A Night Away from Home – Part 1 of 2

29 January 2012 in Reviews, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


In light of our slowly approaching departure we’ve created a to do list of things we want to see or do before we head off to our next destination at the end of March. A few of these items required a drive south along the coast so we decided to combine them into a little overnight getaway.

We filled the cat’s dishes with extra food, threw a few things in the truck and rolled out. We left early and made our way down to Prairie Creek State Park a little after nine in the morning. We had been to this park once previously and wanted to further explore the treasures held within it’s boundaries. Entering from the north you don’t reach the visitor center until you’re several miles into the park. Along the way you pass several turnoffs and ill marked trails. We found it hard to neglect the possible discoveries that might await us should we stop at one of these trails and so we randomly chose one and parked. We ended up hiking the South Fork/Brown Creek Trail. This trail could be made into one of two loops, but we haphazardly entered without properly noting the turns and trails we would have to take to do so.

Prairie Creek State ParkEntering we were once again in the fantasyland that is an old growth Redwood forest. Until you experience it for yourself it’s really quite hard to describe. It’s almost dreamlike. It lacks a categorical connection that would allow your brain to comprehend and organize the visual stimulation amongst that of past experiences. There is a difficult struggle while your wrestle with perspective. Here you are the same size. Here the plants, the shrubs, ferns and other species of trees are all the correct size and proportion, but scattered amongst them are these colossal giants. Trees that look similar to other trees you’ve seen before. They have trunks with bark and branches that poke out from their sides with leaves, but they are three times as large as any tree you have in your rolodex of what your brain has previously filed under the term “tree”. It’s a humbling experience that can be a little disorienting initially.

Prairie Creek State ParkWe followed the trail back into a small valley eventually hiking parallel to a small creek called Brown Creek—hence the trail name. At this point in the crisp, heavy morning air rays of sunlight began to trickle through the thick canopy towering high above. The light finds few points through which it can reach the forest floor producing a heavenly effect throughout. In this fabulous lighting we admired the small stream of rippling clear water as it cut its way through the woods. Eventually we reached a fork in the trail for which—as I previously stated—we had not properly prepared. Not knowing which direction to take to we proposed our theories and the bits and pieces we remembered from our brief look at the trailhead map. I admittedly have a poor sense of direction, but a slightly better memory… maybe. Lindsay has a better sense of direction, but a poorer memory. So we took Lindsay’s route first. This would turn out to be the right direction, but before we looped back around we convinced ourselves we were headed in the wrong direction. Taking my route we were confronted with a trail that resembled a creek more than a trail. A steady flow of water tumbled down the middle forcing us to the edges where at times we had to leap from side to side or over reservoirs that engulfed the entire trail. Eventually—not knowing which trail was correct—we decided it would be best to back track. This way we would surely find our way out.

Our next destination was Fern Canyon. This is a trail that is heavily photographed and featured in many of the tourist publications. As we turned off the highway onto Davidson Rd. we were immediately confronted with a flooded portion of pavement and a car which had traversed it and flooded their engine. As we crossed the flooded area—which thankfully had a gauge showing that it was a foot deep—we had no idea that this would be foreshadowing the rest of our days narrative. As we made our way back along a steep and twisting road I noted how low our gas gauge was. It was an eight mile drive back to the trailhead for Fern Canyon and it was a steep, twisting, and slow drive. Eventually six miles in we were greeted by a self-pay station in which we were prompted to shell out eight dollars to proceed. Having gone this far we decided it was worth it and paid. Entering we emerged from the forest onto the shoreline. We followed the shoreline a mile or so north until we approached another flooded portion of road. this time the water wasn’t stagnant, but flowing at a steady rate. There was no sign marking the depth and the bottom was large stones and not the dirt or gravel we presumed lined the depths of the last flooded portion we had crossed. Not wishing to risk the well being of the truck or our wallets should we get stuck or cause any damage we were sadly forced to turn around.

The Beach RiverHaving already paid the entrance fee we spent sometime on the vacant beach watching a shallow impromptu river carve it’s way through the sand and into the sea. Standing along it’s banks was like watching a miniature, time lapsed film of how canyons are formed. The water gently, but steadily undercut the bottoms of barrier walls until the higher portions caved under their own weight into the water. After spending sometime in the company of the peaceful roar of the ocean we headed back to the 101 and south towards Arcata and Eureka.

Sail AwayWe weren’t sure which city to visit first, but decided on Eureka. The 101 cuts right through the heart of the city, forcing traffic to slow and stop amongst many traffic lights, fast food joints, and gas stations. But just west of this modern monstrosity is Old Town Eureka. Here a small collection of city streets are lined with old brick buildings offering visitors the once plentiful chance to see a unique downtown with shops, bars, and restaurants not of the sterile, repetitive nature of contemporary urban sprawl, but of distinctive connection to the location and region of the country. We wandered these streets window shopping. There were clothing boutiques, books stores, art galleries, and antique shops. Antique Milk of MagnesiaOne of the antique shops was amazingly unorganized and overflowing with anything and everything one could imagine or remember. From old signs to pinball machines, jewelry to jeans, and appliances and dishes amongst much much more. All of which was packed into two average sized rooms. If you’ve ever seen American Pickers it was their wet dream.

Monkey at Lost Coast BreweryAfter pacing the streets of Old Town and visiting the water front we began to experience a thirst in our throats. We found the cure in the Lost Coast Brewery. Here we nursed a pint and watched the steady influx of people beginning their hard earned weekends while we pondered whether to stay in Eureka tonight or Arcata. Eventually Arcata would win, but before we left we decided to have some diner at Chapala Cafe, a mexican restaurant we had pasted earlier.

We love mexican food, but most of the time as vegetarians you’re limited to beans and a whole lot of cheese. These usually come in the form of a burrito, enchilada, or fajitas. While the rest of the menu might boast tamales and other traditional fair it is almost exclusively meat oriented dishes. At Chapala Cafe—to our pleasant surprise—they offered almost all of their dishes with not one vegetarian variation, but four. You could choose from spinach, tofu, potatoes, or mixed veggies. On top of these already amazing choices they had many of the traditional dishes so many americanized menus neglect. Lindsay had sopas and I had flautas. Sopas are little cornbread-like bowls and flautas are deep fried flour burritos. Both were amazing. The tofu was a little lacking—as often is the case when it’s not specifically a vegetarian restaurant where they take the time to cook it properly—but the mixed veggies were amazingly seasoned! Our only true complaint would we the inflated price of margaritas, but such is life.

After diner we set out for Arcata. See tomorrow’s blog for details!

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29 January 2012 Reviews, Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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