During my research and planning this trip, I stumbled across another blog by someone who had done a similar road trip. He described a visit to a place called Fern Canyon, and said it was the best place in California that he had ever been. Intrigued, I did a little more research. It did not appear in any of the guidebooks, but it did appear on good old Google maps, and was not too long a detour from our route.
I mentioned to Paul that we planned to visit Fern Canyon on our way from Ferndale to Oregon. I deliberately failed to mention that to get there involved an 8 mile drive down an unpaved dirt road, which included multiple stream crossings. In a rental car. Plus a return journey on the same route.
We got to the junction off Highway 101. All ok for the first mile. Then we reached the crossroads where the option was signposted on said dirt track to Fern Canyon. Paul was driving. He braked. It looked like the kind of road no one has driven on for a long time, and the kind of road a sat-nav accidentally directs you, never to be seen again…. Are you sure its up here, he asked? Yes, keep going, it will be worth it, – I nervously replied. To be fair, Paul did a great job in driving us down the most crazy road I have ever been down. We couldn’t see that much through the clouds of dust. The pot holes were meters wide. The streams were deep. The edges of the road were precarious. We made it to the bottom, relieved, more than slightly sweating. There were plenty of other cars already parked up from similarly intrepid drivers (mainly 4x4s!).
But it was worth it. Our reward was a walk in a Canyon, formed 320 million years ago. The sides of the Canyon are covered in rare ferns, as not much else can grow on the 50ft shaded vertical slopes. It was used as a location for filming Jurassic Park – The Lost World, and BBC Walking with Dinosaurs. It was easy to see why. Wearing sandals, we followed the refreshingly cold river up the canyon, climbing over and under fallen trees, with water trickling down the sides of the Canyon and through the ferns and moss. It really was like another world. We returned the same way, and then walked down to the beach, where the Californian surf was lashing so hard against the shore it wasn’t safe to do anything other than paddle.
We continued our drive north on Hwy 101, crossing the state line in to Oregon at about 5pm. We soon arrived at our B&B tonight – a cattle ranch up on the mountainside east of Brookings. We got out of the car and were shocked to discover that it was 94 degrees and very smoky from the forest fires over the nearby mountain range. The ranch was located on 134 acres, and after the most delicious homemade meal of Elk Stew and apple pie, we wandered around with the owner, rounding up the hens and collecting the eggs. It was an idyllic place to spend the evening and a shame we only had one night here.