But at 42 °C it was too hot to linger. When we drove along the streets we suddenly saw a deer in someone’s front yard!

At 6 p.m. we arrived at the Best Western Horizon Inn in Medford and took a refreshing dip in the pool. We had dinner at the Black Bear Diner just across the parking area (burger and BBQ ribs).

Total miles: 247
Animals: 1 deer
Accommodation: Best Western Horizon Inn, Medford ($92 plus tax AAA rate)

Tuesday, June 6 - Covered Bridges in Myrtle Creek and Sea Stacks at Bandon

Weather: 26 °C inland, 18 °C at the coast, sunny  


The hotel had a hot breakfast: waffles, biscuits and gravy, cereals, toast, muffins, bagels, yoghurt, fruit. We left at 9 a.m., did some shopping and turned north on I-5. At 11 a.m. we turned off at Myrtle Creek to see two covered bridges (Horse Creek Covered Bridge and Neal Lane Covered Bridge). We had 26 °C.

South of Roseburg we turned onto OR 42 and followed our old route from September 2010 back to the coast, passing by Sandy Creek Covered Bridge. Back then we had fled the coastal fog at Coos Bay. Our new destination was Bandon. Upon leaving Myrtle Point we stopped at Mill Pond Wayside for a picnic lunch with lake view.

At 1:30 p.m. we arrived at the coastal town Bandon and had a stroll around Old Town. It was sunny but with a strong cold wind. We checked into our hotel Bandon Inn overlooking the Old Town. It was a beautiful, large room with two queen-size beds and a balcony with harbor view. However, we didn’t linger but drove to Coquille Point south of the town center. We took the stairs down to the beach which has some nice sea stacks. But it was past low tide so we couldn’t find any tide pools. But we saw a few seals on the rocks. A short drive further south took us to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. From here you get a beautiful view of the beach with some sea stacks and another set of stairs leads down to the beach. Then we drove back through town and at its northern end we turned off towards Bullards Beach State Park. At the end of the road you will find Coquille River Lighthouse with a view of Bandon town.

At 4 p.m. we headed back to our hotel, parked the car and walked back to Old Town in 5 minutes. It was 5 p.m. We had an early dinner at Bandon Fish Market with fresh snapper and fries. Then we went back to our room. For sunset just before 9 p.m. we drove back to Face Rock. Here we met with a couple from Austria who we know through a US travel community and we had a few drinks with them at the Irish Pub in Old Town.

Miles covered: 192
Animals: seals (and a few horses)
Accommodation: Bandon Inn, Bandon ($102 AAA rate plus tax)

Wednesday, June 10 - Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Harris Beach State Park and Jedediah Smith State Park
Weather: first cloudy at 12 °C, then coastal fog, later sunny at 18 °C


The continental breakfast at the hotel reception only offered sweet pastries so we had breakfast in our room instead with cereals, fruit and coffee. We left at 8:20 going south along the Oregon Coast and stopped at several viewpoints. At Cape Blanco we turned off onto a 3 miles long road to the lighthouse. But the road ends at a parking area and you have to walk the final stretch. Guided walks start at 10 a.m. We go back to highway 101 and stop at Battle Rock Wayfinding Point just beyond Port Orford which as some good sea stacks. Our next stop is Cape Sebastian, then Arch Rock and Natural Bridge in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

It’s 11:20 a.m. when we get to Harris Beach State Park (no entry fee). But we are too early for low tide so we go to Brookings another mile along the road and have some bagels and coffee. An hour later were back at Harris Beach. Still we can hardly find any tide pools and only a couple of big star fish.

After another hour we continue towards Crescent City. We cross the border back into California and after an hour‘s drive we arrive at the Lighthouse Inn where we have reserved a room. It’s 2:20 p.m.

After check-in we hit the road again towards Jedediah Smith State Park which was the film location for Endor in Star Wars. While we had clouds at the coast, just a few miles inland the sun was shining from a bright blue sky. We had 18 °C. At an info center we got some information about the Redwood Parks in this area. The road to Stout Grove was closed. But we got directed to Walker Road instead. It’s a gravel road that ends at Smith River. At 4 p.m. we started on the Pfeiffer Loop trail (2.5 km) which took us through the forest with giant trees. There were no other tourists around. After a good 30 minutes we were back at the car.

At 5 p.m. we managed to get a parking space at the beginning of the road where the Simpson Reed Discovery trail starts. The trail is less than a mile and the giant trees are impressive. After 20 minutes we were back at the car.

We returned to Crescent City and drove up to Battery Point Lighthouse built in 1856 and situated on a little island that is only accessible by road at low tide. It was high tide so we could only watch it from the beach. In 1964 much of Crescent City was destroyed by a tsunami. Still people live very close to the water.

We have dinner at Fisherman's Restaurant at the harbor just opposite our hotel where we have cod and rainbow trout. Then we head to Pebble Beach Drive to watch the sunset.

Miles covered: 160
Animals: 1 deer
Accommodation: Lighthouse Inn, Crescent City ($99 plus tax)

Thursday, June 11 - Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park with Fern Canyon, Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, Arcata
Weather: sunny at 18 °C


We had breakfast at the hotel with cereals, bagels, toast, English Muffins, fruit. At 8:15 a.m. we checked out and drove south. Passing through Klamath we left highway 101 at exit 756 and turned onto Newton B. Drury Parkway. This led us through a California Redwoods forest within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There were many trailheads along the road but it wasn’t easy to identify the one that the lady at the info center yesterday had recommended.

At 9 a.m. we started in the direction of Brown Creek trail (difficulty: easy). Only the distance to the next trail crossing was signposted. So it was good that we had been given a map. We turn left onto Rhododendron trail (moderate). At the highest point of the trail we see a total of 9 banana slugs! Never seen them before. Then it was downhill on South Fork trail (strenuous if you go in the other direction). The loop was indicated with 3.5 miles. According to our gps it was 6.3 km. After 1 hour and 40 minutes we were back at the car.

We continued through the park. Didn’t see any elks in Elk Prairie or Elk Meadow. Then we turned off upon Davidson Road which is a dirt track and an $8 state park fee is charged (if you don’t own an annual national park’s pass). Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park are managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with National Park Service. Along the road we see three male elks lying in the grass with just their antlers visible and a female elk feeding her calf. After 8 miles we got to a parking area at the trailhead of Fern Canyon. This is short loop trail. The steep walls of the narrow canyon are completely covered in ferns and mosses. We completed the loop in 30 minutes. Then we headed to the beach as we had seen some elk overthere. At the water’s edge we saw many seagulls and pelicans. On the way back we stop at Gold Bluffs Beach picnic area for some lunch and we see a few deer on the road.

Back on highway 101 we turn off onto Bald Hills Road to Lady Bird Johnson Grove. It’s just 2.5 miles to the parking area. This is the start of a 1.5 miles loop trail through the forest of giant trees. Unfortunately the rhododendrons were no longer in bloom. We got back to the car in 30 minutes.

At 2:15 p.m. we headed back to highway 101. We made a short photo stop at Stone Lagoon Schoolhouse. There were some elk nearby. In Trinidad we visited the Memorial Lighthouse, a replica of the original lighthouse on Trinidad Head. Then we turned onto Scenic Drive just south of Trinidad. This is a narrow road with some steep trails leading down to the ocean. We stopped at Luffenholtz Point trail which offers some great views across the coast with its beaches and sea stacks.

At 4 p.m. we checked into Best Western Arcata Inn at the northern end of Arcata. For dinner we headed towards town for an early meal of Japanese Cold Noodle Salad and Thai Red Curry Soup at Japhy's. Then we visited Downtown which has a few Victorian homes and murals but didn’t feel too welcoming. We also had a look at Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary where we saw some white egrets and other birds.

Miles covered: 105
Animals: elk, deer, pelicans, egrets (and banana slugs)
Accommodation: Best Western Arcata Inn, Arcata ($99 AAA Rate plus tax)

Friday, June 12 - Eureka, Ferndale, Lost Coast, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Highway 1, Glass Beach

Weather: up to 38 °C inland, 18 °C at the coast


We had breakfast at the hotel and left at 8:30. It was only a few miles to Eureka where we had a look at some Victorian houses: Carson Mansion and the Pink Lady. Downtown has some great murals. At the co-op we got some expensive but great bread – like home! Then it was another 20 miles to Ferndale which still has many Victorian houses along its Main Street.

At 10 a.m. we continued on Mattole Road to Petrolia. It’s 30 miles on a narrow, curvy and sometimes bumpy road. The landscape reminded us of Ireland again. Eventually the road descended to the coast. There was quite a stormy wind. It was 32 °C. The blue and turquoise color of the water was fantastic. At Honeydew we followed the signs back to highway 101. It was another 24 miles. After 2.5 hours we finally arrived at the Humboldt Redwoods.

We had a picnic lunch. It was 12:30. Then we hiked the Big Trees Loop (0,6 miles, 15 minutes) and Rockefeller Loop (same distance). At 2:15 p.m. we continued south and soon turned onto Avenue of the Giants which runs in parallel to highway 101. Temperatures had climbed to 38 °C (100 °F). Eventually we turned onto highway 1 which descends towards the coast in many curves. We stopped at several viewpoints along the coast. At a Vista Point just beyond Westport we took a short trail down to the ocean. Here we had 18 °C.

It was 5:30 p.m. when we got to Fort Bragg. We stopped at Pudding Creek Bridge and then drove to Glass Beach at the northern end of town. This was a wonderful sight with the little glass pieces glistening in the sunlight. At 6 p.m. we checked into the Super 8. It was Friday evening and waiting time at the North Coast Brewing Company at 7:30 p.m. was 45 minutes so we went to Los Gallitos instead, a tiny Mexican restaurant which had good reviews. We had burritos with chilli verde pork and steak. It was good, and with two cokes we only paid $22 plus tip. Afterwards we had a look at Noyo Harbor which was just around the corner of our hotel.

Miles covered: 196
Animals: 1 deer
Accommodation: Super 8, Fort Bragg ($105 including discount plus tax)


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