Northern California Coast, Skunk Train, Napa Valley

June 1-6, 2009

Twenty Obsidians and a guest, left Eugene bright and early (7 a.m.) for a long day of driving to reach Fort Bragg by evening. We had to alter our route from Hwy 199, since the bus was too long. So we went Hwy 42 past elk grazing beside the highway, and into Reedsport, having our coffee break at the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. For lunch, we visited the recently opened (Kulongoski’s 5th) Crissey Field State Park south of Brookings just before crossing into California. South of Eureka, we drove through the Avenue of the Giants (redwoods) to see lots of very old trees. It was nearly 7 p.m. when we arrived at the motel in Fort Bragg.

On June 2 after a continental breakfast, we toured around Fort Bragg before we boarded the Skunk Train, (named for the original train odor) for a cool but sunny four hour round trip, with a lunch stop at the turn around (most seemed to favor the BBQ faire. Our second attraction for the day, was the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. Some hiked through the gardens to the ocean, while others had a guided tour of the gardens. Kathy got stung, and some bought plants to carry home on the bus. Then we boarded the bus for the trek to Santa Rosa for the night.

On June 3, we awoke to a sunny day for our curvy drive east through the mountains from Sonoma to the Napa Valley, to the town of Calistoga, the location of our 9:30 tour of the Castello di Amorosa winery. It is a recently built medieval castle that took twelve years to build, complete with architect and masons from Europe. The actual wine making process is state of the art. We all toured and some participated in the wine tasting and purchasing of their wine. We departed the castle for the Petrified Forest, and our Chef Barbara’s lunch. The second winery was Sterling Wineries, an older winery with self guided tour and the big attraction was the gondola ride from the parking lot up to the winery. A beautiful view of the entire valley was seen by all. Our third stop of the day was at the Domaine Chandon Winery, near Yountville, that specializes in the bubbly types. The gift shop was great and grounds were walked by many. That night, we were in Sacramento.

On June 4, after a continental breakfast, our first stop was at the State Capitol where we could tour the grounds and Don located his favorite docent for some explanation of the statues. Then we bused over to the California Historical Railroad Museum, where some toured the museum, and others went over to the Historical Museum. All had lunch there in Old Town before leaving for Chico. We had a grocery stop to replenish our coolers for the remainder of the trip before going to the motel. We had been experiencing thunder and lightning at night, as you did here in Eugene, but our days were nice.

June 5 was the opening day at Mt. Lassen. It rained and even snowed at the higher elevations, but the roads were clear. Bumpass Hell was snowed in. We entered via the southern entrance where the newest visitor center is located. They invited us in so we could share more of Chef Barbara's lunch. There it was warm and dry. We viewed the video and the center before going on through the park. At the lower elevations, the flowers were starting to bloom, including the Snow Plant that looks like a red pine cone. Our last stop in the park was the visitor center at the northern entrance. Since our opportunities to hike were squelched, we left the park early. We drove south of Redding to the Olive Pitt, a commercial stop that sells olives more ways than you can imagine. Then it was back north to The Hilltop Inn in Redding for the night.

On June 6, after our last continental breakfast, we drove out to Turtle Bay to walk the Sun Dial Bridge, (designed by a Spanish Architect). It is world renowned. The gardens beyond the bridge were pretty. Turtle Bay is a big complex of mini museums. When everyone boarded the bus, we knew we were headed fo Eugene via Highway 97. We had our coffee break just north of the California Line and our lunch stop at Collier Logging Museum and State Park. We arrived home by 4:30 p.m., and a good time was had by all. Kathy Madden wrote and sang two ballads, which I hope to make this publication deadline.

Riders were Don Baldwin, Ron Bauer, Barbara Beard, Paul Beard, Paula Beard, Sharon Cutsforth, RoseMary Etter, Barbara Flanders, Dennis Flanders, Bette Hack, Dora Harris, Marjorie Jackson, Verna Kocken, Kathy Madden, Ron Madden, Barbara Payne, Don Payne, Liz Reanier, Karen Seidel, Bobbye Sorrels and Judith Phelps.

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