From Bay to Bend journey along the north coast to the oregon wilderness

DAY ONE: BODEGA TO MENDOCINO

We kicked off our trip with the freshest platter of oysters overlooking the serene and placid calm of Bodega Bay. Having left the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area behind for the next few days, we looked forward to a panoramic and gastronomical tour of Northern California's beautiful coastline and the high desert of central Oregon. As we wound through the Marin Headlands towards the coast, we watched the stretch between HWY 101 to the Pacific Coastal Highway fade from industrial and residential suburbs to a picturesque and slow paced rural countryside.

Bodega Bay is a narrow inlet protected by a thin stretch of rocky peninsula. The waters are calm and used for commercial and recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting. Seagulls perch upon the wooden docks.

Fisherman's Cove is a small outdoor patio diner beside the marina that doubles as a tackle and bait shack — a seemingly popular place with a steady stream of patrons. We ordered a half dozen of freshly shucked oysters, a set of grilled oysters with chorizo butter, garlic, and cocktail sauce, and a cup of clam chowder. I personally recommend the chowder and the grilled oysters — larger in comparison to the raw plate with a unique flavor experience. We spent about a half hour exploring a few points of interest along Bodega Bay, stopped by a salt water taffy shop, and went on our way.

Fisherman's Cove, Bodega Bay

The drive along HWY 1 is rugged and splendid all at once. The sheer cliffs of the California Coastline is a sight to be seen with its marine blue waves cresting and crashing against the rocks — jagged structures that have been carved into arches and figures rising out of the sea.

Mendocino Coast

Regional parks and campsites dotted our route. We paused for a scenic break near Point Arena and took some photos before arriving at the day's destination: Heritage House Resort.

Heritage House Resort, Little River (Mendocino)

Heritage House Resort, situated on a beautiful meadow and alcove, looks out over the water. It is about 5 minutes South of Mendocino town and hosts a number of cabin-like villas for vacationers. We had a modest room with a deck and partial ocean view. The main lodge is an old Victorian house with a bar, lounge, and restaurant overlooking the grounds. We mingled on the deck below the house. Two small fire pits are open to guests in the evening to relax and enjoy making s'mores. After s'mores, we decided to head into Mendocino for dinner.

37 acres of beautiful coastline at Heritage House Resort

The fog had rolled in and blanketed the town in a eerie haze. Mendocino is a haven for artists and tourists looking for something more upscale than its neighbor, Fort Bragg. We wandered about looking for an open restaurant. It was getting close to 9pm so there weren't many options open. We found a spot along the main strip for some chow before heading back and hitting the hay.

DAY TWO: FORT BRAGG TO EUREKA

We left our lovely resort behind and drove 20 minutes North to Fort Bragg. We boarded a one hour tour on the Skunk Train, a 7 mile loop through fern groves and redwoods. The train originates in 1925 when motor cars were first introduced. The self-propelled cars operated on gasoline and used to burned coals to keep passengers warm. The fumes were so pungent that those who lived along the tracks could smell the train from a mile away, hence its name, the Skunk Train.

The historic Skunk Train, Fort Bragg

We stopped by a cafe just blocks from the Skunk Train station before hopping on our hour long tour. Families, children, and a few dogs boarded the train. The center of the train is a service car with light bar and snacks.

We enjoyed the slow ride and beautiful day along the Pudding Creek Estuary before stopping at Glass Beach to wonder at the polished stone and sea glass brought in by the tides.

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

The drive up to Eureka takes you further along the beautiful Mendocino coast and deep into the dense woods that characterize Humboldt County.

Pacific Coast Highway between Fort Bragg and Eureka

The evergreens become denser and taller with redwoods shooting straight out of the mountains. The coastal scenic route moves inland and merges with the 101 and crosses into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the oldest and tallest trees on the planet.

Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt County

The Avenue of Giants (road 254) runs parallel to the highway and through the deep forest of these giant redwoods. We pulled over to take photos and to marvel at the magnificence of these ancient trees, some said to be at least 2000 years old.

Founder's Grove and Avenue of the Giants
Coastal redwoods are some of the tallest trees on the planet

Eureka is a small industrial town half an hour north of the giant redwoods. We booked a night's stay at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, a standard hotel chain with a few perks above the competition.

We visited the Carson Mansion, a large Victorian house which sits on Eureka's highest point overlooking the marina. The house is regarded as one of the most grand Victorian homes in America and once belonged to William Carson, one of the first major lumber barons in Northern California. The house and grounds are not open to the public, but visitors may take photos of this historic building from outside its gates. Across the street is the Pink House, a smaller Victorian house that was gifted by Carson to his son as a wedding gift. After taking a few snapshots, we went to scrounge for food.

Carson Mansion and historic sector in Eureka

It's a quarter to nine and most of the shops and diners in Historic Oldtown Eureka were closing or already closed. We wound up at the Lost Coast Brewery, known for its tongue-in-cheek beers like Sharknado or Downtown Brown. The food was your standard brewery restaurant fare — nothing extraordinary or memorable. We had some beer, soup, salad, and a Hot Brown — a sandwich filled with steaming beef brisket and melted cheddar. I enjoyed a pint of the Downtown Brown, a smooth, toasty dark ale I'll definitely add to the top of my beer list. We headed back to the hotel and called it a wrap.

DAY THREE: A SCENIC ROUTE FROM COAST TO HIGH DESERT

Eureka didn't have quite the same charm as the smaller towns along Mendocino coast, so we decided to continue North. After a momentary stop and a walk down memory lane in Arcata, a smaller town on the North end of Humboldt Bay where I'd spent some of my college summers, we started heading towards Crescent City. Many vista and recreational points dot the route between Arcata, Trinidad, and Crescent City. We pulled over occasionally to take in the view and capture some photos.

Dry Lagoon State Park, Humboldt County

The thick, midday fog shrouded the landscape, making photography conditions less than optimal. However, we still went off to explore the Dry Lagoon State Park, north of Trinity. A sign at the parking lot warned against consumption of mussels and dark parts of clams or scallops that indicate high levels of toxins. Bleach-white driftwood scattered across grey sand, resembling a graveyard of prehistoric bones.

After the foggy lagoons and marshes, the road cuts through Redwood National and State Parks and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We marveled at the tall evergreens and redwoods that flank both sides of the road, wondering how much manpower it took to carve a solid highway through the thick forest.

Jedediah Redwoods National State Park

Emerging from the trees, we found ourselves in Crescent City, a typical coastal town with a number of beaches and commercial retailers. Rather than exploring Crescent City, we decided to head inland at the 199 junction and cut through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Siskyou National Forest.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park recalls grandeur of the redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants. Largely unspoiled due to conservation efforts, Jedediah sports some of the tallest trees and largest coastal trees by volume — the Grove of Titans and the Del Norte Titan tree — though their locations remain a mystery to most visitors.

The coastal redwoods are now behind us as we venture inland. The landscape shifts across the Oregon state line: Roads become less windy and easier to navigate. We drove through Cave Junction, near the famous Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, and went straight through Grants Pass. At this point, we were the only ones moving Northeast on this route, along the Rogue River into the Umpqua National Forest and the Cascades.

Ponderosa Pines are characteristic of the High Desert

Drier than the coastal climate, Central Oregon's high desert is characterized by old-growth, mountain hemlock, and ponderosa pine. We noticed much of the top soil appears very sandy and red, though areas of erosion exposed a very light colored earth.

After what felt like hours driving through the quiet, uninhabited forest, the road veered and a scraggly spire rose in the distance. We learned that this intimidating peak is Mount Thielson in the Umpqua National Forest, a popular mountaineering destination that is a lot simpler to climb than it looks. Perhaps we can do this on another trip.

Bypassing a few points of interest and campgrounds, we made it into Bend after dark. Hungry and tired, Deschutes Brewery and Restaurant in downtown Bend sounded like a great idea. We enjoyed a half rack of juicy ribs, elk burger — similar to the taste and texture of buffalo — and two refreshing pints of Deschutes Brewery's finest.

Deschutes Brewery and Public House, Bend

It's busy season and lodging options in Bend are meager. Most hotel chains are fully booked, so plan your trip weeks if not months in advance. We were able to lock onto a river-facing room at the Riverhouse Hotel, a beautiful property straddling the Deschutes River. Rooms feature balconies overlooking either the property or the river. We liked the resort so much that we decided to extend our stay another two nights.

DAYS FOUR & FIVE: DOWNTOWN BEND & THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM

A town nestled in the high desert region of Central Oregon, on the Eastern border of the Cascades Range and along the Deschutes River, Bend is undoubtedly a very special place. As a hub for the outdoor enthusiast or a relaxing getaway for busy urban dwellers, Bend is equal parts recreation, entertainment, and gastronomical delight. Offering year-round access to outdoor recreation, a slower pace, and a healthy quality of life, Bend attracts transplants from all over the country.

Downtown Bend, Oregon

We explored Downtown Bend and its many coffee shops on our first day. Crow's Feet Commons is a quaint cafe offering beer and Stumptown cold brew on tap. A sunny patio overlooks the Deschutes River and Drake Park.

Having some downtime, I picked up a waterpaint brush to create a postcard at Bellatazza, a nearby cafe that serves a mean Cuban-flavored quesadilla and standard cafe fare. The Looney Bean Bend, another cafe that has a grassy backyard on the edge of the Deschutes. With plenty of lounge seating inside and out, Looney Bean is now one of my favorite spots downtown.

Coffee shop culture in Bend

For those looking for an alternative to coffee, there's Townshend's Tea House, an Oregonian tea company offering a variety of teas, kombucha on tap, and a line of botanical tea spirits — liquors made from brewed tea and cane sugar. Townshend's is also the parent company to Brew Dr. Kombucha, a kombucha brand available in some retailers in California.

The inside of the tea shop is not unlike most coffee shops. A youthful crowd can be seen lounging in the relaxed, earthy room enjoying freshly steeped tea or milk tea.

Townshend's Tea House, Bend

Downtown Bend offers a mix of cuisines, brewery restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, adventure retail, real estate agencies, and banks. On weekends, street artists and musicians entertain pedestrians on every block and fusion food carts dot every corner.

Art and culture in downtown Bend

There is an abundance of food options available in Bend. We discovered a few places we especially liked, such as Spork, a hip, fusion comfort food spot on the other side of the river, or Joolz, a Lebanese restaurant in the center of downtown. Or try the number of food carts selling dumplings, ramen, or hotdogs, and settle down with a cold beer and live music at the park.

Live entertainment is common at Drake Park

With its laid back vibe and hardcore athleticism, Bend compels even the most sedentary homebodies to get outdoors, eat well, drink well, and be merry.

Foodie paradise in Bend

For those looking to get to know the region, we highly recommend a half day trip to the High Desert Museum. Located just 15 minutes off the 97 outside Bend, the museum boasts a number of interactive and immersive exhibits about the high desert landscape and its inhabitants. Meander the pathways on the museum grounds that round over a stream and a pond full of trout, leading you from one exhibit to the next.

High Desert Museum

This museum never ceased to amaze us. At every turn, visitors are immersed in educational presentations on the High Desert's ecological and geological history, afforded closeups of the regional flora and fauna, and invited to explore well-designed exhibits on the land's natives and settlers.

DAY SIX: TUMALO FALLS TO KLAMATH FALLS

We're reluctant to leave Bend but alas, all good things must come to an end, for now. On our last day in the area, we drove to Tumalo Falls, a 97-foot waterfall on Tumalo Creek. The site is a 35 minute scenic drive from downtown with a bumpy ride in the last two miles over a dusty, unpaved road.

Tumalo Falls, OR

Tumalo Falls is popular and instantly gratifying — the viewpoint is just steps from the parking lot. And if you're looking to get to the top of the falls, it's an easy 10 minute climb. We continued and followed a trail upstream into the watershed. The walk is not a difficult one, taking hikers through groves of ponderosa, fir, and many interesting vista points along the bank of the Tumalo Creek, including a rocky beach with some interesting art.

The day was getting late and we needed to start our drive South. We made a short stop in downtown Bend to fill our brand new, locally made DrinkTank growler with kombucha from Townshend's Tea House before hitting the road.

The drive south on the 97 is a straight shot and takes us through a few nondescript areas for filling up and a quick snack. Sometimes, experiences in the most unexpected places are the most memorable. We stopped at a convenience store in Chemult, a small historical town just a half hour West of Bend. It looks like a cheaply thrown together liquor mart that looked like a gun mart or hunter's outpost. Despite appearances, their roadside fried chicken is delectable under the warm summer sun.

Roadside Americana in Chemult, Oregon

The 97 South is light on traffic and visual stimulation. Several detours from the route lead to scenic byways, such as the route to Crater Lake. As we leave the cascades behind, the road opens to meadows and open fields. We continue to see a smattering of ponderosa pine as we edge toward Klamath Lake, the largest fresh body of water by surface area in Oregon.

Klamath Falls, a 2.5 hour drive South of Bend, sits at the southern tip of Upper Klamath Lake. We arrive in the late afternoon and made rest at the Running Y Ranch Resort, a beautiful property with sweeping views of its golf course and the Klamath landscape. The hotel is a contemporary, frontier-like lodge offering a little something for romantic vacationers, wedding guests, or travelers looking for a home base to the Cascades.

We enjoyed a fanciful dinner of elk, served medium rare, vegetables over brown rice, then watched the sun lower over the horizon with a glass of wine on the patio. We watched the stars light up the sky and met a fellow traveler who insisted that we witness the Perseid meteor shower in several days.

Running Y Ranch, Klamath Falls, Oregon

DAY SEVEN: THE ROAD HOME

The last day of any vacation is bittersweet. We got up mid morning, packed our bags, and went on our way. Knowing the 6 hour drive home would take us into uneventful territory, we kept our eyes on the horizon for Mount Shasta, the last major landmark, before we merge onto the I-5 and the last stretch through the Central Valley to the Bay.

Mount Shasta is a solitary and potentially-active volcano with a snow-tipped peak. It lies at the southern end of the Cascade Range and dominates the Northern California landscape. We rounded Mount Shasta at the I-5 junction at Weed, passed through Shasta Lake, and left the Cascades and our weeklong trip behind to begin a new week and a renewed look on life.

Fin.

Did you enjoy our trip? Follow me for more adventures via Instagram @spokenpleinair

Credits:

All images in this story were photographed and copyrighted by @spokenpleinair and @_tobster__

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.