Monday, April 2nd:
We left home around 11.00 in the morning, Connor and I in my car, and Kevin in his. Most of this first day was spent driving, with quick stops for lunch, and to take a few pictures of Mount Shasta. We did try to visit the Lake Shasta Caverns, but we arrived after the last tour of the day had departed. We made it all the way through California and a short way into Oregon. My favorite part of the drive was going through the Shasta Lake area, and watching Mount Shasta get bigger and bigger. It's a gorgeous mountain. Connor and I listened to "The Wind in the WIllows" while driving, and somehow listening to that charming story made the drive through the mountains even more beautiful. We stopped for the night in the town of Roseburg.
Tuesday, April 3rd:
In the morning, we drove the rest of the way to Portland, to the home of Connor's half-brother, William. We dropped off Kevin's car (part of the reason for this trip was to "deliver" the car; Kevin had decided to give it to William instead of selling it). We also picked William up, as he was coming with us up to Mount St. Helens.
After a short visit with William's mom, and lunch, the four of us headed up into Washington. We got there before dark, so we drove a bit of the way up the north road towards the mountain. The information center had just closed, but we were finally able to get a view of the mountain herself. Gorgeous. We drove back to a nearby town, Kelso, and spent the night.
Wednesday, April 4th:
This was our big day on the mountain. First thing in the morning, we headed back up the north road, to the visitor's center, where we learned some of the history of the area, and the eruption. Then we drove up along the northern roads as close to the mountain as we could get. The roads were closed after the Coldwater Visitor's Center, but even going that far gave us a good view into the caldera, which was smoking ever-so-slightly. Wow. Really gorgeous scenery - the mountain itself is beautiful, still covered in snow this time of year. It was also interesting to see the areas which had been affected by the blast - places where only tree stumps were left over acres and acres and acres.
The only problem I had that day was some vertigo on the winding mountain roads. I found myself really stressed out, and feeling like we were going to go sailing off the edge and down a cliff or something. I think I only had this problem because I was in the passenger seat; driving, I'd have been fine (at least I hope so, as I'm planning to drive through Yosemite and the Rocky Mountains pretty soon). :D Afterward we'd seen as much of the mountain as we could from this side, we drove back out to the highway, and then decided to have a look at the south side of the mountain. Here, some of the roads were closed, too, but we were able to get pretty close and see her from that direction, as well. I think Connor was suitably impressed with being able to see his favorite volcano.
Thursday, April 5th:
We had thought about staying here another day, to visit the Ape Caves, but decided against it, mostly because we didn't have proper equipment to explore the caves. So, we just headed back south, to drop William off at home. We decided to drive home along the coast, so we could visit a place called Sea Lion Caves, for which I'd picked up a brochure at one of our hotels. In the afternoon, we stopped at a lovely beach so we could stretch our legs, and Connor got completely soaked, and found some great shells and partial sand dollars. A bit further down the road, we stopped at a turn-out overlooking the ocean, and were thrilled to discover that migrating grey whales were visible blowing in the ocean below us. Very cool! Plus, we had a great view of Heceta Head Lighthouse, which is very pretty.
We didn't realize it when we stopped, but we were just around the corner from Sea Lion Caves. They were already closed, though, by the time we got there, so we looked around for a place to spend the night. We found ourselves at a wonderful place called the Driftwood Shores Resort. This place was awesome! The room was gorgeous, and we could walk out our sliding glass back door, down a short boardwalk, and be on the beach. I could even sit on the bed in the room and watch the migrating whales blowing out at sea. Connor loved it, and so did I. We went on a nice late-afternoon beach walk, then had dinner at the restaurant, and then Connor and I went back out on the beach until we started to lose the daylight.
Friday, April 6th:
First thing in the morning, Connor and I went down for another beach walk. It was foggy out, and I had a really lovely moment: Connor had gone back to the hotel room with Kevin, and after a few minutes, I looked back towards the hotel, and realized that it was almost completely obscured by the fog. In fact, I couldn't see anything at all except the sea, the sand, and the fog. Not any sign of a building, or another person. Just me, the fog, the sand and the sea. It was wonderful, a moment of perfect solitude, the kind I so rarely experience at this time in my life.
Because of our walk, we missed breakfast at the hotel, so we stopped at a convenience store for some grub. Then, on to the Sea Lion Cave, which was really interesting. It's the largest sea cave of it's kind in the world, and is home to a colony of Steller's Sea Lions - their only known home on the U.S. mainland. There were also some great birds there, especially the Pigeon Guillemots. We also had wonderful views of the ocean. Afterwards, we decided to stay along the coast for the rest of the drive south, and enjoy the view. We saw some really spectacular scenery.
We made one more serendipitous stop that day, at the Prehistoric Gardens, which features a short walk through a beautiful rainforest filled with life-sized dinosaur replicas. It looks tacky from the road, but it was actually really cool. We managed to make it just into California before stopping for the night in Crescent City.
Saturday, April 7th:
We started our day by visiting the "Trees of Mystery," which features a lovely self-guided walk through the redwood forest, and then a gondola ride up over the redwoods to an observation point. It was a misty and slightly rainy day, and the redwood forest was beautiful.
Then, we continued down the coast road, which is a lot slower going than taking I5. It soon became clear that we weren't going to be able to make it all the way home on this day as we'd originally planned, so in the late afternoon, we started looking for a good place to stay. We found another really lovely place, the Wharfmaster's Inn, at Arena Cove in Point Arena. Our room had a sea view, and was really lovely - four-poster bed, huge tub with bubble bath and candles provided. From the inn, it was a short walk down to the tiny cove to comb the beach. There wasn't much beach, as the tide was high that evening, but we found several "seeing stones" - naturally holed stones, which are, of course, very good luck and also helpful for viewing faeries and other magical creatures. We had a good dinner in a nearby restaurant, and a relaxing night in the hotel. Connor and I also used our seeing stones on the way home, and spotted some interesting things - a few faeries, a hobgoblin, and Connor thought he saw an ogre. (Yes, we've been reading the "Spiderwick Chronicles." :D).
Sunday, April 8th:
We got up in the morning in time to have breakfast at the hotel, and then Connor and I walked on the beach again. This time, the tide was out, and there were wonderful tide pools and all sorts of new things to explore. We saw some interesting creatures, and found more rocks and things. We did want to make it home that day, though, so we didn't stay too long on the beach.
While we were so close, though, I did want to stop at the Point Arena Lighthouse. There, we climbed to the top of the lighthouse (nearly 150 steps), from which the view was stunning. It was a beautiful day, too - sunny and clear, in contrast with the fog and mist we'd had the previous day. We saw a few whales from Point Arena, as well.
Then, we drove home, taking the coast road as far as Bodega Bay before turning inland. It was a wonderful vacation - we saw some great scenery and interesting wildlife, and it seems like a fitting end to our time living in northern California.