Travelogue: The Golden State Part II

Yikes! We’ve clearly fallen off of the wagon when it comes to regularly updating our travelogues .  This is partly the result of me working more hours during the week, us logging a lot more miles behind the wheel, and spending most of our free time exploring the places we visit. Excuses aside, I’ll spend the next two blog posts playing catch up and bring the blog up to date.

Highway One

Following our stint at Bodega Bay, we headed north along the famous Highway 1 for some scenic and completely hair raising driving. Highway 1 has a well earned reputation for being a gorgeous road to drive. As a passenger, the experience is magical. You’ll be afforded uninterrupted views of the brilliantly colored Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs dotted with wildflowers, and rolling green hillsides. However, if you’re driving a 35 foot bus around the cliff-hugging curves of this scenic roadway, you can expect a very different experience. The sheer drop-offs and almost 180 degree switchbacks coupled with several areas of severe road damage, made for a nerve-wracking experience. Ryan, who elected to drive this stretch of road, would like to blame at least one or two of recent his grey hairs on parts of Highway 1. All driving stress aside, it’s definitely a route worth taking as the northern California coastline is especially beautiful.

Driving Highway 1 in Converted School Bus

View form northbound Highway 1

Scenic pullout on Highway 1 California

We stopped for lunch at a particularly scenic spot.

View of Hills along Highway 1

Northern California landscape


Harbor seals and their pups lounging on the beach along Highway One

Mendocino, CA

Where we stayed: Van Damme State Park

Wanting to take in more of California’s beautiful coastlines, we opted to check out the area surrounding the tiny and quaint town of Mendocino. We stayed in Van Damme State Park, a small, lushly forested state park with miles of peaceful hiking trails. Across the street from the park entrance is a public beach that provides access to the Pacific via a rugged cove.

Camping at Van Damme State Park

View of our bus through the trees at Van Damme State Park

Hiking Trails Van Damme State PArk

Wildflowers dotted the hiking trails at Van Damme State Park.

Unfortunately, cell phone coverage completely disappeared as soon as we entered the state park. At first this was frustrating as we both had deadlines to meet for work. However, an evening walk along the shore revealed that a solid 4G signal was accessible at the beach. So, we did the only smart thing and moved our office to the beach. We parked the bus there each morning, and worked with a view of the waves through our windows. It was definitely our best office view yet!

Van Damme State Park Beach CA

The rugged coastline at Van Damme State Park

Van Damme State Park Beach CA Driftwood

Driftwood on the beach.

Van Damme State Park Beach CA

No safe harbor here. Massive, jagged rocks lurk amidst the waves.

We didn’t know it at the time, but our visit corresponded with the start of the abalone diving season. Knowing absolutely nothing about abalone, we didn’t understand why this would bring such a crowd. Then we met a really fun and generous group of folks from Sacramento who welcomed us at their campfire and shared this amazingly tasty delicacy. Holy cow, were we impressed! We can now attest that abalone definitely tastes delicious and understand why people dive through 50 degree water for these puppies.

During a day trip to Mendocino, we were really struck by its overwhelming quaintness. Seriously, this place looks like it could easily be the alternative set for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. It’s definitely a unique place, and I half expected (okay, okay, half hoped) anyone who stepped out of a the town’s numerous Victorian buildings to be wearing a monocle and smoking a pipe.

Village of Mendocino, CA

Ridiculously cute house in Mendocino, CA

Home in Mendocino, CA

Nearly every home had its own lookout tower or observation deck.

Parking Converted Bus Mendocino, CA

We barely squeezed into parking on the narrow village streets.

Lake Shastina, CA

We Stayed at: Lake Shastina Recreation Area

After the coast, we headed back south for a brief visit to Sacramento before pushing northward along I-5 towards the Mt. Shasta area. Our stay in the Bay Area and along the California coast was more expensive than we would have liked, so we were definitely on the hunt for a few days of free camping. When we found Lake Shastina Recreation Area just outside the small town of Weed, CA, we knew we had hit the free camping jackpot!

View of Mt Shasta from Lake Shastina Campground

Mt. Shasta in the distance.

With ample waterfront camping, nearby hiking, a beautiful view of Mt. Shasta, and a solid 4G cell connection, we spent the better part of a week enjoying the lake. Though there is a designated hiking trail near the campground, we opted instead to climb another bluff that, though steeper and lacking an actual trail, offered much nicer views of the area. Reaching the peak right at sunset meant that we got to see Mt. Shasta turn a spectacular shade of violet.

Hiking Lake Shastina Campround CA

Hiking at Lake Shastina Rec Area

Weed itself is a neat little town with good coffee, interesting stores, and a local brewery. On our way out of the area, we briefly stopped in downtown Weed, CA for breakfast and to make the round of several curio shops in an effort to enlarge my post-card collection. When visiting any of the souvenir stores, expect to find an endless selection of items bearing the “I ♥ Weed” slogan that seems to be this town’s favorite play on words.

With that, our time in California ended, and we crossed the border into the unfamiliar territory of Oregon. In our next post, I’ll recap our first time visiting the Pacific northwest!


6 thoughts on “Travelogue: The Golden State Part II

  1. Susan Monk says:

    Justine, I remember Daddy driving up that highway from L. A. to San Francisco, pulling our little 13′ camper that he had modified to sleep all seven of us! I remember Mom being more nervous about the drive than Daddy was! I also remember the beauty of the scenery and the wild flowers. I’m so glad that you and Ryan made that trip.


    • Justine says:

      Thanks, Susan. It was a really spectacular drive. Ryan was particularly glad he already had several thousand miles of driving experience under his belt before we attempted Highway 1. 🙂


  2. Linda Ayers says:

    Loved Mendocino. Your camping spot with the view of Mt. Shasta makes me want to go back to California to see the things I missed the first time.


  3. Michael and Imkelina says:

    Your post offered a wonderful dialogue of your trip and some beautiful photos…fine camera work. We took a similar route up the northern coast of Hwy 1 in May and loved it. Will be in the Mount Shasta area in September on the McCloud River staying at Fowlers Campground at river’s edge. Cattle Camp campground would also be perfect for your rig if you decide to revisit the area. We love your Australian Cattle Dog…we have “Sydney”. Safe travels and look forward to your next post.


    • Justine says:

      Thanks for reading our blog – glad you’re enjoying it! The Mt. Shasta area is really pretty, and we’ll keep your recommendations in mind the next time we’re in the area. Happy travels to you too!


  4. Carol says:

    The photography is absolutely stunning as is the narrations. With all the travel thus far is there one particular place you would choose to settle down where the hospitality and beauty would draw you back. It’s really great to read about and see all these the updates. keep up keeping us posted on your whereabouts and adventures! And above all, be safe.


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