San Jose to Portland on the 101

Anna and I flew into San Jose on boxing day (Dec 26th) and home from Portland on New Years day. In between those dates we had a nice little drive up the coast on the 1 and 101 highways.

When we landed in San Jose the wind was wailing. The rental car valet was huddled in his little hut, which was being blasted by the rain. We had rented a compact, but there was a full size car within dash distance of the hut. “Just take that one”, he said through the porthole of his hood pulled tight. Not wanting to make the poor guy stumble out into the parking maze, we agreed. We were now the proud renters of a brand new Chevy Malibu. Not quite as much of a tank as other mid sized cars, but it still only managed 25mpg. At least the ride was pretty smooth. Detroit, when are you going to get your shit together? Where the hell is my volt?

We spent that night and the next morning visiting with the Caps in Milpitas. The wind managed to knock out power a few times, but everything came back on in time for breakfast. After that it was up to SoMa to meet Dave for lunch. We managed to blow a few hours gabbing away, the sign of a good visit.

The delay meant we were leaving town just at sun down, so we managed to see the final golden rays light up the city from across the Golden Gate. Thankfully we made it over the bridge before a car on fire shut down all lanes for an hour or two. Our plan was to drive to Fort Bragg that night. Fortunately we tuned into a local nerd radio show where callers were saying the coast still had no power. We managed to get a place in Willets for the night instead.

That morning I used my health care card to scrape the frost from the car windows. Brought back memories. Our drive to the coast was brilliant. The sun slowly rose, first making the frost covered landscape glow and twinkle, then lush. We headed down to Jug Handle State Reserve and hiked the beach trail, then followed it inland to the pygmy forest. We stumbled on a guy harvesting mushrooms in the park. He tried to act nonchalant, then left for less trafficked areas. The path is not extremely well marked, so there were a few moments of faith. We ran into a biologist doing a water beetle study in the pygmy forest and had an interesting chat. After that it was up the coast to Fort Bragg’s glass beach. We wandered around then continued our drive up the coast through Mendocino and the redwoods of Humboldt county.

After an overnight stay in Arcata, we headed to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood Park. I had wanted to check out Fern Canyon and some other spots, but there were trees down on the roads from the high winds. The grove walk was great though. Until we left at about 10 am, we were the only ones in that entire section of the park.

We continued up through the coast, stopping to see Battery Point in Crescent City. From there we continued along the coast into Oregon. It started to change from a rocky coast to sand and rock islands with the occasional dune. We ended the day at sunset in Shores Acres State Park (Coos Bay). Watching the sun go down and whale watching was a nice end to the day. We highly recommend the Blue Heron Bistro in Coos Bay for dinner. The owner/operator was a bit frantic & grumpy, but the food was amazing.

The next morning we wandered around the trees and dunes north of the bay. I abandoned poor Anna and set out in search of the New Carissa shipwreck. I eventually found it, but it took a hell of a lot of dune climbing. When I finally got within site of the wreck, I found my path was blocked by marsh and mini-lakes anyway. The rest of the day we continued up the coast stopping at lighthouses, amazing views, and sleepy towns.

We headed inland to Portland at Lincoln, passing through the wine country in the dark to our destination. We arrived in Troutdale and had a great time celebrating New Years at Edgefield and visiting the waterfalls.

It was a great trip. The west coast feels like you could explore for years and still not see it all.

Join the Conversation


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *