I stopped overnight, some two hours north of Tuoloumne Grove and the Yoesemite National Park, at the Hanford House Inn, in Sutter Creek. This was a lovely guest house – plush luxury for two-thirds the price of Wawona – about the same standard as the Marriot in San Francisco, for half the price. Sutter Creek is one of several old Gold towns on Route 49 north from Yosemite, but its tourist industry has preserved much of the charm of the old west town better than most. Well worth a visit, though I didn’t have time to go down the Gold Mine that looked curiously inviting!
Driving up the Gold trail today I discovered that the heat of northern California in August really is bigger down in the valleys than it is up in the high peaks of Yosemite. Past Sacramento and on up to Clear Lake I followed the suggestion of one of the tourist magazines to stop for lunch at Lakeport. This, however, proved very disappointing – much more run down than Sutter Creek, and the only lakeside eatery I could see was part of a Motel that didn’t look very inviting for casual drop-in guests. I skipped lunch and drove on, choosing instead to take the scenic route further on Route 20 west to the coast, in order to take the old Route 1 north to the Humboldts National Park. I’m glad I did. A late picnic lunch at a little campsite in the heart of the Jackson
Demonstration National Forest proved very peaceful – indeed the whole forest was cool and peaceful, on the road west, and when I finally reached Route 1 the scenic views of the Pacific were well worth it.
Arriving in Redwood country in the early evening, the first tourist trap to greet one is the Legett drive through tree, which was frankly exploitative, and clearly hacked with a chainsaw – and that not so long ago. But soon after the Avenue of the Giants proper begins, and the magnificence, the majesty of these enormous trees, proves truly awe inspiring. My room at the Myers Inn in Myers Flat was comfortable, the hostess fabulously enthusiastic, informative and helpful, and after a rather stodgy meal at the only restaurant for 10miles, I spent an hour simply wandering among the trees, in the cool of the evening, thankfully all to myself. It was quiet, peaceful, like a cathedral closed to the public, cool, and yet very, very much alive, albeit in a slow,
ponderous, very slowly pulsing way. These Sequoia trees – the ones in Yosemite, these clinging to the northern Californian coast, and a third group in the wilds of China – are all that is left, according to the
fossil record, of a Redwood forest that once covered almost the entire planet.