Friday, March 4, 2011

Just Go There: Russian River, Mendocino, Redwood National Forest, Ferndale, Ashland

 30th Birthday Rental House in Russian River
Russian River Vineyards & Wineries - much more relaxed/less touristy than Napa
Redwood National Forest - not sure how I got El Jefe to light up like that, but I did
Jefe looks so small next to giant Redwood trees
soon-to-be-sushi in a fishing village near Mendocino
NoCal Coastline
Mendocino coastline
 Gingerbread Mansion in Ferndale, CA - former hospital. Pretty but creepy.
Rocky NoCal coast
NoCal sunset
 Lithia Park, Ashland, OR
  Lithia Park, Ashland, OR
 Ashland, OR, home of the Shakespeare Festival
 Lithia Park, Ashland, OR

I've had a few friends mention recently that they want to check out the northern California coast and Redwood National Forest, so I thought I'd post a few photos for inspiration. I am extremely lucky to have the best hubby in the world, so of course he went all out for my 30th birthday and rented an incredible house that slept 20 right on the Russian River, complete with a hot tub surrounded by redwood trees. We had 20 of our closest friends meet us there for a weekend of wine tasting, kayaking on the Russian River, sea otter spotting, cliff jumping, cooking, hot tubbing, hiking, drinking, laughing, reading, chillaxing, etc.

After everyone left Sunday afternoon, El Jefe and I hopped into our bright blue Mustang convertible rental and headed up the coast, blasting Kaskade tunes on the iPod. We didn't have a set plan..all we knew was we wanted to hit Ashland, OR in the next few days and would drive back to SF down the 5 freeway which is much faster (only takes about 5 hours) and we had to get back for our close friends C + E's wedding in Sausalito the following weekend. I don't really remember the names of all the hotels we stayed in or restaurants we ate in, but if you want to go on this magical adventure - and everyone should at least once in their lifetime - you just need to google map it from Russian River to Ashland, OR and stop along the way wherever you'd like.

We stayed at a reasonably priced inn on the water in Mendocino the first night after walking around the whole town, having some yummy clam chowder overlooking the water and a delicious berry cobbler dessert in our hotel restaurant and sleeping well with the waves crashing on the rocky shore below. It's gorgeous but there's not a lot to do other than hike/walk around, so one night there was just fine.

After hiking through redwood trees all the next day, we retired to the only place we could find a room after 8 pm - the Gingerbread Mansion in the beautiful Victorian house-filled teense town of Ferndale (it was gorgeous, but I'm glad Jefe didn't tell me until after we checked out the next morning that the owner had told him it used to be a hospital and our swanky room where I was luxuriating in a bubble bath drinking wine used to be the operating room. Yowza.) They brought a basket of baked goods and coffee to our room in the morning which was lovely, and I'm sure the ghosts enjoyed them as well. This was after dining in prettymuch the only restaurant in town open past 8 pm the night before and meeting the colorful Ferndale locals. The bartender doubled as the live entertainment, which somehow worked, and a guy at the bar wanted me to go to the local casino to play Texas Hold'em once he learned it is one of my random mad skillz. I declined his offer. We only had a place to stay other than the 'stang because we met the owner of the Gingerbread Mansion through the bartender/live guitarist - he happened to be at the bar, getting wasted, and we realized the hotel attached to the restaurant had literally locked up at 8 pm so he hooked us up. We did well in Ferndale, one more night there and they probably would have elected El Jefe their Mayor. They also warned us not to get out of our car in any fields in Humboldt county as the "growers" would think we were stealing their "crops" and possibly shoot us. Good to know.

The next day we drove through more gorgeous redwoods and along the coast up to Ashland, OR - one of my favorite little towns anywhere. Lithia Park is one of the main attractions in Ashland and its amazing, esp in the fall - we were lucky to be there in October and had gorgeous autumn weather and colors. We ate delicious, locally grown food, yummy Oregon chocolate, drank fruity Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs, got fantastic massages, golfed, went on some beautiful walks and retired to our cute little boutique hotel in downtown Ashland for two nights before heading back to SF. And now I've made myself want to go back ASAP.

There are about a zillion scenic overlooks, beautiful hikes, charming inns, great cafes and majestic redwood trees to see on this journey through the northern California coastline. So, at some point in your life, you've gotta Just Go There and discover them for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

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