The second half of the Oregon section of the Pacific Coast Highway seems to have a lot of sand dunes (and sawdust dunes from active logging), which aren’t my thing. I’ve been to the biggest one in the U.S. out in Colorado, and killed a pair of old sneakers there, since the sand just wasn’t coming out. So I just looked at these from afar.
As you drive into California, the difference in the landscape is gradual but noticeable.
The mountains turn into hills, the trees get slightly taller and then you start to notice that they’re getting huge around the middle. And then the redwood signs start popping up, and you realize that US 101 helpfully goes straight through nearly every redwood-containing national and state park in Oregon and California. However, the better stuff requires going off the highway, which I did at the Redwood National Park. You have to get out of the car and stand between these giant spires to really appreciate the effect; light and sound both seem muted, like the very sight of the trees won’t allow any competitors, even other senses.
Also, I think I spotted a herd of elk off the highway on my way out of the park. They were, I think, the wrong color and shape for cows, but I was driving 50 mph and the shoulder wasn’t wide enough for me to pull over to check, so I can’t be sure. Stopping point for the night was Bayside, CA, where I had some excellent costillitas (Cuban-style, braised baby back ribs in chipotle sauce) at Adriana’s. The meat was the proverbial falling off the bone, in a smoky sauce that was pleasantly warm (spicy, not just hot to touch) and savory. With a cool glass of horchata, it was a nice way to refuel after a day of hiking and hopping in and out of the car.
Edit: Forgot to mention the Airbnb spot! Interesting set-up with a loft-style place, and a free $5 gift certificate to the local bakery/coffeeshop to boot.