Lakeport and Crescent City: Part 3 of our 2016 California Travels
Lake County, CA
It never rains in Southern California - or so Phil sings to me occasionally. So, as expected, we didn’t really see a lot of precipitation during our 3 weeks in Thermal and Jamul, California in January 2016. We were just south of San Francisco during our 2 weeks in Aptos in February 2016 and the locals’ expectations were rain and cool weather since it was still winter. But our weather in Aptos was 60s and sunny almost every day. Flowers were in bloom. It was spring heaven. So by the time left Aptos to head farther north in California in early March, it was about time for some rain.
We left Aptos and opted to drive through the heart of San Francisco. It seems crazy - if you're towing to drive through a large city if you can drive around - but it also meant we could drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Driving through such a large city made us apprehensive but we would also be doing it on on a Sunday morning when traffic would be at its lightest. The streets of the Golden Gate City weren’t empty but it wasn’t very busy. Since I wasn’t driving, I had the best view of our journey over the bridge: man, was it HIGH. That was the big takeaway for me. Longish (three-fourths of a mile) but high: the roadway is 220 feet above water. It was for sure, a very cool experience.
Once we made our way out of the Bay area and farther north into the hills, the rain started. We were on the historic 101 in California which, if you've never traveled on it, is just as stunning as you can imagine. A winding two lane road through the growing hills and forests of central California. Towing + rain = added stress but today wasn’t a long drive. Of course we had what seemed like five more Sundays of rainy drives (hello Pacific Northwest) so this was only the beginning of our rainy travel days.
We were headed for Lakeport, a town on Clear Lake in what I thought was central California but is definitely still in still closer to the ocean than the state line with Nevada. North of Napa and Sonoma, but still part of the North Coast wine district and, more specifically, the Lake County district. Lake County was rather refreshing after weeks near large metropolises. The total county population is less than 100,000 people and the heart is Clear Lake, the biggest natural lake completely in California (Tahoe is partially in Nevada and Salton Sea was formed by intentional flooding.) Our RV/trailer park was right on the lake and would have been impressive if it was a warm week in the summer. But this was our rainiest week to date and we had to work around a camper-sized puddle that formed under the pop up when we were packing up to leave. It actually rained every single day. We did see a few hours of blue sky this week, but it was not a lot.
But lakes have a special place in my heart and the view as you drove through Lakeport was still stunning. Beyond the lake, from our view, hills and pine tress formed the skyline and snow still covered peaks farther in the distance. As we drove south from Lakeport, the rolling hills were covered in farmlands; including a lot of vineyards. This is also where we first started noticing quilt square paintings on barns or buildings in town. It’s something we still notice to this day in areas all over the country. With a little research, we found the Quilt Trail project started in Ohio and has spread all over and is considered one of the largest grassroots public art projects and there are quilt trails in half of the states in the U.S.
With weather not suitable for outdoor activities, we spent a lot of time working during our week in Lakeport. We spent most of our workdays at Angelina’s, a combo coffee/breakfast/lunch spot. When you show up in the off season to a small town cafe more than one day in a row, you start talking to the people who work there. The manager/owner we saw most of the time was married to Angelina, the namesake of the place whose parents started the cafe. He used to travel for work and came through Lakeport and visited Angelina’s himself. Eventually, he quit his job and moved to Lakeport and married Angelina. It was one of those stories that allow you to fully appreciate meeting new people and learning about other people’s lives. It also added fuel to my “settle down in a small mountain town” desire. Angelina’s celebrated their 25th anniversary in business in January 2016.
We ended up just doing one wine tasting during our week in Lake County. The wine was fine, from what I remember, but the experience was just okay. The person conducting the wine tasting for us (the only people in the shop while were there) seemed more interested in educating us on marijuana (we were near the three counties that made up the Emerald Triangle) than telling us about the winery.
I should also point out that it was in Lakeport when I discovered I apparently had a run in with poison oak (likely while play disc golf at Delaveaga disc golf course in Santa Cruz). It was super gross and I think (two years later) you can still see the faint scars of where it was on my legs.
I would love to go back to Lake County during warmer weather and sans poison oak rashes!
Crescent City, CA
After a week in Lakeport, we spent another rainy Sunday traveling to Crescent City, CA, a small city way north on the California coast, almost to the Oregon border. This involved more driving on the 101 through the heart of the Redwoods. Truly some of the most gorgeous driving in this country.
Crescent City is a coastal town nestled between the warm, towering redwoods and the cool Pacific ocean. There are days when the fog from the ocean floated all the way to the tree line, blurring the boundary between earth and sea.
The RV park where we stayed was close to the ocean - as is most of the town. From the pop up camper we could hear sea lions that existed lazily in groups along the shore. There was a horn of some sort that sounded every 7-9 seconds. Annoying at first, but we got used to it and became part of the fabric of our time there.
Other than the ocean and the trees, our favorite thing about Crescent City was its disc golf course at Beach Front Park. The course was in the park right along shore and for some of the holes, the ocean was the out of bounds (OB) line. And how far away OB was depended on the tide when you were playing. It was just so fun! We ended up back in Crescent City in May for about two weeks and were excited to return just for the disc golf course. Unfortunately, it was windy A LOT of the time there which made it slightly less fun. (We even gave up in the middle of one round because of the wind.)
One of our adventures while in Crescent City was a drive and hike in the Jebediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We had passed up the national park on our way north but still wanted to see the massive trees. We took a couple mile hike among the giants and played on the rocky shore of the blue-green Smith River.
Crescent City isn’t a big place and there weren’t a lot of restaurants but we did find Cristina’s (I am about 90% sure this is the place we visited doing research months later - it’s in a shopping center near the library) which served great Mexican food. We also visited Port O’ Pints, a relatively new brewery, and enjoyed a few of their brews.
Our first visit to Crescent City was in March 2016 and we returned to Crescent City at the end of April 2016 planning to stay for a month. The RV park here had the cheapest monthly rate we had ever seen: less than $200 per month and we needed to save that money. Our plan was to stay in northern California for a month until our friends’ wedding in Seattle Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, on May 18 my grandma died unexpectedly and Phil and I packed quickly leaving the Pacific Northwest about two weeks earlier than planned (we were going to be back in Iowa for my cousin’s wedding in June) to be with my family. It took us 3 1/2 days to get back (I literally don’t think we could have been farther away anywhere in the continental states. Key West is closer to Des Moines than Crescent City.) When we arrived in Des Moines, we changed clothes and immediately attended my grandma’s wake. It was truly the hardest few days we had on the road.
Due to the kindness of the Bayside RV Park, we have 11 nights of credit there since we had paid for a whole month but left before our month was up. Will definitely be back the next time we visit northern California.
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