The massive and eerily silent volcanic lands of northern California have more in common with Oregon and Washington than with the rest of the state. Its inhabitants live by farming and an ever-decreasing number by logging and fishing, augmented in recent years by New Agers, ex-hippies and a growing contingent of tourists. Once you’re past the atypically lush valleys of the Wine Country, the coast stretches for three hundred miles of rugged bluffs and forests. Aside from the beautiful deserted beaches that stripe the coast, trees are the big attraction, thousands of years old and hundreds of feet high, dominating a landscape swathed in swirling mists. The Redwood National Park teems with campers and hikers in summer, but out of season it can be idyllic. The remote wildernesses of the interior can be enchanting, especially around the Shasta Cascade and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Public transport is, not surprisingly, scarce, though Greyhound buses run from San Francisco and Sacramento up and down I-5 into Oregon and US-101 as far as Arcata.Read More
Willow Creek, forty miles east of Arcata, is the self-proclaimed gateway to “Bigfoot Country”. Reports of giant 350- to 800-pound humanoids wandering the forests of northwestern California have circulated since the late nineteenth century, fuelled by long-established Native American legends, but weren’t taken seriously until 1958, when a road maintenance crew found giant footprints. Thanks to their photos, the Bigfoot story went worldwide. However, in 2002, the bereaved family of Ray L. Wallace claimed he made the 1958 footprints, a hoax they had promised to keep secret until after his death. But the number and variety of prints (over forty, since 1958) still points to a Bigfoot mystery, and the small visitor centre (summer daily 9am–5pm; t 530/629-6293, w www.willowcreekchamber.com) in Willow Creek has details of Bigfoot’s alleged activities.