The "Skunk" and "Trees of Mystery"

Day 4 - "Trees of Mystery" to Santa Cruz - "Do you know the way through San Jose?.."

Thursday, April 1st, 1999, 9 am

The morning dawned bright and cold. Very cold. Even I thought it was cold. And the heater in the room was...inadequate. Still, we got up, packed the car, checked out, then walked across the highway to take the actual "Trees of Mystery" tour.

Now, I've been by Trees of Mystery at least seven or eight times, but the only time prior to this I've actually taken the walk through the "exhibits" was so long ago my age was probably a single-digit. And I remembered absolutely nothing of it. And though Dee Dee's been by it a few times herself - she's never gone in even as a child.

So we trot off through the cold, moist air of morning and go through the tunnel-like entrance to the Trees.

Trees of Mystery is a classic example of the kind of roadside attraction that used to be everywhere. Natural wonders on display, with hokey names, scenes described in semi-poetic grandiose terms, attempts to link the whole area with mythic Indian legends, and the inevitable grade "B" art loosely related to what you're seeing. ToM, though, is much better than the average here.

Tiny Dee Dee, Big Paul Up a tree
"Trees Of Mystery"
Bigggg tree Mysterious Trees...

For one thing, while not "mysterious," its redwood trees really are pretty spectacular. You've got really big trees, the "Candelabra Tree" with a half-dozen trees growing out of a horizontal one, the very nice "Cathedral Tree" where they hold weddings, and many others. The Cathederal Tree

And their carvings of the legend of Paul Bunyan - the "Trail of Tall Tales," done by Kenyon Kaiser - are actually good. They kinda gave me a "Lord of the Rings" feeling, for some odd reason.

Anywho, the walk takes about an hour-and-a-half, mostly because it's pretty steeply uphill through the dark, wet forest for half of it, and in spite of the cold (I don't think it broke 50o while we were there) we had a very good time. Inside the new 'Forest Cafe'Tour over, we bought a couple of things at the giftshop, then headed back across the highway for breakfast at ToM's restaurant "The Forest Café." I'd eaten there a couple of years before on the trip back from Westercon Seattle and found it a terribly nice little place, all filled with odd little wooden gewgaws and decorations.


Unfortunately, the old restaurant burned down the previous year and the new replacement isn't as nice, IMHO, but then, the "new" hasn't worn off yet. While you can see they're trying, it's kinda "sparse" inside. Maybe after a few more years of collecting decorations and "character" it'll get to be more like what it once was. Oh, and the pancakes are smaller too.

We're now on the road again. During breakfast, we got to talking with the waitress, somehow the subject of salmon jerky came up and she said that one of her earlier customers had gotten some that he said was "real good" in the town of Trinidad, about fifty miles down the road. Well, heck, we'd planned on trying some, we certainly had to pass the town, and here was a nice recommendation, so it would be Trinidad for salmon jerky. More elk

And along the way south, what should we pass, but yet more elk.

Trinidad proved to be a tiny, but beautiful town, perched high on the cliffs overlooking its rock-filled harbor. In spite of not knowing exactly where we were going for the jerky, the store proved to be pretty easy to find (like I said, it's a tiny town). Trinidad's harbor

We picked up the planned jerky (kinda a disappointment, as it turned out. Oh, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't very jerky-like) plus some clam-chowder concentrate (now that was good). Then we went over to the top of the cliff to look down over the harbor. Very pretty.

Onwards again! We zip through Eureka, then, just south of the city, I surprise Dee Dee by taking turnoff to Ferndale.

Ferndale is a small town (this has been a trip for small & tiny towns) with one of the best preserved Victorian sections around. Almost the entire downtown is made up of Victorian-era buildings. Downtown Ferndale

Though still somewhat of a farming community, its primary business these days seems to be tourism. The town abounds with Victorian B&B's, they have various festivals, and in general the shops cater to the tourist trade.

Still a pretty little town, though.

We tour through the town pretty quickly, and then it's back to the 101 and south again. Soon we hit Leggett, where we got on the 101 in the first place, and now we're into "new" territory.

Forty-five minutes later, we're in Willits. This town is the other end oft the Skunk railroad, so you can bet I'm going to make a stop at the Willits Depot, since I couldn't ride the train through. California Western's Willits - 'Skunk' - Depot

It proves to be easy to find - and closed for the day. But right up the street, Willits has a small, but wonderfully nice museum, the "Mendocino County Museum". Dee Dee and I visit the place for a while. The exhibit of local area history is very well done (I haven't seen better), and I recommend stopping in if you're in town.

By now it's getting on in the afternoon, so we're booming southwards pretty much as fast as we can. I've gotten it into my head that we'll stop for the night in Santa Cruz, and that's still nearly two-hundred miles away.

We make miles, though, until about five, when on the outskirts of San Rafael we hit Traffic Jam!

The traffic continues to be painfully slow until after we cross over the Golden Gate. It picks up a bit in San Francisco proper, but even "running fast" in San Francisco is pretty darn slow (except in the movie Bullet...).

Eventually, though, we get south of the city. Now comes "The horror that is Bay Area Freeways." There's probably a more confusing set of freeways somewhere, but I really don't want to have to drive it.

I'm looking for the 17, which should take me right from San Jose in to Santa Cruz. Eventually, we even find it, and start tooling through the low hills and dark forests north of Monterey Bay.

Finally we hit Santa Cruz. We're so tired I stop, basically, at the first motel we hit getting off the 17. Then, it's a brief dinner from McDonalds, and sleep.

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