The beauty of Highway 101 in Del Norte County, California

There's something pretty magical about returning to a place you once lived, especially when that place is as beautiful as the north coast of California. Old haunts and favorite spots look similar, yet different. At night it's easy to get turned around when old landmarks are shuttered and replaced (or simply grown-over with shrubs and vines). In the light of day, however, it becomes clear that not much has changed at all.

Sunset along Highway 101, just south of Crescent City, California.

Sunset along Highway 101, just south of Crescent City, California.

Sunset along Highway 101, just south of Crescent City, California.

Sunset along Highway 101, just south of Crescent City, California.

Just before the holidays, I had another chance to head back to Del Norte County to visit with my family still living in the area. As you can see from these photos shot a few days apart – one day at sunset and another as the sun came over the hills – along a favorite stretch of Highway 101, the drive was spectacular. The weather was beautiful, the ocean was a deep turquoise and the trees stood as tall and commanding as ever. 

A foggy morning from the turnout at the bottom of Wilson Creek Grade between Crescent City and Klamath, California. 

A foggy morning from the turnout at the bottom of Wilson Creek Grade between Crescent City and Klamath, California. 

A foggy morning from just above Wilson Creek Grade between Crescent City and Klamath, California. 

A foggy morning from just above Wilson Creek Grade between Crescent City and Klamath, California. 

The moon setting over the Pacific along Highway 101 in Del Norte County. 

The moon setting over the Pacific along Highway 101 in Del Norte County. 

The bridge over Wilson Creek in Del Norte County.

The bridge over Wilson Creek in Del Norte County.

Every time I go back, it occurs to me that I may not have fully appreciated the area's natural beauty when I was younger. As a child, Crescent City and the surrounding area seemed safe. We walked to school and played until sundown without giving it much thought. As a teenager, the small town felt well-known and, yes, a bit claustrophobic. Nature was secondary to high school crushes and prepping for the big game. Moving from the area was inevitable as I chased a college education and various dreams but, in returning, I feel more capable than ever to truly understand just how special a place it is. 

When it comes to towns and cities, sometimes change is good. And sometimes — when referring to the (somewhat) untouched splendor of towering redwoods and salty seas — change is a dirty word. That said, roads crumble and fall into the sea and majestic old growth trees are threatened in the name of "progress" and "improvement." I hope the beauty of this place remains for generations to come, but I suppose nothing is certain.

In the spirit of seizing the day, I say go. Go now, go often and see everything you can. You won't regret it, my friends.



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