Crescent City

Battery Point Lighthouse from Pebble Beach

Sandy really likes the Pacific Coast. Last year we took a trip for her birthday and the place that she picked was Cannon Beach in Oregon. This summer she suggested a trip to Northern California, combining a visit to the coast with redwoods country. I like the coast too and since I had never been to Redwood National Park, I thought it was a great idea.

For our base we picked Crescent City, about ten miles from the Oregon border. That's about as northern as you can get in Northern California. The drive there took ten hours. There are just no good direct ways to get there. We had to take a really complex route. Normally I don't like using a GPS to navigate. I don't want to be told to turn here, turn there, with no idea of what I am doing. Call me old school but I prefer to look at a map and get a picture in my head of where I am going. But that wouldn't have worked in this case. Mr. Google had us taking all sorts of county roads here and there to connect between multiple US and state highways. Sandy did a great job of navigating with her phone and we got to Crescent City with no problems.

High point of the 1964 tsunami in the marina

For the first two nights we were staying at the Lighthouse Inn, just across highway 101 from the harbor. Once we settled in we walked to Fisherman's Restaurant. It was a small, family place. Sandy was able to get coconut shrimp (which she said was really good) so she was happy. She was planning to eat a lot of seafood on this trip and tonight was a good start.

After dinner we walked around the marina. Not particularly scenic but it had interesting diplays of the damage done by tsunamis over the years. Crescent City is the tsunami capitol of the US. It's been hit by tsunamis over thirty times since the 1930's. Apparently the topology of the Pacific Basin focuses the wave action on Crescent City. The worst one was March 27, 1964 when the second strongest earthquake ever recorded, a magnitude 9.2, struck Anchorage Alaska. I remember hearing about it on the news when I was in sixth grade. The tsunami killed eleven people in Crescent City and caused millions of dollars of damage. Another tsunami from the 8.6 earthquake that devastated Japan in 2011 caused four deaths.

It was certainly impressive to see the high water mark of the 1964 tsunami marked on the side of a building in the marina. All of the buildings near the harbor would have been underwater. There were tsunami warning signs everywhere as well as a siren warning system. Given their history with tsunamis in Crescent City it was easy to understand why.

Sandy on Pebble Beach

Next we got in the car to drive into the main part of town. We found a nice coastal access point at the end of a residential street that led onto Pebble Beach. It's a nice sandy beach below a small bluff that curves along the whole edge of the town, forming the crescent that gives Crescent City its name. It was very scenic, with many seastacks off the beach. Battery Point Lighthouse was at the end of the beach, marking the entrance to the harbor and warning ships of the beginning of the many rocks rising from the sea to the north.

We drove over to see if we could reach the lighthouse. It's on a rocky point connected to the mainland by a low stretch of land that is covered by water at high tide. When we got there it must have been low tide because the way to the lighthouse was clear and we walked over easily. Hey, it's better to be lucky than good. The lighthouse is operational but also has a museum and offers tours, although we didn't feel like paying an entrance feeto go through. Instead we just enjoyed the view outside, which was impressive. The lighthouse was picturesque, especially with the coast stretching off into the distance.

Evening light at Battery Point Lighthouse

Afterwards we looked around town. There wasn't much to see. Not much in the way of shops or restaurants. No big expensive houses by the ocean. Although it was close to the redwood parks and right on the coast, it was clearly a working town for fishermen and loggers, not a tourist town. It's a long way from any big cities and other parts of the coast are closer.

Still we had a nice evening to start off our trip. Dinner was at a family-owned place where the seafood was fresh, the cooking was good, the people were friendly and the prices were reasonable. The hotel was fine and not too expensive. Just the weather was a joy. Before we left, there were several days in Boise where the temperature was in triple digits. Next to the ocean we were enjoying sixty degree weather. The coolness was refreshing compared to the heat in Boise and most of the rest of the US. Our trip was off to a good start and we were ready to do some hiking and exploring the next day.