Well, our mechanic in West Sacramento didn't exude confidence when he recommended a complete 'soft overhaul' of the transmission... and then to replace any parts he found in need of repair. That, and his 3-5 day estimate sounded a bit disconcerning. Plus, the thought of being stranded in Sacramento for that long really sounded aweful. So we made the decision to drive up to Redding, a couple hours north and take it into a Ford dealership. The next day, Thursday, we dropped it off first thing in the morning, got a rental car, gave the mechanic our cell number, and headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park to continue our road trip! We got to the park and it was considerably cooler than the 95 degrees in Redding and very windy. We did some short hikes in the beautiful forests at the base of the old volcano, then drove uphill to the summit trailhead. On the way up, we passed more and more snow until the entire hillside was covered in three feet of the white stuff! It turned out that the trail is closed unless hikers have "crampons, ice axes and are knowledgeable in winter mountaineering techniques!" Guess we'll skip that for now... With most of the other high elevation trails closed due to lingering winter conditions, we drove back west through Redding and up Route 299 toward Eureka.
The route quickly winds up hill through the Shasta-Trinity Wilderness and then follows the cascading Trinity River through the mountains for several miles. The road unfolded before us like a ribbon of asphalt crossing the bends of the river like a strand of DNA. Aili and I agreed that it was one of the most beautiful drives we've ever
taken. We crossed two more passes and started downhill to the Victorian port town of Eureka. Eureka is a strange place - founded on a bay as a fishing village, for many years it was only reachable by ship via the coast and therefore developed in isolation, almost like an island town. The Victorian structures of the old steamship days are still in place and we spent the night at the Eagle Inn Hotel - an old wooden structure filled to the
ceiling with antiques that I was sure must be haunted by an old sea captain missing a hand. We ate dinner in the adjoining Irish Pub then walked down the main lane to the Lost Coast Brewery for a sample taster of their brews. Yummy! Returning late (and a bit tipsy) just after midnight on Friday the 13th, we were on the lookout for spooks and apparitions in the old hotel's chandelier-lit hallways but came up empty!
We had heard from the mechanic that the transmission needed to be replaced (ugh!) but it should be ready by tonight. So today, we drove up the coast to Redwood National Park, taking time to hike through the giant forest and marvel and the lush, vibrant woods. We stopped to view a herd of elk grazing in a meadow, then came across two more right off the highway. Next, we drove up to a point high above the coast where we were told we might still see some migrating whales.
It was another beautiful drive up through old growth forest and ending with magnificent views down the coast. And sure enough, there was a pod of a half dozen whales feeding by a rock outcropping just off the coast. It was a bit far to identify the species but with our binoculars, we watched them occasionally flip a flipper out of the water or blow their spouts lazily into the air. We got the call that the Escape was ready so we turned around and retraced our scenic path to Redding. On the way, we saw a few deer including a baby fawn at her mother's side just off the road - the little thing was covered in white spots and looked just like Bambi! Our wildlife totals are growing and we haven't even left California yet! Tomorrow we continue north to Oregon.