Sunday, May 10, 2015

California Highway 20 to the Coast, Then North to Trinidad

Reproduction vintage postcard purchased recently, now part of my decor

When I last wrote, I had just seen visited some California Gold Rush history sites and was on my way west to the Pacific Coast.  

On Wednesday, from Coloma, I drove up to Yuba City where I could get onto California Highway 20, heading west. 

 Coastal forest greenery, such a nice change of pace after living in the desert

I'd never been on 20 before.  I'd taken Highway 299 through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest many years ago.  It's a beautiful road, but a lot of this trip is about seeing things I haven't seen before.  I considered taking Highway 36, but I found an article in an online motorcycle magazine that said Highway 36 is one of the craziest highways to drive in the country!  No, thanks!  I find enough of those without trying.
So Highway 20 was the choice, and I'd planned to stop at a State Recreational Area on the Sacramento River in Colusa, where I could get a parking lot style campsite with no hookups for $13.  However, I lucked out and saw billboards for a casino in the same area, so instead I camped in the Colusa Casino parking lot at no cost.  In fact, I made a little money on the deal, because they gave me a players club card with $20 credit on it, and I got $23 cash from the free play. 

 My navigator, falling down on the job again...

When I left on Thursday morning, there were strong winds in the Sacramento River valley as I continued to drive west on Highway 20.  I got to the huge, beautiful Clear Lake which is surrounded on all sides by resorts, motels, campgrounds, marinas, etc.  It was still windy near the lake, so I stopped for the night--again, an unexpected casino stop at Robinson Rancheria, where I won a little on the slots, but dropped a bundle playing bingo with some really nice senior ladies who took the casino bus in from Ukiah.  They coached me through the games and showed me how to use those newfangled bingo machines.   

I woke up on Friday morning with a slight headache, sore throat, and cough, and wondered what the heck was going on.  Then I realized I'd been breathing far too much secondhand smoke in the casinos, especially when I stayed to play bingo for several hours.  So I was very motivated to get to the beach where I could breathe some fresh air.

First glimpse of the Pacific Ocean for a few years...aaaaaaaahhhhhhh, that's better

I headed west all the way to Highway 1 which runs right along the Coast itself.  I first stopped to see the Pacific at a viewpoint in Fort Bragg, but, as I headed north, I stopped many times to admire the views and check out possible campsites. 

I was not at all impressed with the California State Beaches in this area.  Sadly, they are very poorly cared for these days.  I could have stayed at one of these campgrounds on cliffs overlooking the beach, but it was $25 a night and the facilities were awful, especially the bathrooms.   

My idyllic free boondocking site, with a million dollar view--I sat at the dinette in the back of the rig and looked out the picture window for many hours

So instead, I looked for and found a site that was recommended on  Most of the scenic viewpoints along Highway 1 are marked and have signs in their parking lots that say no camping allowed.  But there are a few pullouts that have no signage, and I stayed in one of these.  It was a beautiful place to spend the night.  There were rocks along the shoreline that the waves crashed over.  

The view looking south along the coastline from my boondocking site

Yesterday morning, I drove up Highway 1 to where it intersects with Highway 101 (more winding mountain roads!), stopping in tiny Leggett for a very good breakfast at Rising Sun Cafe & Grill, owned by a nice Costa Rican guy who can really cook.  Driving north through Garberville, I stopped to buy fresh cherries right across the street from the One-Log House that I so enjoyed visiting on my way south on 101 a little over four years ago, when I left the Pacific Northwest.  

Driving along the Avenue of the Giants.  Note that these trees are each as wide as a lane of traffic.

Near Humboldt Redwoods State Park, I noticed signs along the road for a scenic route called Avenue of the Giants, which sometimes parallels and crosses Highway 101 while it winds through groves of redwoods.  It was an awesome drive.  I was about halfway through it when I got to the State Park headquarters at about 2 p.m.  I stopped in to talk about camping both in the Park and at some nearby BLM sites, and found out that the BLM campgrounds required driving more switchbacks through the mountains.  

So I plunked down $35 for a campsite at the State Park, where I had a very nice time.  The redwood forest is so deep and dark that I had to use my interior lights in the RV even during the middle of the day.  So I was inclined to stay outside and seek what sun I could find.  

My campsite at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Burlington Campground

I went to a ranger talk and campfire that night to learn more about the redwoods, which are pretty incredible and not only because of their size.  Did you know they get moisture by breathing fog?  That their cones are some of the smallest evergreen cones?  That their burls, which are a sort of abnormal growth in response to stress, are packed with little baby trees and are their primary means of reproduction?  Cool, but mostly I stayed for the opportunity to toast marshmallows after the ranger stopped talking.  

I like the State and National Parks.  They bring out all my Girl Scoutish qualities, which I tend to have a lot of.  I like knowing that my pearl pocketknife and my 25-year AA coin are in one pocket, and my RV keys are in the other.  I like knowing exactly where to find my flashlights, tools, popcorn, marshmallows, roasting forks, and other camping necessities.  I can usually start a fire with just one match, and I generally wear a uniform of either cargo shorts or jeans with a funny cat T-shirt and plenty of cat hair.  I might have made a good park ranger if I hadn't been scared of the science.

 My campsite at The Emerald Forest--look at the big stump next-door!

At $35 a night, I had to leave the State Park and keep heading north, which actually made me very happy because today I made it to Trinidad, one of my favorite places in northern California.  I am staying at The Emerald Forest of Trinidad, a resort that has tent sites, RV sites, and cabins.  There are showers and laundry and a little store.  The campground itself is in the redwoods, but just about a quarter-mile down the road is the little town of Trinidad, which is on the beach and gets lots of sunshine.  I am going to stay and relax here for several days.  I loved this area when I visited it before, and I would like to see more of it this time.  WIFI is good here, so not only am I getting this blog posted, I'll also be able to pay a few bills and maybe catch up on a few TV episodes.  I'm taking a little vacation from my vacation here.       


  1. Love this post and am having fun traveling with you. Gorgeous green!

  2. Sue, make sure you drive Howland Hill Road out of Crescent City. It's similar to Avenue of the Giant but more mellow, and you can overnight at the nearby casino. Also drive the shoreline in Crescent City and there's a Walmart for overnight if you need it.

  3. Thank you for the post. What a wonderful trip!

  4. Wonderful writing, Sue. You should write more. A book... yes write a book. It would be great.