5. Redwood National Park

Our next destination was to see the giant trees of the Redwood National Park.  We stayed overnight at Grant Pass and its Lodge at Riverside, seduced by the hotel’s offering of “an evening wine reception and fresh baked cookies.”  Who could resist a lodge that offers fresh baked cookies?  On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a small roadside service station and succumbed to the offer of a milkshake.  Expecting something along the lines of a McDonald’s pre-fabricated shake, imagine my surprise when we were asked to choose from a list of ice cream (real ice cream!) flavours and watched as the server filled a steel mixing pitcher with large scoops of ice cream and real milk and attached it to an original multi mixer!  And the milkshakes were great; they even had small chunks of ice cream that got lodged in the straws so we had to blow them out to continue drinking.  What a treat!

The real deal

The real deal

Our stay at the Lodge at Riverside was lovely and the wine and cheese reception followed by fresh-from-the-oven gooey chocolate chip cookies were worth the trip.  This was just a prelude to a lovely dinner at the Twisted Cork Wine and Tapas Bar where we were served by a waitress from Marseille.

A note about Washington and Oregon Wines:  We loved that Washingtonians and Oregonians are proud of their wines:  even the slightest hesitation of which wine to order  in a restaurant leads immediately to an offer to taste (several!) before ordering.  And we had some very, very good wines.

We were lucky enough to head to the Redwood National Park before the US Government shutdown and, although it was a terribly rainy day, we were grateful that the weather had been in our favour so far on our trip.  I had vivid childhood memories of our visit to the Redwood National Park on our summer drives from Portland to Los Angeles to visit my paternal grandparents, Abraham and Lottie.  I have vivid memories of the six of us (Mum, Dad, me and my three sisters) all packed into our blue 1960s Ford Falcon (the model that had seats in what we called the “very back”), playing road trip games, stopping to visit sites and spending exciting evenings at Travelodge motels along the way (we loved Travellodge motels because they had a pool and ice machines!).  My travel needs have evolved somewhat since those days, but at the time, a Travelodge motel was the ultimate luxury, especially since we girls had our own room!

Travellodge

On our way to the park, we happened to notice a quirky little exhibition of wood carvings along the side of the highway.  It was so quirky that, even though we had driven by, we made a u-turn and went back for a visit.  It’s a Burl makes use of deformed growths in wood (the burl) to concoct exquisite and funky furniture, utensils, decorations and things that are simply amazing but have not use other than to enthrall.  If you ever find yourself on the Redwood Highway in Kirbyville, Oregon, do go and visit.  You won’t be disappointed.

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One of the entrances to the Redwood National Park is in Crescent City, California and we stopped at the tourist information center where I purchased a t-shirt with a beautiful design accompanied by the words “May the Forest be With You”.  Couldn’t resist that.  When we asked for maps and information on visiting the park, the guide asked us where we were from and, when we replied that we were from Norway, her colleague said “Oh, we just had a couple in here from Norway” (it is a small world after all).

A drive through the Redwood National Park on any day is a magical experience.  But on a dark and rainy day is a both magical and mystical.  The darkness seemed to heighten the colours and the rain to scare off the hoards of tourists that usually visit.  We felt swathed in a cocoon, almost alone in the forest, surrounded by the magnificent 2,000-year-old trees enveloped by patches of fog.

During our drive throughout the Pacific Northwest, we listened to an audio recording of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, an experience that made me feel that we were somehow kindred spirits of John and Charley as they drove around the US in their specially made camper, Rocinante.   Steinbeck wrote this of the redwoods:

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.  No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree.  The feeling they produce is not transferable.  From them comes silence and awe.  It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

Of course, the temptation to take photos is strong and Hans Einar and I could not resist.  The only way to know the glory of the redwoods is to see them for yourself, and I hope you get the chance.  Here are our best efforts to show the redwoods as we saw them, but, as Steinbeck notes, the feeling they produce is not transferable.

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Just try hugging a redwood!

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No trip to the Redwood National Park is complete without a “Tour Through the Tree”, a privately owned tourist attraction that lets you drive your car through a living redwood tree. When we pulled up in the pouring rain to the booth to pay a small entrance fee, the lady in the booth welcomed us by saying “you are two brave souls” to which I responded “or we are too crazy souls” to which she said “that was my other thought”.  She sent us on our way up the winding road to the tree with the words “you’ll be all alone up there!” and, fortunately, we were.  As we passed by on our way out to say goodbye, she told us tales of  summer with queues of cars waiting up to an hour to take the tour through the tree.  We felt very lucky indeed.

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Me driving, Hans Einar navigating from outside

On the way to our next destination, Hoopa, California, we stopped at a roadside shop selling salmon jerky, something I just had to try.  The saleswoman explained how the salmon is smoked for 3 days with “LOTS of brown sugar”.  The result is a caramelised salmon candy.  I loved it for its uniqueness (my husband, the Norwegian was not so impressed).  As I paid, the saleswoman asked where I was from and, as I am used to saying now, I replied “Norway”.  She said “Oh, a couple of Norwegians just came by about 10 minutes ago”.

We never did run in to the Norwegians we seemed to be following but we felt somehow that we were with them and they with us in the vast world that is the Redwood National Park.

Next stop, Hoopa, California.

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