Solo Road Trip: Wine Country, Mendocino & the Redwoods

When driving through a world-famous wine region, one would probably think to stop at a few wineries for a tour and a taste. But for whatever reason, I chose to spend my time in Sonoma County wandering the trails and museum at Jack London State Park. Just up the hill from adorable Glen Ellen, this state park sits on 1,400 acres once owned and ranched by author, adventurer, and activist Jack London. 

From the park, I sped my way north through rolling hills of vineyards and hit the coast again just south of Mendocino. That evening, the fog loomed as I settled in at Pegasus Farm in their Sunlit Shanti cabin, which is nestled in the hills above Albion. In the driveway I met Kennedy, a fellow guest and North Carolina native who makes didgeridoos from agave, and he humored me while I snapped photos of his craft. 

The Shanti's lack of wifi gave me a forced pause from the Internet, and one that was greatly appreciated. After dark, I spent the evening brushing my horribly messy dog and reading by lamplight. I slept like I hadn't slept in months. 

Tuesday morning, I woke up early and hit the road, turning on my heat for the first time since starting the trip. In Mendocino's sleepy seaside village, I wandered the streets with Olive and my camera, and picked up a couple of pieces of pottery from an honor system stand in the artist's front yard.

After a work session in Fort Bragg, I headed north again through steep ocean hillsides and shady redwood groves, driving along the unbelievably beautiful Avenue of the Giants. I zagged west briefly for a visit to Ferndale, where I enjoyed a slice of crumb-topped apple pie and bought a pair of seashell earrings. That night, I pulled into Crescent City at sunset for a stay at Kat's Ranch, complete with chickens, horses, dogs, and a couple of cats.

Wednesday, I explored Jedediah Smith State Park, one of the lesser-known, lesser-developed, but better-recommended parks in the area, containing seven percent of all the old-growth redwoods left in the world. Many tout Jed Smith State Park as the most pristine of all the redwood parks in California, and some eager hikers even complain that the park is too undeveloped to fully appreciate the beauty of its exemplary redwoods. 

The park's only road, Howland Hill, is a one-laned track that winds through ancient groves and spans the Smith River several times. I wandered through Stout Grove, a virtual cathedral of giant redwoods, and hiked the shady Boy Scout Tree Trail, a 5.8-mile out-and-back which, for Star Wars fans, was the filming location of several scenes of Endor, the home of the cuddly Ewoks.

I chatted with several fellow hikers along the way—Jeff and Steve, both locals who were out enjoying the weather and the scenery, and Tori, who happens to live in my neighborhood in Boulder. The world is a small and funny place, friends. 

Today it's north again, with my sights set on Portland. California, you've been ever-so good to me. Oregon, I'm coming for you (and your moss).