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    Summer Road Trip Up the California Coast

    By John Chen–

    Summer is here and what better way to ring in the most active time of the year than with a road trip hugging Northern California’s amazingly scenic coastline full of wonders and hidden gems. I have made this trek many times and thought I would share with you some of my favorites and discoveries. What are you waiting for? Get in your car and follow me!

    The first stop is the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Head up the hills and you’ll find, in my opinion, the most spectacular sweeping and panoramic view of San Francisco—both the city and the bay! If you are a beach lover, hike down to the beautiful and unique Black Sands Beach where, you guessed it, the sand is black or more dark charcoal in color.

    Next, head north on the world-renowned California Highway 1 (CA HWY 1) through Muir Woods National Monument and Mt. Tamalpais State Park. You may want to make a few pitstops to take in the beauty of various indigenous California forests, flora, and fauna. You may also want to take a short stroll through the numerous historic coastal towns such as Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, and Bolinas.

    From CA HWY 1, make a western detour at the southern tip of Tomales Bay and drive towards Point Reyes National Seashore. Here, wildlife such as elk and sea lions are abundant and can be seen grazing on the hilly plains and lazily sunbathing on the beaches. For those of you who are photographers, I highly recommend the Inverness Shipwrecked Boat and the Cypress Tunnel.

    If you are a seafood lover, especially that of the oyster variety, along the shores of Tomales Bay on CA HWY 1 are several oyster farms and restaurants where you can get the freshest oysters raw or cooked pretty much anyway imaginable. After eating your weight in oysters, perhaps you may want to look for a nearby bed and breakfast and, well, you know … wink, wink.

    Continue up the coast on CA HWY 1 to Bodega Bay, where the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic thriller The Birds was filmed. Drive up to the schoolhouse and take a selfie. Flocks of sinister birds, however, may not be present. Of course, Bodega Bay is much more than just the movie. It is a fishing town known as the “gateway to Sonoma Coast” that offers great seafood dinning, and scores of outdoor activities as well as artsy shops and galleries.

    From Bodega Bay, CA HWY 1 takes you through the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts filled with breathtaking views of both rugged and serene coastlines. Pick and choose where you would like to stop, get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the vast infinite beauty. Eventually, you’ll find your way to Fort Bragg. Here, a glass beach is the main attraction, and you have the option of taking the difficult or the easy trail to get there. Glass Beach got its name from the millions of smooth glass pebbles that line the beach, but over the years visitors have illegally taken a large number of these small glass treasures, slowly depleting the original beauty of the beach.

    Although you’ve reached the end of CA HWY 1, your road trip continues north on US HWY 101 to Avenue of the Giants. The giant redwood tree is a California treasure, and you may have seen some large redwood groves in the Bay Area or at Muir Woods. But nothing you have seen can match the size, in particular, and the height of the redwood trees along the Avenue of the Giants at Humboldt State Redwood Park. I recommend you spend a little extra time here to explore the groves, the trails, and the numerous fallen giants.

    At the northern end of Avenue of the Giants, take Mattole Road west through the state park, and over the hills to the Lost Coast, a mostly undeveloped area of Humboldt County. The Lost Coast got its name in the 1930s when the area suffered an exodus of people leaving behind largely untouched natural beauty since that time. If you are a serious hiker, the Lost Coast offers lengthy, challenging trails not for the faint of heart.

    From the Lost Coast, follow Mattole Road to the historic, well preserved Victorian-style town of Ferndale, a little weekend hideaway and getaway place full of charm and tranquility.

    Head north on US HWY 101 to Eureka, the city named after the famous “I found it [gold]” exclamation! For those who are history buffs, Eureka the city is designated as a historic landmark by the state of California because it once played the most significant role in the western lumber trade and the area housed hundreds of lumber mills. In addition, Eureka is home to many well-known Victorian-style homes with the Carson House leading the way. Eureka also hosts the annual Kinetic Parade, where all floats must be kinetic but non-motorized and the participants dress in extravagant costumes.

    There is a little-known historic fact about Eureka. From the mid-1880s to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, anti-Chinese sentiments or Sinophobia on the West Coast grew exponentially, although the Chinese people played an important role in the development of the economy. The Chinese provided an essential labor-intensive work force in agriculture, lumber, and infrastructure. Nevertheless, in 1885 the city of Eureka implemented a Chinese expulsion plan that swiftly deported, without choice or rights, virtually all of the 480 Chinese residents to San Francisco. The plan was so successful that all of the surrounding cities modeled their own Chinese expulsion plans after the city of Eureka.

    When in Eureka, I recommend you check out the Clarke Museum chronicling the Chinese expulsion as well as the Samoa Cookhouse, a historic lumber mill museum with an original lumber mill dining hall style restaurant serving authentic lumberjack meals.

    For those of you who would like to explore the northernmost coastline of California, continue on US HWY 101 north through more beautiful coastline scenery, giant lagoon state parks, and Redwood National Park. From just south of Avenue of the Giants to near the Oregon border, there are numerous fun drive-thru redwood trees and other intriguing redwoods of interest. But beware; many of these places require an entrance fee.

    Your journey up the Northern California coastline ends in Crescent City, just miles south of the Oregon border, that offers plenty of outdoor activities both on land and at sea. This small coastal city’s beach is shaped like a crescent, hence the name, and the city is surrounded by lagoons, dunes, wildlife, and redwood forests. On the western end of the city sits the historic Battery Point Lighthouse, accessible by foot only during low tide when the receding waters uncover scores of wildlife.

    This concludes our journey. I hope you enjoyed your road trip up the Northern California Coastline. I am certain there are many things you’ll discover on your own that will help your trip to become uniquely yours.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published June 24, 2021