Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pacific coast, redwoods, and pine forests mean twisty motorcycle roads

Today's ride was all about the weather - and the trees. We started in Gold Beach, CA at 8:30am riding through a misty fog that rolled off the Pacific Ocean and drifted down from the tops of the trees, leaving the road clear but obscuring our long-distance views over the ocean.

The temperature was in the low 50's all morning. Periodically the sun would start to burn off some of the mist, then we would round a bend in the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway and the fog rolled in again.

We soon crossed into California, and 101 veered inland through flat farmland and fields of lilies grown in this part of the country known as the Easter Lily capital of the world. Just south of Crescent City we rode into the Redwood National Forest, home to the tallest trees in the world. It's really difficult to take photos that capture these trees that grow to about 370' tall.

Route 101 twists and turns, winding its way through the forests, then along the rocky coast, and back into the forest. There are plenty of passing lanes, giving Mike the opportunity to zoom past slower moving trucks and campers so that we had open road in front of us for much of the ride.

For a minute or two the rays of the sun broke through the mist and scattered through the tops of the redwoods, creating a dazzling display of nature's power.

We turned off the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in McKinleyville, heading east on CA 299, the Trinity Highway. The temperature rose from 60 degrees to 70 degrees in 20 minutes, and continued up to 80 degrees in another 25 minutes as the sun came out and we rode away from the ocean. CA 299 is another twisty, turning road that climbs up and down through the high ridges and steep valleys. We climbed two summits before lunch:  Lord Ellis Summit at 2263', named for a miner who petitioned the state to improve a mule road through this area; and Berry Summit at 2871'.

We know the road is going to be even more fun when we see signs like this:

We stopped for lunch in Willow Creek, at 610' on the Trinity River. We spent the next couple of hours riding along the river, over more summits, and through the never-ending forests.

We passed several construction sites along the road, stopping for 25 minutes at one point where we got off the motorcycle, stretched, and counted 115 cars going past us before it was our turn on the one-lane road.

A few twisty miles later, we rode into Redding where the temperature hit 101 degrees - a 50 degree increase from when we started our ride this morning. After a beautiful ride along the coast, through redwood forests, and on little-traveled roads, it was hot and frustrating to sit at stoplight after stoplight and ride for a few busy miles south on Interstate 5 before we turned east on CA 36. The road starts out straight, cutting through the Tehama State Wildlife Area with yellow-brown fields with periodic views of snow-capped mountains in the far distance.

Then the road really becomes fun:  twisting and turning as it climbs from 500' elevation in Redding to Morgan Summit at 5768' where the temperature mercifully dropped to the low 70's. Route 36 snakes through the Lassen National Forest, a diverse area formed by the granite of the Sierra Nevada, the lava of the Cascades and the Modoc Plateau, and sagebrush of the Great Basin.

We saw the turn for the Lassen Volcanic National Park, but will have to save this trip for another day when we can experience the hot water areas where Mt. Lassen last erupted in 1915.

We ended our trip today in Chester, a town of about 2000 people nestled in the forest on the edge of Lake Almanor. Don't miss dinner at the Burger Depot where the friendly staff, train decor, a model train that runs around the room on a ledge near the ceiling, and good-tasting food made our evening meal a delight.

We experienced a wide range of scenery and temperatures during our 367 mile ride today, with 3,148 miles total on this trip - so far.


  1. You saw some beautiful sights. Isn't it amazing the different win temperature between the coast and the valley?

  2. I much prefer the cooler temperatures!