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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.