Northern California

27th October - 10th November 2015

Having crossed the border in a huff, at being insulted in Oregon, we spent the night in the Florence Keller County Park Campground. This intriguing and almost deserted spot was deeply hidden among enormous redwood trees, which made it a peaceful and tranquil spot until the rain started. By the time raindrops had reached the metal roof of Harvey after dripping from the tree canopies high above us, it was like trying to sleep in the timpani section of a symphony orchestra!

In search of a more restful night we headed to the Trinity River only to discover there was a massive power outage in the area, so the private campground on the river we’d used on our previous visit couldn’t accommodate us. We discovered a beautiful spot right on the river at Hayden Flats Forest Service campground. Having the entire place to ourselves, we enjoyed a massive campfire with all the abandoned firewood we found. During the evening, the beautiful tree which dominated our campsite somehow got christened Priscilla Queen of the Forest.

Phil was off early fishing the next day when there was a knock on the door. Christine was greeted by a friendly Forest worker. Did we know this campsite was actually closed right now? Obviously not, although we had wondered about the piece of pink plastic tape lying on the ground across the entrance. Would we mind moving a little bit as they had to chop down a nearby tree in our campsite? We didn’t have to leave though, they really didn’t mind. Curious, Christine enquired which tree was for the chop. No! Not Priscilla Queen of the Forest! Of course we wouldn’t mind moving, especially as Priscilla stood only about three feet from Harvey. Hurriedly our possessions were gathered, flung inside Harvey and he scampered to a safer spot! It wasn’t too long before the commotion brought Phil back to Harvey too and we decided to continue our drive along the Trinity and try a few more peaceful fishing spots.

Next we headed to the Sacramento River and a campsite just of I-5 north of Redding. It was a beautiful if not peaceful spot, with the railroad sandwiched between the campground and the interstate! The proximity to the interstate added excitement when we encountered a stranded motorist, a lone father with three children, who had been escorted by the State Troopers off the interstate to the safety of the campground after a blowout. With no spare tyre, jack or means of paying for assistance he was in quite a pickle. We did our best to help, offering to take him to a tyre repair place where we would gladly have paid for a new tyre, but there was no means of getting the wheel off his car without tools and ours wouldn’t fit.

We thought it a little harsh of the Highway Patrol to abandon him with three young children in such a remote spot but they did return a short time later with burgers for the kids. Later they were all gone, so it must have got sorted.

Sacramento River

Baum Lake

Phil's friend, Baum Lake.

The next morning we headed to Mount Shasta, further along the Sacramento, to another fishing access we’d been recommended, but found the access road too steep and rough for Harvey's liking.

After checking out a few possible fishing spots which didn't appeal, we ended up camped on the Pit River, conveniently close to lovely Baum Lake. Here we spent several days as the trout were definitely biting. Fortunately the huge pelican also resident there wasn't! He often joined the anglers on the water.

We did retreat to a commercial campground at Burney for a couple of nights when temperatures plummeted. The manager seemed to want to ensure we were warm as she tried to set fire to her house by boiling eggs dry while we checked in!

The drive to and from the lake was enlivened by a sculpture garden located at a local welding company. It seemed they were into recycling old metal objects and the welder had a definite artistic bent.

Sculpture Garden near Baum Lake.

Sacramento River at Redding

Turtle at Redding

After a couple of days Wally-hopping (camping at Walmart) in nearby Anderson, so we could fish the Sacramento River in the beautiful park at Redding, we were headed back to the coast. We had never toured this section of the northern California coast before. It was definitely a part of the world you should enjoy, although you may not want to drive the tortuous, winding coast road a second time, especially in an RV!

Our first stop on the coast was at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg. This spot is famous for its sea glass beach. Decades earlier, the town used the beach to dump their rubbish. How times change! The result was a beach where the pebbles were almost entirely beautifully coloured sea glass.

Sea Glass Beach

Stunning coastal view

We had some trouble locating our next camping spot. The first campground we selected had closed for the season that very day. We pressed on south to another State Park, spotting that it had a laundry of which we were in desperate need. On arriving the laundry marked on the map proved not to exist, so as it was still early afternoon, we moved on again. Finally we settled at Van Damme State Park, which we were surprised and delighted to discover had a beautiful bike trail through a gorge filled with rain forest. After enjoying the bike trail, the stunning sunset at the beach across the road made it a lovely stop.

Van Damme State Park.

Further south on the coast road, after days of almost deserted campgrounds, we were amazed to pull up in Bodega Bay and find almost all the campsites there reserved, yet many were empty. Confused about which sites would be available, we sought out the host, who told us that every year the campsite is fully booked for the start of crabbing season (the previous weekend).

This year the start of the season had been postponed due to algae bloom. While some people had still turned up to party, many didn't show. We were happy to be able to grab ourselves a campsite and explore the road out to the headland and lighthouse by bike. The wind made it quite a workout.

Redundant Crab Pots

Headland at Bodega Bay.

Coastal View at Point Reyes.

Point Reyes

Kingfisher at Point Reyes

Fighting Seals at Point Reyes

We now found ourselves on a schedule to make it to our friend Mike's 60th birthday party in a couple of days on the other side of San Francisco.

Next day we headed to Point Reyes National Seashore, tantalizingly close to the city of San Francisco. From this spot a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge was possible, as well as the beautiful coastal landscape and wildlife.

Eager to get as close to San Francisco as possible to make our deadline the next day, we camped at Samuel P Taylor State Park.

Luckily in conversation with the ranger about the best route through the city, he mentioned the tolls on the bridge. Had we paid them?

We learned that the tolls are all automated and you have to pay online. How were we supposed to know that as visitors, we wondered? The ranger just shrugged his shoulders. If we didn't pay through ignorance? Apparently ever increasing bills would be sent to the vehicle's registered address.

He kindly showed us the website and let us pay the toll using his computer. A neighbour in the campsite happened to overhear our conversation and also had no idea about the toll system. She too was helped out having already crossed the bridge but having no idea that she was liable for a toll. Signage wasn't brilliant apparently. We had a lovely evening with her and her travel companion, when we invited them to dinner.

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