Our Maiden Voyage | Part 3 – Northern California Coast

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Welcome to Part 3 of our Maiden Voyage! If you haven’t seen part 2, you can check it out here: Our Maiden Voyage | Part 2 – Tahoe to Arcata and here is Part 1

Fern Canyon

The next morning found me anxious because I had planned a lot of things for the day and I was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to experience them all. Everything we planned to see was within the 60 miles or so from Arcata to Crescent City, CA along the coast, so we started the drive early, heading north on 101. Our first adventure on the road was to be Fern Canyon. I hadn’t been there before, but I spent extensive time on Trip Advisor reading reviews which assured it was worth the slight detour. Immediately after we exited the highway at “Elk Valley” we witnessed it’s namesake. There was a huge herd of elk grazing (is that what they do?) in the meadow. A bunch of cars had pulled off for some pictures and I was tempted, but I knew we had limited time and was eager to see the canyon, so we drove onward. I was kind of hoping they would be there on our way back, but they weren’t. Luckily, Steven snagged a couple shots from the window on our way.

After a short detour into the state park where the canyon is located, we parked and hiked to the canyon. It was just as gorgeous as I’d hoped! I’m glad we visited in the morning because the light was fantastic. It was streaming down through the trees into the canyon as we trekked through. It was easy hiking along the creek bed as we walked a little deeper into the canyon. Miles immediately stomped his feet right into the creek and gathered stones to throw into the water. We took our time wandering into the canyon and taking pictures. It was great, with walls of ferns on both sides. We went a few bends in and felt that we’d seen plenty impressive views of the canyon and turned back to head to our car.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

From Fern Canyon we caught the highway up to Crescent City, gasping at the views of the ocean when we’d take a curve and kiss the coast. In Crescent City we grabbed lunch and found some new shoes for Miles, then drive the short way to the entrance of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. This is the same park where my family had camped in 2002 with our trailer. It was where I first got my taste of the redwoods and fell in love. When I was sixteen we took a 3 week long roadtrip that looped through the western half of the US and some of the places we visited were unreal to me. One of the destinations that stole my soul that summer was our drive and stay here in the coastal redwoods. On that trip it was foggy the whole time we were in the area and this time it was sunny, so it had a different charm to it. We talked to the gate guy and parked and hiked the short trail to “Stout Grove” which I had read about in my research and was recommended for its short hike and an excellent display of old growth redwood trees. It was amazing! I will always have a love of the redwoods. I think they’re so magnificent! I wanted to stay here forever, but the boys needed naps and I wanted to get back to the coast before sunset.

The northern Pacific coast

When we visited in 2002, my family spent a short time on the beach. On that trip it was overcast and foggy, as previously mentioned, it was chilly and the place we visited had dark sand, gentle waves and tons of tide pools. On this trip we had decided to stop at a different beach we’d seen on the drive up. The sun was brilliant and the waves were way more powerful than I expected. We didn’t want Miles wandering into them himself, so Steven took him to the shore so he could play in the waves as they crashed onto the sand. The undertow was insane, so we were extra cautious, but Miles seemed to enjoy this part of our trip the most. We decided we needed to eat, so we planned to grab food then find a good place to watch the sunset, so we headed back to Arcata.

As we got to the hotel we realized the daylight was fading fast, so we put dinner on hold and asked the guy at the desk where we should see the sunset. He recommended Moonstone Beach which was about fifteen minutes north. We arrived just at sunset, so we jumped out and started snapping pictures. His recommendation was on point. It was perfectly calm and streaked with alternating sand and small pools of ocean water. We watched the light fade over the horizon, Miles threw rocks into the water and we breathed it all in. We thought it was the perfect symbolic end for our trip, finishing it off with an ocean sunset. I was pleased that we were able to see all the things I had hoped to see that day. We returned to town for some pizza in downtown Arcata where we had a relaxing meal and reminisced about the trip and planned for the journey home.

The drive back

The journey home from such an adventure can be often be underwhelming, but I wanted to try our best to enjoy it however we could. I won’t go into detail about all our stops and the driving, but I’ll touch on some memorable moments. One of those moment came as we drove through Lassen state park. In 2002 our family had stopped in Lassen to see the devastation left by the volcano that erupted in the early 20th century. This time it didn’t look the way I remember, so I think there might have been a fire sometime before my previous visit. It was pretty expensive to enter the park, too so I’m not sure it was the best decision, but the decision had been made so oh, well. Halfway through the park we rolled our windows down since it was nice outside and we were enjoying the views. A few minutes later, Miles says “I lost my blankie!” Sure enough, he had thrown it out his window and it was laying in the road behind us. We turned around to retrieve it and he told us he also dropped his sock and his shoe out the window before that!!! I was pretty upset because he had been wearing my favorite shoes of his, some Toms that Bethany had just bought him before our trip. We doubled back twice and I got out of the car to search the side of the road as best as I could. We found his sock, but the shoe was lost. I grieved a long while for that little lost Tom, I often struggle to let go in situations like that, lol. It makes for a memorable story, though and I’m sure someday I’ll be able to laugh about it…

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We spent a few hours at Lizzy’s on the way back where we slept and got to hug a few more times, which I loved. We stopped at a great rest area in eastern Utah that offered a pretty view of the area before we had to say goodbye to Utah. The drive back through the Rockies was just as gorgeous as the drive in and I for one was sad a little bit, knowing I was saying goodbye to the mountains. We stayed in a little town north of Denver called Westminster where we had dinner and recuperated, then finished our journey the next day.

Final Thoughts

I can’t say enough how great this trip was. I thank God we had the chance to take this adventure and it re-opened our eyes to the beauty of His creation. It proved that a cross-country road trip could be done with two small children and a little over a week worth of time. It was great for our family and for Steven and I. I hadn’t been able to spend that amount of time with my husband since our honeymoon! This trip fueled the fire of my wanderlust and now we’re dreaming up all kinds of road trips for the future. We agree that we’d like to pick a place or two and spend more time there. I think the whirlwind of destinations worked okay for this trip and I’m happy I got my taste of several different states and attractions, but next time I think we’ll try to dig a little deeper into a favorite stop.

If you read this whole thing you’re crazy but that’s awesome! I know it can be a little boring to read about other people’s trips, but I wanted to get some those moments in writing for my own sake as well as for friends and family who wanted to share in our experience some. Thanks for letting me reminisce… until our next adventure! :)

I'm the daughter to a King, wife to a man who makes me laugh, and mother to two boys who add joy and fullness to my life. I am a dreamer, a philosopher, an artist, and lover of things that stir my soul. I spend most of my days at home with my boys, Miles and Finn. We make messes (and occasionally clean them up), we giggle, we run and hide from dinosaurs and monsters and we read lots of books together. In my "free" time I feed my craving for art with various creative pursuits and indulge in tasty treats, coffee, and the occasional, guilt-laden Red Bull to feed my other addictions.

When it comes to my passions, I have many. God, Love, Family, Travel, Music, Design, Coffee... but somewhere near the top of the list you'll find photography. From the moment I turned my camera lens towards a sunset for the first time, I felt an intense desire to somehow steal away the beauty of that moment and keep it forever. Now I walk around thirsty to soak up the beautiful moments around me, add a spark of something from deep inside my soul, then spill it back out to the world.

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