Trees, traps and turns

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
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What I did
Fortuna to Mendocino via the redwoods

Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We left Fortuna on the way to Mendocino.  Google maps says the distance is 127 miles and should take about 2.5 hours. Google maps, however, does not have a bumblebee for a trip-planning navigator.
 
Today's drive took Highway 101, turning inland. This meant the end of our coastal views, but 101 is two lanes wide and is very winding -- it is not the ugly 101 many of us have known. It's very much fun in a sports car. And it's serious redwoods territory, so the drive promised to be treemendous.
 
South of Scotia, CA, lies Route 254, which is also named "Avenue of the Giants".  This is a very scenic 32-mile road through Humboldt Redwoods State Park paralleling 101, in fact passing under it several times. Redwoods tower on either side, with the canopies making the road very dark in most places -- with occasional streaks of light. These trees and light streaks provided a light show that sometimes could be blinding to a driver; moreover it turned Tuna into quite the "helicopter head" as she looked up and around trying to figure out what these trees and light streaks and shadows outside the windows were.
 
Of course, wherever you have scenic natural beauty, you will find humankind's versions of the Venus Fly trap, and sure enough it didn't take long to find them.

The first of the ones we encountered (after a few roadside "Hello? The 1970s called" redwood burl shops we saw, and a mere 100 feet after entering the redwoods at that) was the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree at Meyers Flat.
 
Here, for US$7 (stuffed into a metal box, as no one felt the place worth staffing this late in the season) one can -- iff one's vehicle is 7'7" wide or less -- very cautiously drive through a tree that was formed when it sort of fell over (30,000 years ago or whenever these things were born) and stuck out a root to stay upright (that probably took it 2,000 years to do; we keep hearing these trees are old). And it was also supposedly partially hollowed out by fire. And possibly a chainsaw. So it has a car-sized hole in it.
 
Anyway, this tree is now 275 feet tall and allegedly still alive, albeit supported by a steel cable or two. Whether or not it can withstand treacherous upcoming years of being driven through by 7'5" wide cars operated by texting drivers is to be seen.
 
(Rest assured though, we are informed that there are a total of four other flora drive-throughs in California; in fact three of them are in this area! Heh. Somebody stole someone's idea. The other two in the area are the Klamath Tour Thru Tree in Klamath and Chandelier Tree in Leggett. Note that only Shrine uses the words "drive" and "thru", so apparently there was some legal fist shaking amongst the competitors. I mean: "Tour Thru"? Really?)
 
Well, no matter; we were here, so we drove through it and it was a tight fit indeed. Its actual stats are: age 5,000 years, height: 275 ft, diameter: 21 feet, circumference 64 feet.
 
Afterwards, we elected not to take advantage of the Shrine's bonus attractions (other than to peer out the window at them). One of these is the Drive-On Tree, which is a ramp made up from a tree that fell over and probably then was heavily sanded down. Presumably you can drive up it, park and then go take a picture that looks like some car advert. 
 
Then there is the Children's Step-Thru Stump, where diminutive ones can walk through a stump that has been hollowed out partially by nature, but certainly appeared to be chainsaw-augmented to provide a squared-off doorway on one side.
 
Other exciting attractions include tree houses (not the kind you are thinking of; think house inside a tree) and a gift shop where you can buy mini-models of the Drive-Thru Tree to prove you've checked one more activity off the bucket list.
 
Finally escaping this heavily-hyphenated tourist trap, we once again drove through magnificent redwoods, oohing and aahing (and helicopter-heading) until we rounded a curve after passing Garberville. Whereupon we were dumbfounded by the Legends of Bigfoot, one of the finest Venus Tourist Traps on this stretch of road. 
 
The place is tough to describe, but if a deer made up of unfinished tree logs, stumps and twigs is on your must-have lawn ornament list, this is the place for you. If you are more ostentatious, what could better augment your home than a giant Shrek and donkey sculpture? Or a Snow White and a dwarf lawn ornament? Or the Home Run of chainsaw carvings itself: a giant Bigfoot! 
 
On a smaller scale, we were entranced by the cement turtles with embedded shells, metallic animals and other goodies. It was all good for a few photos.
 
At Legget, avoiding the lure of the Chandelier Tree, we cut back over the coast on a _very_ winding two lane road that went up and down and had more 20 mph curves than we've probably ever been on. Nearing the coast, fog set in - always a pretty sight.
 
Nearing Fort Bragg, a must stop was Glass Beach, which has tons of sea glass. Grabbing a baggie, bits of glass were in fact prospected for, located and bagged. Lots of other people had the same idea.
 
Tonight's RON site was the Stanford Inn in Mendocino, a very nice hotel. Tuna was happy to immediately climb onto the bed and relax.
 

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