Sunday, April 1, 2018

Experiencing the west coast from Canada to Mexico

We went adventuring once again recently and this time it was a big road trip! 42 days, 3 countries and over 6,000 kilometers. It was quite a fun adventure - we decided to drive from our home in BC Canada, down the coast of the USA to Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Mexico. The return trip was taking us up through Tijuana to LA then over to Las Vegas and back over to the coast and upwards to our home. So many interesting things to see and experience on this trip I feel like I will need to break it down into separate blogs otherwise it will turn into a book! 

So let's start with the drive down the coast and the scenery.  

Driving along the coast with the windy, wet days surrounding us just added a bit to the sense of mystery that we were feeling as we were surrounded by trees that were covered with a white lichen type of moss. I suppose the constant dampness in the air between the ocean breezes and the naturally damp west coast climate makes for a good breeding ground for the lichen. It was really quite eerie looking and I kept thinking how this landscape could make for a good movie locale for a spooky type of script. Thoughts of this sort continued to distract me while I was driving along and it was really bothering me that I wasn't able to drive and put my thoughts on paper at the same time. The creepy movie scenarios running through my head were further fueled by the fact that we were often alone on the road with no one else coming along from either direction. Added to the creepy forest on one side was the addition of the strange ocean side vistas on the other, which included long areas of hard packed mud with channels carved through them as if some large creature had slithered its way out of the creepy forest, craving a deep path through the mud on its journey towards the ocean. You see how my thoughts were going. If only I was able to record my thoughts while I was driving.

We had a great time driving our GPS crazy - we would get up in the morning, decide how far we wanted to travel that day and line up our hotel for the night. We put the hotel address in our GPS so we knew we would end up at the right place. No matter how many times we shifted off track because we saw a sign that suggested an interesting destination that we needed to investigate, we knew we would get to our end destination without any problem..  At one point in Washington we realized that there was a small ferry service that ran between the islands that dotted the coast so we decided that would be more fun than just driving along the highway so off we went. It was actually just a short ferry trip but another fun adventure. I was really impressed to see that the ferry had jigsaw puzzles set out throughout the boat for people to enjoy while they were making the crossing - surprising considering that it was only about a 1/2 hour ferry ride. B.C. Ferries should consider implementing something like this! 

I remembered the coast line of Oregon from when I drove down it with my family as a teenager. It made such a huge impression on me that I was quite excited to see it once again. Although the time of year (late January) wasn't really the best time to explore the coast, as it was mostly wet and cold, we did still get that same sense of awe from the huge, majestic rocks rising out of the ocean along the coast. The rocky, craggy coastline and crashing waves are a thing of beauty. 

All along the coastal highway are many, many pull offs, view points and camping areas. I would really suggest that as you are travelling you take the time to stop at the visitor information booths along the way. They are always a great source of information about the best things to see along the drive. Everything from natural beauty to some of the lovely, small historic type towns that we stopped at - ah but that's a story for another blog.

We would stop and chat with the people at the information booths and explain to them the route we were taking. They were great at giving us brochures on things that were along our way and that we must make sure we see. Often they have discount coupons available for attractions in the area as well. One such stop was this one pictured here. Had the woman at the information center not told us we would never have stopped as it was simply a pull off area on the side of the highway with a path leading into the woods. The path lead to a lookout area where you can see the water surging through these two arches that were carved into the rock protruding from the ocean.

At one point as we were driving along we noticed a helicopter hovering over the water so we had to stop to check it out. We were immediately concerned as there was a boat right in the area as well. We feared that someone had been swept overboard but upon talking with some locals who were also watching the activity we learned that this was actually a training exercise for the coast guard. You never know what you will see!

As we got closer to the redwood forests we traveled through many park like areas and encountered signs that warned us of Elk. Now that was a new experience, we were used to seeing signs about deer, mountain sheep and even, occasionally on our travels, moose but this was the first time I had even seen an Elk warning sign. Okay, we think, cool maybe, we'll see an elk, that would be a first for us as well. So we're driving along and come around a corner (sorry no picture) and we see a herd of animals in the field - like seeing a herd of cattle however in this case it was a whole herd of Elk - like 40 or 50 of them! Awesome! They were just leisurely grazing through the field towards someone's house. Later we again came across a few Elk and these ones were in no way intimidated by us. You can see by this picture that we actually drove up and stopped right beside it and it didn't even acknowledge us; it just continued grazing with no concern at all for our proximity. 

Our journey continued through Oregon and then on into the redwood forests of California. Oh, if trees could talk! Can you imagine the stories and lessons they could teach us. What majestic trees we saw; as we were driving I just kept saying Wow - it was just that impressive. When you think you can't be awed anymore you round a corner and it's even more majestic than the moment before. I think there actually was a great benefit to driving through here at this time of year; although wet and cold, it was also practically deserted so we could meander along and enjoy all the beauty that nature was presenting to us. We even had to make like tourists and do the "drive through a tree" thing - I mean really, how could we not? How many times do you ever get to actually drive through a living tree?

We continued our journey through California with a couple of more stops before we reached our end destination but these I will save for another blog to do more with the towns we visited and local attractions we took in.

As I reflect upon our adventure while writing this I'm getting excited for more roadtrips and rest assured there will be many more in our future.