California’s northern coast surprised me at every turn.
First revelation? No crowds. And I could actually get to the beach at numerous places. I thought it would be built up and clogged with looky-loos (not me, of course, I’m not a looky-loo). But no. California’s coast north of San Francisco is rugged and beautiful and accessible.
We drove our pickup truck and fifth-wheel camper northwest on Highway 128 from Napa, north on Highway 1 back to Leggett and then Highway 101 all the way to Crescent City (not all in one day). There were numerous warnings against rigs as long as ours, and I don’t recommend it, but we made it, and the route offered some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever driven.
Second eye-opener: The water is so blue! I expected gray and dirty, like a lot of ocean front I’ve seen in more populated areas in southern California and parts of Florida and Texas. Northern California’s waters reminded me more of Croatia’s, at which I marveled on a summer vacation last year and believed them to be the bluest I’d ever seen.
Wow No. 3: It wasn’t just the blue. It was the green. And the other colors of the rainbow. May’s flowers are in full bloom, even early in the month. A native Minnesota appreciates that.
Here’s another set of comparisons between California and Croatia.
And my final surprising find on California’s northern coast: Rocks and trees. Huge rocks, and miles of trees. It’s a rocky shore, with pine trees growing right to the edge and most places. For a geologist, it’s where the continental plates meet, causing all kinds of chaos (and stunning sights). I wouldn’t want to be a sailor approaching the coast, as forbidding as it must look from that perspective.
If you’re a road trip lover, a drive north on Highway 1 from Los Angeles to Portland would be a breath-taking two or three weeks. There are plenty of cute and/or majestic inns and lodging along the route for travelers not so daring as to drag a camper along, and many vibrant main streets in small towns (another surprise). As one might expect in California, a number of organic delis dot the eatery landscape. And the wine scene doesn’t end at Napa and Sonoma; plenty of wineries can be found along the way in Northern California.
Come, expecting rugged beauty.
Or be pleasantly surprised.