Day Four – One Hour From San Fran

“5.5” Hours to San Fran – Redwood National Park

Our morning began with campfire scramble courtesy of Sammie. We packed up our tent and hit the road at 7:30 a.m., ready to experience the wonders of Redwood National Park. It was cool and foggy with periodic sprinkles, but the weather quickly cleared as we moved inland. We reached the Avenue of the Giants at 10 o’clock.

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The Avenue of the Giants surpassed all expectations. We visited the park on the eve of July 4th, so it was busy but not overwhelming. We took a slight detour through Rockefeller Forest; this side venture required another laborious, slow drive along a second precarious, pothole-ridden road, but it was absolutely worth it.

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Here in Rockefeller Forest, you can hike to “The Giant Tree” and “The Tall Tree” – which we did, in reverse order. The Tall Tree stands at 359.3 feet with the circumference of 42 feet; it was measured in February 1957. The Giant Tree stands at 363 feet with a circumference of 53.2 feet; it was measured in November 1991.

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We enjoyed the park for several hours, leaving at around 1 o’clock. We said goodbye to Hwy 101 in Leggett, CA, marking our official start on the Pacific Coast Highway as we turned onto Hwy 1. It took all of our Lookout Mountain training to avoid getting carsick during this stretch of our journey. We’ve attempted to find an aerial shot of the road to illustrate just how twisted this mountainous pass truly is. Unfortunately, no satisfactory images have surfaced, so you will have to use your imagination.

“3.5” Hours to San Fran – Fort Bragg, CA

We descended the mountain an hour later, only to have our breath stolen by this view.

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This is when Eliza captured this iconic image of Hannah capturing trip footage for the trip vid (standby for this video – it will be stunning).

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We continued driving south, enjoying a series of vista points along the way. It was impossible to pass by without pausing to take in the view.

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We stopped for lunch in Fort Bragg, eating fish tacos at a local Mexican restaurant before heading across the street to Glass Beach. This beach was once a landfill, but is now a beautiful state park known for its impressive collection of sea glass formed from discarded beer bottles. It wasn’t as grand as its reputation suggested (the sea glass has been picked over by tens of thousands of tourists), but it still boasted more sea glass than any other beach the three of us have visited.

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We made sure to visit Cowlick’s Creamery before leaving town. This ice cream is made from the happy cows of California, and it was delightful. We left Fort Bragg around 6 p.m. excited to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at sundown.

“3” Hours to San Fran – Elk, CA

By this point in the trip, we were convinced that we were an hour away from San Francisco. This, of course, was not accurate. But we believed it nonetheless. We stopped at a lighthouse where the temperature/wind chill was nearly unbearable. We also visited a series of beaches and vista points. Before we knew it, it was 8 p.m. Here’s a picture of Sam celebrating the Pacific Ocean, unaware of the hours and hours and hours of driving we still had left ahead of us. It was a moment of bliss.

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This is a shot of California “sand” also known as pebbles on the east coast.

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“1.5” Hours to San Fran – Valley Ford, CA

If there was any point during this day when we should have gone another way, it would have been at the 1/101 crossroads in Valley Ford, CA. Though it was already dark – the time was 10 p.m. – we chose to continue our coastal route instead of meeting Hwy 101. This was a mistake. This route was plagued with construction and ended with a massive detour on Mt. Tamalpais. Thankfully, one of our best trip moments was born from this mess.

– – – The Story of Norman – – –
We were exhausted and Sam was convinced she saw an owl sitting in the road (yes, just sitting there). Hannah and Eliza did not see said owl, so Sam prayed that the Lord would, “show them the animals” and the next thing we knew, Norman, the fox crossed the road directly in front of us. Relentless laughter ensued (we are still laughing five days later as we discuss the “exact” details of Sam’s spiritual experience). It should also be noted that all three of us screamed at deafening pitches when we rounded the bend and saw Norman staring back at us. Suffice to say, God has a sense of humor.

San Francisco, California – Arrival time – 11:30 p.m.

This was the day when we were “an hour away from San Fran” for a good six hours. According to Hannah’s app, we drove a total of 11 hours and 42 minutes. As a result, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a state of delusion. It was foggy, so we were unable to truly appreciate the experience. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to reach the city and were excited for all of the adventures our next day would hold. It was our longest day yet, but one we will cherish forever.

Day Three – Dreaming of Waffles

No road trip would be complete without matching t-shirts. This is a statement of fact. Here we are, posing in front of Sam’s car – which we’ve dubbed “the blue whale” in honor of ORCA – sporting our matching road trip warrior t-shirts. It’s difficult to tell in this picture, but we are also sporting warrior braids!

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We left Sweet Home at 10 a.m. with the goal of reaching the Redwoods before sunset. Our first stop was in Eugene, Oregon where we had the most off-the-charts-delicious breakfast at Off the Waffle. Sam and Hannah ordered “The Hey Bob” which was topped with sliced apple, melted havarti cheese, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Eliza ordered “The BMB” which stands for Basil Maple Bacon. It was topped with all three AND cheese.

Man. Alive. Friends.

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After leaving Eugene, we drove through Florence, Winchester Bay, and Coos Bay. We stopped at the Umpqua Lighthouse and enjoyed the whale watching deck. No whale sightings for us, unfortunately, but maybe next time! Apparently this is one of the best places to spot one.

An hour later, we stopped in Coos Bay. This is an adorable riverfront town with a small pier/boardwalk. We got out to stretch our legs but only lasted a few minutes. We have all been surprised by how cold it has been on this trip. Temperatures have hovered around the low 60s since we arrived. The wind was fierce, so we quickly got back into the (warm!) car and continued on our way.

And by “continued on our way” I really mean we drove to McDonald’s for McFlurries… because that’s what you eat when you’re cold (and for the doubters out there, trust us, they really hit the spot)

Coos Bay was our last stop before we reached the Oregon coast. Anticipation was high and Bandon did not disappoint. Here we saw the famous haystack rocks. The beach was gorgeous and Hannah and Eliza enjoyed their first encounter with the Pacific Ocean.

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We stopped to take a quick photo in front of the “Welcome to California” sign before continuing south towards Redwood National Park. Crossing into the park was an emotional experience. Sam cried; Eliza sobbed in her heart. Hannah shouted, “YA’LL!” – which is her equivalent to crying.

Gold Bluffs Beach Campground – our home for the evening – is located inside the park in Prairie Creek, CA. Consequently, it seemed necessary (to Eliza at least) that we each choose pioneer names to be used for the duration of our stay. Hannah chose Kirsten, Sam picked Felicity, and Eliza picked Addie (and yes, those are the names of the American Girl dolls. This was unintentional).

After driving six miles on a precarious, pothole-ridden road, we reached the beach right at sunset! It was stunning and left us in awe of God’s perfect timing. We quickly located campsite 12 and set up our tent before dark. Dinner and s’mores before bed was the perfect way to end the day. We fell asleep listening to the ocean. It was absolutely surreal and a bucket list dream come true for all three of us.

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