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Pacific Coast Highway, Day 5: Port Orford to McKinleyville

California, here we come! But first a word about Oregon. At times it feels like we’re alone here as stunning seascapes give way to insulated, tangled rain forests. Oregon is a wonderful place for contemplation. As someone who enjoys solitude and quiet, I know I shall miss it amidst the crowds of southern California.

Since our hotel didn’t even have a functioning ice machine, we set off in search of breakfast in nearby Gold Beach. While waiting for the restaurant to open, we stumbled upon the cutest little country store.

Their baked goods looked so good that I was sure they must be trucked in from somewhere but, no, the owner baked most of them and the clerks added their own contributions. You can see why I had to buy some, can’t you?

The teenage cashier, who was as excited to talk about food as I was, then turned around and spoke to the hubs with equal enthusiasm about agates. Turns out she’s a collector. Basically, she could have been our Native American love child.

On to  breakfast.

Rolling in the dough is in a converted 1890 farmhouse. The chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute. We had the place to ourselves. They had smoked salmon and fresh croissants with French brie. *pause to revive after my swoon.*

Thanks to the helpful clerk at the country store, we found a new place to search for agates. Today I helped, which basically consisted of me saying, “Is this one? Is this one?” every few minutes. He didn’t say the words, but I’m pretty sure he appreciated my hard work.

Next up was Azalea Park in Brookings. (I love azaleas.) The flowers were past their prime, but they had a fun playground. When you’re four and on your first vacation, you think a playground is the equivalent of Disneyworld.

She has my natural grace and athleticism.

California popped into view soon after. Right away things were different because we were stopped at the border. After being assured that we weren’t smuggling plants or fruit, we were allowed in. Gas immediately jumped from 4.17 a gallon to 4.55, and the weather seemed to respect the border, too. Things were dryer, irrigation systems were in place.

When the trees became so large that they blocked our radio signal, we knew we were in Redwood country. In case we needed further proof, there were these guys.

We detoured off the main road into Prairie Creek State Park. This is a big tree.

We knew because the sign told us so. The sign also said this tree is over a thousand years old, 380 feet tall, and 68 feet around.

There’s no way to impart the majesty of the forest.

(At this point if we were together, I would begin a rousing rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” Do your best to pretend I’m there, singing in your ear.) Walk just a few feet off the trail, and you are swallowed. There’s no sound except the wind in the trees. It’s beauty beyond description.

As beautiful as it was, this was also the first time I ever shared the woods with mountain lions, the first time I ever saw a sign warning me to hold onto my (snack-sized) child. For some reason, the lions made me more nervous than the bears.

On our way out of the park, we saw a long-awaited sight–elk.

Clearly they are terrified of humans. This one was so close, we had to zoom back the lens.

Next up, Arcata. Ah, Arcata! A community so enmeshed in hippie culture that I got odd looks for wearing deodorant and not wearing dreads. (Not kidding. I saw a four year old with dreads down to his behind.) Hippies like food, bless them. Hence the Arcata Co-op.

Think Whole Foods plus ten. Amazingly, I walked away empty-handed. The smell of incense must have temporarily derailed my senses. (I was tempted by the kombucha tea, but that’s another post.)

For supper, we ate like lumberjacks. (You think I already eat like a lumberjack; admit it.) This was like real lumberjacks at a real lumberjack camp–The Samoa Cookhouse. (Samoa here refers to the city and not the Polynesian country.)

Food was served as it was a hundred years ago–family style on long redwood tables.

The meal was all-inclusive, bread, salad, soup, chicken-fried pork with bacon gravy, roast beef, peas, baked potatoes, and chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Oh, and did I mention it was all from scratch? Even the salad dressing was homemade.

Tomorrow we take our first baby steps into wine country. Will they let us in if they find out we don’t drink? Fingers crossed.



About vanessagraybartal

Author. Eater. Wife. Mother. Not necessarily in that order.

4 responses to “Pacific Coast Highway, Day 5: Port Orford to McKinleyville

  1. Valerie Harrintgon ⋅

    Much better. Your pics of Mira are helping me with my withdrawal. Liking the lumberjack idea- so far what has been the best food and best dessert?

  2. Chris Bartal ⋅

    I can’t stress enough how amazing the chicken-fried pork was. It was the best pork I’ve ever had, with the exception of pulled pork bbq. The desserts have mostly been French bakery style, but the pie we had yesterday was really good. The fresh seafood has been delicious if you enjoy fried fish.

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