U.S. 101 North. Cali to WA.

Highway 101 – NorCal to WA. Dec to Jan 2015/16


It all starts with something simple, seeing an Instagram post or random photo on the internet of somewhere cool. If memory serves well, this whole trip was inspired by the big redwoods of Northern California. The Avenue of the Giants more specifically.

After picking a primary destination, we realized this could turn into a trip up the coast on Highway 101. That alone should make any traveler excited. We have a spark of inspiration, let’s make fire!

This trip also marked our first year together for Katrin and I. It was going to begin at the end of December 2015 and continue through early 2016. Officially January 1st is a special day for us. It wasn’t our first date, but it is what we consider the beginning of ‘us’.

We decided backtracking didn’t seem like something we wanted to do and living in the South Seattle area it only seemed natural to use Interstate 5 to get into California. This would also make getting to the redwoods faster.

Pause. Now we learned something immediately, and I don’t mean the value of not backtracking on a road trip I mean the value and the curse of not backtracking. We missed putting some stuff into the front end of this trip and Katrin was immediately disappointed when we passed one of the big Zoos along that route and knew we weren’t coming back. Also, time constraints and deadlines can put a damper of the random offshoots you might come across.

Ready, Set, GO.

Resume. So, our trip was thus far was to shoot down to Redding, California and stay in a hotel that we found through our less than intense research of the town. We did just that, we arrived at around dinner time in Redding at Thunderbird Lodge and ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant within walking distance. Driving any further didn’t really appeal to us.

The next morning at o’dark thirty we had breakfast from the microwave and got back into our packed Volkswagen then headed straight for the trees. We continued down I-5 to Highway 36 headed West to Highway 101. Highway 36 would have been a lot less fun in a truck or large SUV. Katrin still hated it but I found a little fun driving the VW on the constant twists and turns. Although, this was late in the year and snow was on the mountains which meant ice. Once we encountered the colder conditions up high we took it nice and slow. Even stopped a few times to shoot some photos of the mountain range.

On 101 we turned South to Miranda, CA. to begin our journey back North on the Ave of the Giants. This area was gorgeous! We decided to be touristy and drive the car through the tree and take a photo being glad we came in the off season since the gift shop was a ghost town. We encountered only light tourist traffic and were able to do most of our photography without much waiting for a crowed to clear.

We spent a few hours in the area and took a ton of photos, as everyone should do. There are a bunch of random large trees in the area and other tree related things to see. We left Avenue of the Giants and headed North stopping at a random beach and taking some time to see the Trees of Mystery Museum.

By late that evening we had taken some road side photos of the sunset and made it into Gold Beach, Oregon. Yet again we found ourselves in a hotel but this time right on the beach. Travelling in the off season saved us money on rooms like this one.

We had a pretty quiet night, after trying to find a local something to do for the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve and a hot meal. Not much was open in this little town, the first bar we went to was a biker bar and they didn’t seem to like us much. The grill was closed for the night or it was for us at least. We went to the only other bar in town and it was PACKED. The crowed was young and friendly but the place was standing room only and once more we were too late to order food. This sucked because it was getting close to midnight and we were starving.

At this time, we abandoned hope for something exciting. We found food at the grocery store and picked up some much-needed supplies. Since we didn’t really bring much food in the car. For two reasons this time. One, we were not going to be off grid or away from town. Also, it saved us a lot of room to not have a cooler or propane grill in the car.

Back at the hotel, we microwaved dinner and watched the countdown on the news. Happy new year to us, and the couple of deer standing outside the sliding glass door.

Then next morning, we discovered that whatever we celebrated with last night was not agreeing with our stomachs. We both woke up to a rumble and grumble. It was time to go. We still laugh about this years later.

On the road, and out of this little town, we hit some destination beaches along the coast until we discovered the sea lions. Sea Lion Cave in Oregon is one of America’s largest sea caves, according to them. The cave is a worthwhile attraction, stop in and prepare your nose. We were there when it was cold, so I can only imagine the smell in the heat. However, don’t let that deter you. Especially if you love wildlife.

Next up, Newport, Oregon. Once more, as a recurring theme in our travels we hit Newport late in the day. We took this time to shoot some photos of the sunset and the light house. Later we Established a hotel, figured out dinner and worked out the next morning’s itinerary.

A lot of time was allotted for us to be here in Newport. There was a lot to do and see, so if you plan of stopping in the town, plan to be here a while. I won’t go into great detail about it all, but you can certainly spend a lot of time with the sea life, and some unusual wax.

Beaches galore if you take this trip. We spent a significant time stopping at beaches. Winter is not ideal bikini season, however since the beaches are empty you can get great photos and ideal parking. There are lighthouses every dozen miles or so. At least it felt like it. There’s plenty of signage and space to pull off the highway for a few photos.

Tillamook is our next notable stop. By this time, we were a bit adventured out after multiple days on the road in the freezing cold weather. Beaches became less appealing and so did the numerous light houses along the route. The factory tour at Tillamook was a welcome respite from the road and a delicious one at that. I recommend taking the tour and getting yourself something to snack on while you can. It was still notably cold inside the facility.

By now we were pushing for home. Stopping less feeling fatigued from the road. We drove into Seaside Oregon and found a hotel quickly. This night we wanted to drop the tourism and just get out for some nightlife. Bar hopping in this town is easy even in the cold. A few drinks to lubricate the walking joints and we easily braved the cold. The next day we took in some of the local attractions, feeding the sea lions and checking out the little boutiques.

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale is just outside of Fort Stevens. Not much is left of the ship but the skeleton of the bow. It’s out near the water’s edge so go at low tide if possible. We stopped in, grabbed some photos and read the historical markers and departed rather quickly. The cold was getting to us and our wanderlust was near gone. Being on a beach was not what we longed for.

Our fascinations were restored upon arriving at Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon. Battery Russell consumed a few hours of our time. Katrin loves checking out historical markers and loves to read about history. I also enjoy history and being from a military background I especially had fun. Wear your walking shoes.

Further North, we wanted to see, before we crossed the bridge back into our home state, the Astoria Column. A neat place to check out, we read the column and then climbed to the top for the view. There is a small gift shop too if you like to collect memorabilia from your travels.

From Astoria we darted home. The road had become tiresome after 5 full days of driving. No matter what seats you have in your car they won’t be comfy for that many hours. All in all, we have very fond memories of this trip.

Let us know if you have done a similar trip! Or if you think this is a trip you want to take.

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