Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend in the Redwoods: Hotel 2 of 4

When we were planning this adventure we decided we didn’t want to break the bank – for a long weekend trip we figured the plane, rental car and hotels would add up quickly. So, I identified one hotel that seemed to have decent reviews but offered a King-bed/no-smoking room for under $100.

The second hotel of our trip was questionable from the get-go. No-smoking in our room was correct, but that didn’t deter others from smoking marijuana – and enough to permeate the entire block of rooms on that side. The room size was quite substantial and had a couple old upholstered chairs next to a small table and a separated area for the bathroom sink and vanity before a decent size bathroom. The Jacuzzi tub was not the only thing with jets – when we flicked on the light in the bathroom the fan prepared for take-off.

We did not try the Jacuzzi tub, but lest anyone think we were short on entertainment, our TV channel selection included the Engineering channel. I was riveted – for about 3 seconds. It gets better. Our bed did not have a headboard – a bed frame somewhere is missing its headboard because it was nailed to the hotel-room wall with the legs cut off to give the appearance of a headboard.

We walked the Old Town area of Eureka which is renowned for its Victorian-style houses. Indeed there was a wide range of buildings and colors and cute shops – including two used bookstores. The area was noticeably lacking in foot traffic, though. Un-inspired we opted for dinner and bed. I believe my jet lag was catching up at this point. After grabbing a quick-and-easy dinner we locked ourselves in the room and pulled one of the large chairs in front of the door. I passed out.

Sunshine and crisp air greeted us. We had all the makings of a wonderful morning. It wasn’t complete until a large breakfast at a local squat-and-gobble. Apparently the Chalet of Omelets had wiped out all the local “best-of” awards for breakfast and lunch so we were in good hands. With maybe space for 30 people, it was an intimate breakfast with an omelet too big to finish and enough coffee to put my husband into over-drive.

Good weather makes a huge difference on a road trip. The scenery only got better as we drove toward the National Park. It got bigger, more intense and more diverse. Rivers, ocean, rocks, more big trees, much winding and lagoons kept an almost continual juxtaposition of green, blue and gray in front of us. We stopped at the Visitor Center and selected our route: Lady Bird Johnson’s grove with a lot of the forest’s old-growth trees, a large statue of Paul Bunyon and Babe, and an overlook area to do some whale watching.

The one-mile foot trail through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove was well-worth the time spent. On foot we could appreciate the depth of the forest, the breadth of biodiversity and the many years the Redwoods had lived. Each trunk has a distinct shape and texture, not to mention significant girth. Much of the time is spent walking with heads up – a crick in the neck is almost certain. Across the path are nurse trees that have been sliced in half to make way for the trail – massive even in death. The occasional glance to the trail floor reveals an array of ferns, plants and other living organisms widely shielded from the sun under the canopy of the redwood nevertheless thriving in a protected floor.

For grins we went and took a picture of the enormous statue of Paul Bunyon and Babe the ox.

The last point-of-interest before moving towards Hotel 3 was an overlook area and whale watching. The view was amazing and encompassed the connecting point for the freshwater lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. There were forests and trees on one side and beach and ocean closely beside. For an East Coaster accustomed to one or the other – flat beach or wooded hills – it was a shocking juxtaposition. Just another example of the wildness of northern California that brought such an overwhelming sense of supreme beauty – a controlled palate of colors in a landscape bursting with energy and contradiction.

Alas, we did not see a whale. Which begs the question, if you don’t see a whale, is it still called whale-watching? You cannot be watching something that isn’t there? (It is now a shame I did not work in the “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it still make a noise?”) We decided it was more along the lines of a whale-warning – a possibility but not a guarantee.

And truly we had yet to come in contact with the power of the Pacific. That would be for Hotel 3 – if we could get there.

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