Muir Beach & Glass Beach
As we left San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in our rear view mirror, we looked forward to driving all the way up the coast on California Highway-1 to Crescent City where Redwood National Park waited.
I remembered planning the trip with my wife and her saying we don’t have to go that far to see giant redwoods. But what she soon understood was that I HAD to see THE National Redwood Forest. And for reasons I’ll explain, it was well worth the drive!
The whole day was reserved to meander up the coast, stopping wherever we wanted. We were hardly out of the Bay Area when we made our first spontaneous stop – “Let’s go swimming!”
Muir Beach was empty except for one other couple and their toddler. They were struggling to light a fire in the wind. As we walked like penguins in the deep soft sand past them, we were friendly but they seemed to not care to talk so we trudged on to where rocks large, small and humongous littered the beach and shallow water. We delighted in dipping our bare feet into the Pacific Ocean for the first time and instantly realized you do not go swimming at Northern California beaches – Brrrr!
So the kids ran around as free spirits as we relaxed, took scenic pictures and breathed in deep the brisk ocean breeze.
“Check it out!” the kids called. “Looks like a Jellyfish.”
I grabbed the video camera and focused just when a wave hurled it at my legs.
My reaction was perhaps “wimpy” to the point everyone was laughing AT me. I was laughing AT me. I looked up the beach and I swear that grumpy couple was laughing AT me.
I survived and we moved on.
As we drove, we took in the incredible coastal views from the twisting hillsides of mountains plunging into the ocean. I had to be careful of bicyclists as we wrapped around blind curves. Pelicans flew by, distracting me.
Then we tried to figure out the intoxicating smell wafting in the breeze. It wasn’t wine country. Our guess was some sort of tree but what kind? The answer wouldn’t come for several days when we’d befriend a ranger at Yosemite. The drive didn’t grow old but my arms grew tense from the constant twisting and turning of the steering wheel as we passed cliffs, beaches, marshland and dunes. I was amazed at the untouched natural landscape all the way up the coast on both sides of Highway-1.
Another thing that weaved in and out, rather up and down, was the temperature. As the road curved inland for a bit, the digital car barometer read 83 degrees. Swing closer to the water again and it plunged to 55 degrees.
This was a planned stop.
Glass Beach used to be a city dump near Fort Bragg, California. When they cleaned it up, they left only the glass trash behind. The rocks broke it, the water smoothed it, and now, people collected it. All the big pieces were picked over long ago but a seemingly endless supply of little rounded glass stones remain.
We weren’t nearly as prepared as other glass hunters staking claims to areas of the hidden beach, sifting into buckets like 49ers. We used our hands and pockets. After our pants sagged to the ground, we sang a song we remembered hearing on America’s Got Talent, “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with your …”
None-the-less, it was my favorite kind of souvenir – free!
Glass Beach looked pretty cool washed off and filling a vase showing off an eye-popping array of color.
The drive was taking longer than we thought but not too far off the course was a drive-thru tree! A TREE YOU CAN DRIVE THOUGH! C’mon, there’s no decision there.
Before we knew it, we were in Leggett, California staring at Chandelier Tree, standing at some 300 feet tall. It had tourist trap written all over it but I just couldn’t resist. Besides, we had a rental car. It turned out to be the largest and oldest Redwood we’d see. When we pulled up for our turn to drive through, I realized we might not make it without scraping the sides of this new sporty SUV. Then it dawned on me that I did not buy the extra insurance. So my wife got out to meet us on the other side so she could take pictures and also guide me as I inched inward.
The kids loved it. So did I even though I voiced many “nervous” sounds as I eyed up how close the tree closed in around the vehicle.
“Check this out. We’re like an inch from wood,” came a kid’s voice filled with exuberance.
I instantly stopped and was about to drop a “bomb” when the kids laughed and said, “Just kidding that was us.”
I kept inching forward, knowing the train of traffic behind me was growing impatient.
By the time we got out of the tree my I had a gray beard.
But the picture proved we did it.
After a pizza and ice cream stop, it was nothing but driving into the dark. Big sis used little bro’s head as a pillow smothered under her pillow.
Nearing our destination, my wife and I marveled at the bizarre nightscape we were driving through. Our ribbon of road had no streetlights. It was as black as night could be except a headlight or taillight here and there. Looking high above in every direction were trees that seemed to reach into the heavens above. Majestic and haunting at that hour. We felt like ants. It was surreal. A feeling I will always remember. Man humbled by the power of nature. As it should be.
Serenity was on the mind that night.
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