Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants

We awoke early which isn’t unexpected since we were not yet adjusted to Pacific Time. We did a few things in the room at the Ukiah Day’s Inn, answered a few emails and had our Raisin Bran breakfasts. We both felt that we slept well. We packed up and prepared to travel north through redwood forests to Eureka on the coast. 

We traveled on Highway 101 to Garberville where we took the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwood State Park. Along the way we saw a herd of elk that included a very large bull and about 10 cows and juveniles.  They were impressive. We stopped at several trailheads and walked through the huge redwood trees. We hoped that we could pick up some information at the park headquarters, but they were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While walking around a loop trail, we came upon the park naturalist who was meeting with a class of students via Zoom. He gave us some great tips of places to visit in the park and even good local spots to eat. 

Impressive Coastal Redwood

One place that the naturalist suggested was Bull Creek Flats where a number of large redwood trees were growing. One of the most impressive trees on the trail was the Drury Redwood, which fell in the 1990s but was over 20 feet in diameter when it was standing. We learned that while the giant sequoia trees have a larger diameter, redwoods are taller. We also learned about the efforts of a conservation group in the 1920s to preserve the California redwoods. It wasn’t until John Rockefeller donated one million dollars to the preservation that the state match the money and established the state park system to conserve natural areas. We hiked a trail in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park named the Rockefeller Loop in his honor.

Root of overturned redwood

After leaving the north entrance of Humboldt Redwood State Park, we drove the short distance to Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge,  This wetland area around Humboldt Bay provides feeding and nesting sites for many of the migratory waterfowl, as well as, many other birds and mammals. While walking around the loop trail we saw a number of wading birds, ducks and geese. 
We were pleased that the temperatures today were much more pleasant than yesterday. In fact, we had the heat on in the car for part of the morning.   A steady wind made the air temperature seem even cooler than the mid-60s shown on the rental car’s thermometer. We noticed that the smoke and haze from the recent fires that have been so bad in Northern California and throughout the Pacific Northwest did not seem as bad here.  The cool wind from the ocean probably kept much of the smoke inland.

Great egret hunting for prey

After leaving the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, we drove north on US 101 and checked in at our hotel in Eureka, CA. Although the Super 8 wasn’t in the best part of town, our room was clean and  fairly large. We unloaded a few things then consulted some sites for dinner recommendations. One of the best rated restaurants in town is a food truck that serves fresh locally caught seafood. Loco Seafood Company has a limited menu, but everything is fresh and well prepared. We both decided on the panko breaded fish and chips. We brought the meals back to our room at the Eureka Super 8 where we ate, planned for the day on Thursday then crashed. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arriving in California

Back in April we decided to take a fall trip to see family on the West Coast. We knew that many of our retirement travel plans would be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic but we hoped that the situation would be better under control by October. Travel rates were very affordable and flexible because practically no one was traveling. Government imposed quarantining and travel restrictions made most travel impossible. We were able to fly at no charge using our Delta Skymiles, and secured good rates on motels and the rental car.

Although the pandemic related restrictions were not lifted by fall, they have been eased permitting cautious travel using face masks and social distancing. Most restaurants were still carry out only and airlines have passengers well-spaced. Hotels are doing extra sanitizing in rooms, and everyone has sanitizer available.

We made an unplanned trip on Monday. My former boss and now friend, Dr. Stan Maynard, had sold his cabin at Timberline, near Canaan Valley. To help him get his personal things from the cabin, I rented the smallest box truck offered by Enterprise and had arranged to pick it up when Enterprise opened at 7 am. Mary & I left home at 4:30 am and arrived at Enterprise to learn that they had only their largest box truck available. Making the 4 ½ hour drive from Huntington to Canaan in the huge truck was stressful on the winding mountain roads. With the help of a couple of Timberline maintenance staff, we were able to get the truck loaded in a little over an hour. Because everything was well loaded and strapped down, it arrived back in Huntington without damage. With the help of a couple of medical students who rent from Stan, we were able to unload the truck in less than an hour. We returned the truck to Enterprise and drove our own car back home arriving a little after 9 pm and went straight to bed to rest before we leave tor Sacramento early on Tuesday morning.

We awoke at 4 am on Tuesday morning to drive to Cincinnati airport for our morning flight to Sacramento. As usual, we parked at the Hilton using the OneStopParking plan. The shuttle took us quickly to the Delta terminal of the airport. We had checked in at home and had the boarding passes on our phones, so check-in went easily. Our bag was two pounds over the 50-pound limit, but the agent let it go without an additional charge.

Thanks to our Global Entry status, we were able to go through security quickly and easily. We did not have to remove shoes or jackets, and nothing had to be taken out of our carry-on bags to pass through the scanner. Once through security, the airport had seats marked to assure social distancing and only a few restaurants were open. We were surprised that more people were flying than we anticipated. We walked through the terminal to our gate and ate the breakfast that we packed with us as we waited for our flight to board.

Soon after getting into our seats on the flight from Cincinnati to Salt Lake City, a flight attendant asked us if we were the Beckelhimers and welcomed us to the flight then asked if there was anything that we needed to make the flight a more pleasant experience. We assume that this was because we paid for the flight with Delta Skymiles, and she may have assumed that we fly with Delta much more than we do. We teased that she must have assumed that we were celebrities.

The layover at Salt Lake was not long, and we didn’t have far to go between gates. We noticed that the flight crew for the flight from Salt Lake to Sacramento was the same as the flight from Cincinnati including the flight attendant who greeted us on our first flight leg.

Once we were on at the gate in Sacramento, the crew deplaned passengers slowly to assure social distancing, but our bags were on the carousel and ready for us to pick up, We contacted Uber for the ride from the airport to an Enterprise car rental. The rental rates were a lot lower by not getting the car at the airport. This was our first experience with Uber, and it was good. I don’t know how much a taxi would have cost, but I am sure that it would be more than the $24 for the Uber.

Although I had reserved the rental car back in April, Enterprise managed to get things confused. We showed up at the branch that was near the airport where we had arranged to pick up the car, but they said the rental was scheduled for the downtown branch. However, they said that they could honor the rental but would upgrade the car from the compact we requested at no additional cost. After a bit of a wait we got a black 2020 Ford Fusion. The car was nice and had a lot of options like heated and cooled leather seats and other features that we would be unlikely to use. The temperature in Sacramento was 97 degrees, and we knew that a black car would be hot. It wasn’t until we were well north of the city on Interstate 5 that we discovered that the car’s air conditioning didn’t work. We thought about returning it to Enterprise but knew that our trip would be further delayed while they dealt with the problem. Since we were heading north along the Pacific Coast, we hoped that the temperatures would be cooler for much of our trip. We rolled the windows down, turned on the air conditioned seats, opened the sunroof and were fine.

Our travel plans have us on smaller, more scenic roads for most of our trip only taking Interstate highways to get between our planned routes. The main road that we planned to travel is US 101 sometimes called the Pacific Coast Highway. We took I-5 north for a short distance from Sacramento to Williams where we picked up California Rt. 20, which we took west until we hit Highway 101 near Ukiah, California and found our Days Inn hotel there. We checked in and made plans for dinner.

We made a quick stop at the Walmart in Ukiah for breakfast and lunch on Wednesday as well as bottled water that we like to keep in the car on all of our trips. We picked up Raisin Bran and yogurt for breakfast as well as our usual Ritz Crackers and peanut butter for lunch. We got grapes and bananas for snacks to supplement the bags of nuts and raisins that we packed.

We picked up dinner at a well rated local Mexican restaurant, Villa Del Mar. Mary got beef flautas, and I had chicken enchiladas. Both of us had beans and rice on the side and enjoyed our meals.

There was a general smoky quality to the air in Ukiah, and it was the northern staging ground for fire fighters involved with the Napa Valley fires. We didn't see any fires burning on the drive there, but we did see evidence of where they had been.