As I wrote posts about this year’s Labor Day trip, I realized I never wrote about 2022! Better late than never.
Summer arrives late on the California North Coast. Chilly June generally gives way to dreary, foggy July. Some years the sun doesn’t truly shine with until nearly September. Which makes that transition month one of the best to enjoy the outdoors here on the Lost Coast.
Traveling locally for long weekends is not something we often do. While I’m a veteran at cramming a lot into just a few days, I prefer to do so abroad. It slips my mind that we have a world-class national park and amazing scenery in our backyard. Sadly, I too often take our redwoods and rural life for granted. I need a reminder now and then of just how blessed we are to live here.
After 30 years of living here, there are sights I still haven’t seen. The lovely summer weather and the extra time over Labor Day last year provided the perfect opportunity for a “staycation” of sorts. It wasn’t truly a staycation, as we traveled 90 minutes from home. But compared to so many other trips, we were as close to home as we can get. So it’s really a California north coast staycation, if you will.
Planning a Late Summer “Staycation”
An actual staycation isn’t something I’ll ever plan. Everyday life as home is simply life. Travel spices it up now and then. Given the less-than-two-hour jaunt from home doesn’t change the scenery much, this is the closest we’ll get. When we often drive multiple hours to simply catch a flight, this short trip felt like nothing.
The plan was to head up to Crescent City, California for a night, enjoying a day of activities on either side. Crescent City is a small town close to the Oregon border. I’ve traveled this section of coast dozens of times. But after pulling up Google Maps, I realized just how little I’ve explored.
There was the third-grade trip to the Klamath Jetboats, several hiking adventures in Redwood National Park, the “hidden” beach my family would go to on vacation (since the only proper beach is the one you have literally to yourselves), and Ladybird Johnson Grove – a place my parents took us when we were very little since the hiking is so easy. Standing head and shoulders above all of this is Fern Canyon, a must-see if you’re ever in the area.
But along the rugged coast stretching from Eureka to Crescent City, California is so much more. I’d yet to ever visit the Trees of Mystery. Or Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. Or any of several other beaches along the way.
With plenty of options, I picked out a simple itinerary:
- Spend the afternoon at Endert’s Beach, just south of Crescent City
- Visit the Trees of Mystery
- A to-be-determined stop along the way on Monday as we head home
We’d spend one night at the Quality Inn Crescent City. Thank you Choice points. No idea how the place commands over $200 per night.
Endert’s Beach appealed to me because of it’s inaccessibility. Yes, you read that right. While there is a perfectly fine stretch of beach just south of Crescent City, I’d much rather hike to the ocean. Some of the best beaches I’ve been to on our coast can only be reached by foot (looking at you, Sinkyone Wilderness).
Endert’s is admittedly fairly easy to reach. The hike isn’t long. You’re treated to a narrow stretch of sand barely sheltered by a shallow cove. The beach is steep, and the waves crash hard. Swimming isn’t even remotely a consideration. It’s gloriously rugged.
We chased each other along the edge of the surf, making our way to the end of the cove. The wind whipped at times, but it was warm enough to not chill us to the bone. An hour on the beach was plenty, and we soon headed back up to the trail.
But the fun continued on our way back. I pointed out a wasp nest to my sons. No sooner had I turned my back, than my older one had thrown a rock straight into it and we were fleeing down the trail. No kids we stung. Dad wasn’t either.
Trees of Mystery
In all my years living on the California North Coast, I’d never visited the Trees of Mystery. The reports I’d heard were a mixed bag. Some people loved it. Others thought it a tourist trap. There was also the cost to consider. With plenty of free redwoods to see, why pay to see these.
We’d finally see what it is like firsthand. Would we see some truly mysterious trees? Or is its reputation as exaggerated at its mascots, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox?
The cost is a bit steep for a family. With just my two sons, it came to $51 — $25 per adult and $13 per kid. Hopefully it would be worth it. I know it offers the Sky Trail and sky walk — more than just hiking. Hiking should be close-to-free in my book.
What I didn’t know it included was a decent amount of redwood art. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Most of it is near the end of the trail.
The early section includes the canopy trail. It’s a set of walkways and stairs that lets you experience the redwood forest well above the ground. You’re nowhere near the tops of these giants, but it’s a different perspective. The local zoo in Eureka now has a redwood sky walk of its own.
Soon we made it to the SkyTrail, where you are whisked through the trees in a gondola. It’s an enjoyable ride, and the boys liked this part. What they weren’t thrilled about was the hike back down. You can take the SkyTrail back the way you came. That was not my plan. Hike we must.
The final section of the trail took us through more interesting trees and pieces of art, ending at the gift shop. It made for a good morning for our California north coast staycation. I’m glad I finally got to see the Trees of Mystery, although I’m not convinced we’d go back.
Trusting the Locals
We rolled into the town of Klamath after our morning at the Trees, hungry for lunch. While the hiking hadn’t taken it out of me, the boys definitely needed to refuel. I picked a local diner that serves up all-day breakfast. My sons think I’m a bit odd for enjoying breakfast so much. Maybe one day they’ll see the light.
As we were finishing our meal, I struck up a conversation with the waitress, mentioning our brief trip. She suggested our final stop ought to be a “hidden” beach near the town of Orick. Now, Orick isn’t much. You drive straight through it in roughly a minute, and there’s no real draw. The southern Redwood National Park visitor center sits just south of the town, and that beach has never impressed me. But apparently things are better on the north side of the Redwood Creek.
Driving out the dirt road, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. But it ended up being a cool find. It’s not the best beach on the California north coast, but it has some cool features. Not to mention it’s essentially deserted.
The rocks were fun to try to climb. They aren’t as impressive as a set in Redwood National Park — the Ossagon Rocks — but these were more the kids speed. It’s always unique to see how many of them there are both on the beach and out in the water.
And I had one who even braved the water. The end of Redwood Creek is calm. But it is cold! He doesn’t seem to care. I just have to watch for signs of hypothermia.
Our Labor Day adventure during a California north coast staycation had me plan another one in 2023. This time we swapped our redwoods for some a few hours further south. The rural Mendocino Coast is different, but stunning in its own way. 4
Always one to work the points and miles angle, I’ve booked a Vacasa vacation rental for 45,000 Wyndham points for me and my sons that would have normally go for for around $1,300 for three nights. It’s name? The Redwood House. We’ll see if there is an encore this year.