We started out our vacation at the Lake. And one of the things we’ve enjoyed lately is heading to a smallish family amusement park in Erie called Waldameer. It’s got a lot of kid rides and it has trees and it’s not too big (or expensive). We take lunch and dinner with us, leave our cooler on a picnic table and go back to it as needed. It’s relaxed and a good time. The week of the 4th of July, they were open on Monday (a day they are normally closed). Still, we were expecting the park to be crowded (as it was a holiday week) and it just never built up.
There are several roller coasters at the park. The first, a wooden one called The Comet, is one that Bridget rode last year. I am not one for rides generally speaking, but I decided why not. I’m trying to relax, roll with things and this seemed like a good opportunity. So Bridget, Brendan and I got on and it wasn’t too bad. Not the best experience I have ever had, but not horrible either. Then, bouyed by this, Brendan convinced me to get on the Ravine Flyer II. It’s still a wooden coaster, but definitely more intense. There are signs about how if you have a heart condition or are prone to strokes then DO NOT GET ON THE RIDE. Yeah, I was nervous. In line for the Comet was bad enough (I felt like I was going to throw up), so it was a good thing that the park wasn’t crowded. We were able to just walk up and get on the Ravine Flyer II (in fact this was the case all day, Bren got on at least 6 times) so there was no time for me to get too worked up. So the ride was not something I want to experience again. I am solidly not a fan of roller coasters. But I tried. I will stick to Ferris Wheels and Merry-go-rounds thankyouverymuch.
Johnny had a lot of fun on just about everything. This ride in particular — an old school kiddie ride with glittery metalic vehicles and a string to hold him in — was his favorite of the day. But he tried everything with great enthusiasm. Except for the haunted house ride (which was too scary and he declared “I don’t want to get on that again!” at the end), they were all successes. The tea cups couldn’t spin around fast enough (I skipped that one) and The Hopper was perfectly hoppy. When we were riding the Scrambler (my personal favorite), he asked “Daddy make it go fast again?!”.
Bridget tried everything she could, too. Even when she was a little scared (the Octopus and the Pirate ship) she hung tough. I am glad she’s not afraid of trying things. She was almost tall enough for everything. Next year I think is going to be even more fun.
Here Bridget is perfecting her fake pout. I forget exactly why she was pretending to be mad, but it doesn’t matter. I think if I Photoshopped that clown hat into a Santa hat, it would make a perfect Holiday card. It makes me laugh every time I look at it.
The day even ended on a spectacular note, Brendan won the kids ridiculously large stuffed animals at the Ring Toss (and really, who ever wins that game?!).
We spent the better part of today exploring Mount Lassen National Volcanic Park. Brendan is feeling much better. He had himself quite a large breakfast — biscuts & gravy, eggs, toast, bacon, potatoes — that is, once breakfast actually came. It was so slow that I got fed up with waiting and went back to the room to pack.
The park is quite large. We decided to take the 30 mile road that cuts through the western part of it and stopped along the way to see various things. The volcano itself isn’t all that active. It last erupted in 1914 – 1921, but it’s still got “all the elements” for another eruption. Whatever that means.
The big thing that Brendan wanted to see were the fumeroles and mudpots. We saw some at our first stop at the sulfur springs, but then hiked to what’s called Bumpass Hell to see even more. It was actually quite pretty (although smelly). It wasn’t too hot of a day either, we were at a decent elevation (7,000 – 8,000 feet) so it was only about 75/80 max at any given point.
We gave some thought initially to hiking to the peak of the volcano, but it’s a 5 hour hike round trip, so we decided to skip it. On the way out of the park we stopped to see the rocks thrown and created by the 1914 eruptions.
Then it was back to Sacramento and the airport for our 11pm flight home. We were ahead of schedule by quite a bit so we decided to stop at a casino off the highway. Brendan now thinks that slot machines are my new calling. As soon as we got there, I sat down with $20 and made us $200. Of course, once I do that I’m ready to leave. We stayed around for a while, I spent some of my winnings, and Brendan played BlackJack until it was time to go. We had another small stop back at the Sonic next to the first hotel, “borrowed” their internet access and had Cherry Limeades until it was time to leave for the airport.
Today we drove up even farther north to Redwood National Park. A friend of Brendan’s brother’s has recommended that we check out Fern Canyon. I’m glad we took his advice. The park is about 50 minutes north of here. Instead of hiking 8 miles from the park offices, we decide to drive to a point that’s less than a mile from the canyon. It’s this little gravel road that winds around and down to the shore and down to the canyon. Did I mention we’ve rented a Seabring? It takes a minute for me to get my eyes used to the woods once we enter them. I’m startled because it looks like a black and white photo. It takes a moment to realize that the road kicks up so much grey dust that it has covered the ferns and the trees on the edge of the road. They are so thickly coated that everything is in shades of grey.
We make it to the end of the road and set off to first explore the beach. It’s much flatter here and more like the beaches that I am used to on the Atlantic. We walk down to the water and take a few photos of the birds there. I am leading us on the way back and out of the corner of my right eye I see them: three elk, just hanging out. They weren’t there when we started. I take a few photos, and as the shutter clicks as I’m taking one of the male, he turns, looks at me and takes a few steps. We were far enough apart that I wanted to switch to the zoom lens, but I thought twice about it as he moved towards us slightly again. I was satisfied with our Nature moment.
Then we hiked into the canyon. It is so beautiful. I know the photos won’t do it the proper justice. As we rounded each bend it got more and more beautiful. We headed up a trail up a ridge and walked for a while. Once we got to the fork we had to make a decision: hike for 5 more miles and get back to town at about five or six, or go back the short way, maybe a mile and get back around two. Since we hadn’t seen any of Eureka, we opted for the short route and made our way back to the car. The elk were still hanging out where we left them, and so I switched lenses and took a few more shots. The male was still posing for me (and the others who were even closer). A man getting into a car near me muttered something to his wife like, “People are more interested in the elk than they are in Fern Canyon!” I turned and said, “Oh, we’ve already done that.” Plus, there aren’t elk in our part of Virginia!
Back in Eureka, we decided to have a big lunch at a brewpub and skip dinner for the most part. Afterwards, we headed into Old Town Eureka. It’s not really what we were expecting. There were a few blocks with a few shops, but not really much going on. There were a few coffee shops, a bookstore or two, a Restoration Hardware that seemed out of place, and a whole lot of scraggly, homeless looking people. The boardwalk was even more depressing. Evidently there are grand plans for shops and whatnot along it, but right now there isn’t anything, just some buskers playing bad, loud guitar. It kind of reminds us of Sharon: once a big milling town and now sort of struggling. Admittedly, we’ve only seen a small part of the town.
Tomorrow we’ve got a long drive ahead of us. There probably won’t be any more posting until we get home. Right now, we’re borrowing access from someplace else (we thought we were going to have wireless here, but apparently there’s not). We’ll be in the middle of nowhere tomorrow on our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Right after breakfast we packed up the car and headed even farther north.
We stopped at a couple of beaches just north of Fort Bragg. At the first, there were plenty of rocky outcroppings for photos, but the dead sea lion on the shore kind of ruined it for me. At the second beach we were able to see a few sea lions playing in the surf and explore some tide pools.
After more and more spectacular coastal views, we headed into redwood country. Instead of simply riding on the freeway, we opted to take the Avenue of the Giants. I am so glad that we did. According to one of our brochures/books, the area is home to 60% of the world’s largest trees. We could have stopped for more hokiness, but we filled our quota yesterday. I knew the trees were going to be big, but I never could have imagined how large they really are.
Then we arrived in Eureka. We will be here two nights. Today is all about pampering. Brendan ordered us the “Romance in the Redwoods” package at the hotel. That means we had champagne and roses waiting for us in our room, plus an hour massage at 4:30 and dinner at the 4 star hotel restaurant at 6:45. On top of all that, the hotel has upgraded us to their suite on the third floor. It’s enormous. We have a double shower in the bathroom, a sitting area with a gas fireplace, and a separate bedroom area with a Jacuzzi. The windows at the tub look out overtop a few blocks of buildings to the harbor (although you have to sit just so in order to see the boats and I can’t anyway when I don’t have my glasses on).
The massage is the best. It’s our first. We were both just completely relaxed. Then it was down to dinner. The restaurant here is “Eureka’s only 4 star restaurant.” They are supposed to have a ridiculously good wine selection here, too. We’ve pre-paid for a five-course “discovery” menu. Along with that we decided to have what they call here a “wine flight” In other words, they’ve chosen the wine that best compliments each course. The meal is really great. What’s a little weird though is that there are an awful lot of scraggly looking people who keep walking by and I start to feel a little bit bad for enjoying my pampering so much.
It was pretty warm in Sonoma, about 90 degrees, when we left. We took a little side trip to the Petrified Forest and the Old Faithful of California. Talk about old-fashioned hokiness! The Petrified Forest is pretty much in someone’s backyard. The geyser is a little more formal attraction. The woman who sold us our tickets said that it went off about every 40 minutes and was going up 60 feet or so and at it’s longest, lasting for 6 minutes. After we’re there for a couple of minutes, the rock in the middle of the pool starts to steam and we can hear the water bubbling. However, the water that shot up was a weak little stream. It did that a few times (just enough for Brendan to get annoyed and want to leave). We decided to stay for just a little while longer, and I’m glad that we did. It went off like a rocket for about 5 minutes. Put on quite a little show for us.
Then we were off up the coast.
As soon as we reached the coastal highway, the temperature dropped 20 degrees almost instantly. Took me by surprise a little. I had expected it to be cooler, but it happened so fast. The first chance we got we pulled over to get a look at the Pacific. It was quite a sight. There were sheer cliffs, rocks off the shore and sea lions playing in the water and basking on the beach. The scenery kept getting more spectacular as we rolled north.
Our hotel in Mendocino, the Sea Rock, had wonderful views of the coast as well. We had enough time to go into town and have dinner at the Mendocino Hotel where I had ahi cooked very rare for the first time (it was good, actually) and we had a dessert made of special Mendocino county berries which are a cross between blackberries and raspberries. The town itself is also very cute. We made it back to the hotel in time for a spectacular sunset.
The weather was very cooperative. Apparently, it had been foggy for months until today.