Redwoods to Grapes: If you travel south from Oregon along the coast, you will first travel from the redwoods to grapes country. Starting in Eureka we travel south through the redwoods to Ukiah heading into the heart of Napa Valley and Calistoga known for grapes, wine, and spas.
Eureka to Ukiah
The distance between Eureka and Ukiah is about one hundred (twisty) miles. The route starts with redwoods and then goes to wine country and the vast fields of grapes. Ukiah is also 30 degrees warmer than Eureka. Eureka is right on the coast, and when there is an onshore breeze, which is the typical weather pattern, it is cold. Eureka is just north of the westernmost land point in California. In Oregon, Cape Blanco is further west and the reason this is all relevant is that the ocean current, along the coast, comes from Alaska, and it is cold. This moderates the temperatures in the summer, but for the rest of the year, this means that it is wet and cold. The best time to be here is in the fall; June is too early in the year.
We didn’t actually stay in Eureka, but rather, just to the north in Klamath, and just to the south, in Stafford. While in Stafford, just inland far enough to not be on the foggy coastline, we lost 20 degrees, and sunshine, just by going back to Eureka for the day.
Why go back to Eureka? Eureka has the largest collection of Victorian Houses in California. Eureka had a combination of three things in 1880 that made it unbeatable. The only comparable California city, in terms of money, in 1880 was San Francisco, and Eureka arguably had it beat — but it wasn’t to last. Eureka had a natural deep water port, great fishing, and whaling, tremendous lumber, and was closer to many of the California gold fields, with shorter roads, than San Francisco. One thing that held Eureka back was that in 1949 San Francisco had a head start. The port in Eureka was hard to find (fog) and undeveloped. In fact, that is how Eureka got its name, as in Eureka – we found it. Starting from nothing in 1850 Eureka became a boomtown.
The redwoods start in Oregon and dominate along Highway 101 all the way to Ukiah. Starting a few miles north of Ukiah the redwoods give way to open hillsides with oak trees. Just north of Ukiah, we started seeing vineyards. Vineyards dominate the landscape in Calistoga which is at the north end of the Napa Valley.
We loved the redwoods and everything about our stay. Stafford is a tiny town and is right next to the Avenue of Giants (massive old-growth redwoods). I didn’t really like the first impression at our RV Park, but once we got around the back, it was fine. I’m really glad we were there in the offseason. We almost had the place to ourselves – and we weren’t there during the day anyway.
We stopped in Garberville, for coffee and this tiny town is on the upswing. Back in the 80s, when my brother lived there, it wasn’t as nice. I was depressed as we drove through town remembering my brother (who is no longer with us).
Starting when we crossed into California, we started seeing most government-owned campgrounds as neglected and super tight. We probably could have stayed at a couple of the sites in Redwoods National and State Parks but the overhanging tree branches prevented us from driving to the campsites. It appears that most of the campgrounds haven’t been updated since the 1960s.
I don’t require much, but obviously, desire more than I require. The minimum requirement is that the roads need to be wide enough and the campsites big enough (we don’t have the biggest RV). My desires include that the campsites would be far enough apart so that conversations can be private. For us, Oregon had this, but California is lacking. California does have a really good, very expensive plan, for a high-speed train from Fresno to Bakersfield.
While in Ukiah (we are staying at the fairgrounds in town) we went to a campground for a walk at Lake Mendocino; 90% of the campground was closed and it appears that it has been closed for years. This doesn’t include the campground next door that was also closed, to provide locations for people displaced by the California wildfires over the last three years. Ukiah is at the south end of the redwoods and at the north end of grape country.
One of my friends told me, a long time ago, that Colorado would be a lot prettier if Colorado had more moisture (like California). I am sure he was contracting the redwoods to the Rockies. The last time I saw the Eel River, it was beautiful, when we saw it this time, it was nearly dry. I hope the winter rains come soon – right after I leave. California can be stunning, but after so many years of drought, (officially over but the long-term effects are obvious) California, right now, is scary dry.
We didn’t intend to become fire tourists. I called ahead for the all-clear on the route and checked to make sure the road was not impacted, but when we drove down the only highway from the north that goes to Calistoga; we drove through the fire-scarred valley. If you are coming from Ukiah, this is the road. Three weeks ago I was concerned about our route southbound, but the fire was out and all clear/open was given. I guess with local knowledge I could have canceled my trip through Calistoga and Napa and gone further west, this would have meant going down Highway 1, rather than the “newer/better” road Highway 101.
I didn’t know much about Calistoga other than it was closer to Napa and further south. Again we are staying in town, at the fairgrounds. Both Ukiah and Calistoga campgrounds are little more than private RV Parks on leased public land in the center of town. The drive from the redwoods all the way to the Sacramento delta has limited options for “nature” camping.
Lots of people encouraged us and endorsed our plan, pertaining to traveling the Oregon coast at the end of the year, even though our initial impression was that this was going to be a rainy mistake, all worked out well.
Now that we are in central California I am ready to give my verdict on traveling the Oregon coastline southbound in Oregon and now in mid-November in California. Wonderful!
Here is a link to the google map for the area.
Link to our 2019 Route
Link to our route Oregon and California Coast
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