"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Bigfoot Burger

Day two of my, Lisa and Vin’s big three-state adventure started out in Redding, CA. The plan was to head west via California State Highway 299 all the way to the coast where we would hook-up with the 101 going north. We would then jump on U.S. Route 199 at Crescent City and cut back through the Coastal Ranges in order to spend the night in Grants Pass, OR.


California State Highway 299 is also known as the Trinity Scenic Byway. It winds for about 140 miles from Redding through spectacular national forests to emerge at Arcata by the coast, and is a drive to enjoy. Then again, considering that I hail from the ancestral home of the Jersey Barrier, just about any road with a tree and hillock is a drive to enjoy.

For a long stretch in the middle the highway runs along the Trinity River. Apparently, the Trinity supports a thriving white water rafting trade. We saw plenty of action on the water as the river came in and out of view along the road. Every so often there would be a pull-off with access to the water. Since nature’s no good if you can’t touch it, we took advantage of a relatively quiet pull-off in order to get out and spend some time in and around the water.
Back on the road, we continued west into the heart of California Bigfoot country. It wasn’t all that far from here that Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin shot their classic Bigfoot film. Every large tree held the promise of a big hairy hominid bounding out from behind it and into the road in front of us. I’m pretty sure someone made a joke about “Harry and the Hendersons”. That’s when we drove past the giant Sasquatch standing on the side of the road.

It seems that large wooden Bigfoot carvings are somewhat common in these parts. The availability of giant redwood stumps makes it possible to carve some really big ones. The one out front of the Del Loma R.V. Park was no exception.A rustic, little oasis tucked into the heart of the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, Del Loma, a Good Sam Park affiliate, was a welcome sight. We headed over to the park store to replenish our beverage supply and pick up a few unhealthy snacks. I’m half convinced that the guy behind the counter was in the witness protection program. Vin plans to retire here. Bidding farewell to the big guy, we headed on our way.For me, the best part of driving through unfamiliar territory is that you just don’t ever know what’s coming up next. What I did know was that for me the next thing coming up was lunch. I didn’t know where. I didn’t know when. The next town on the map was Willow Creek. There would have to be a place to eat in town. I was single-mindedly focused on reaching our immediate destination when I drove past a big yellow building on the left.

Suddenly, Lisa was all like, “Dude, turn around. You need to go back.” Being hungry and not wanting to waste any time, I was hesitant to agree. “No, really. You need to go back.” Uttering an audible groan of displeasure, I turned the TrailBlazer around and headed back.

It turns out that I was going back to the big yellow building that could now be identified by the sign out front as the Early Bird.Proudly emblazoned on the side of the building was the declaration that this was indeed the “Home of the Bigfoot Burger”. It looked like I had found lunch.

By the look of all the signs outside there wasn’t much that this place didn’t offer.
I was just going to have to go inside and check it out. My immediate reaction upon entering was that it looked like every aging corner pizza joint I’ve been in back home. Then I got a good look at the mural painted on the back wall. Mr. Bigfoot was gleefully bounding across the mountainside bringing home a bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Bigfoot who was cheerily brewing up a pot of coffee and cooking a rack of donuts over the fire.Okay, the place definitely had a certain charm. Now I wanted a look at the menu. And there it was, about halfway down the menu board that hung above the front counter. Bigfoot Burger: Two 1/3 lb. patties with cheese and three slices of bacon on a giant homemade sourdough shaped foot with all the fixins.Wait a minute! Foot? This one I was going to have to see for myself. When it arrived I just started to laugh. It really did look like a foot. And it had what seemed like hairy knuckles, no less.Turns out the Bigfoot Burger was pretty good. It was basically two standard grill burgers with a lot of good stuff on them.I was curious what it would have looked like if they had shaped the patty like a foot. I’m sure that there’s a Bigfoot shaped cookie cutter running around out there somewhere. Still, I had no complaints.Lunch over, we headed the rest of the way into Willow Creek, which as it turns out was just over the next hill. This is the home of the Willow Creek - China Flat Museum that is itself the home of the Bigfoot Collection. It consists of all kinds of cool stuff from plaster casts of footprints to photos and sighting maps. We spent some time wandering through the exhibits and then spent some more in the gift shop where you can get all sorts of Bigfoot goodies.The day was rapidly flying by, and we still had a lot of ground to cover. Next stop, the City of Arcata where we took a stroll around the business district and had some ice cream. From there we followed the 101 north towards Klamath which promised fun for all.

The giant coastal redwoods in this part of California are nothing less than awe-inspiring. They tower over you like no other trees on Earth, with people taking on squirrel-like proportions beneath them. There are a few so large that in the past some enterprising people carved them out so that cars could pass through. It was settled. I wanted to drive through a tree. When we finally found the Tour-Thru Tree, I did just that.Having fulfilled that dream, we then set our sites on the Trees of Mystery.When we arrived we were greeted by the largest freestanding Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox that I know of.It turned out that we were too late to get into the attraction, but the gift shop was still open. We loaded up on Paul Bunyan crap and headed on our way.At this point the plan was to cross back over the Siskiyou Mountains by way of U.S. Route 199, which in California is also known as the Smith River Scenic Byway. Our final destination for the day was to be Grants Pass, Oregon. Diving back into the thick Northern California wilderness we began the trek along the final leg of the day’s journey.

We lost the light around the time we crossed the state line. This left a long, harrowing drive on a twisty, dark mountain road. At one point we stopped at a roadside pull-off to stretch our legs. I just happened to glance up and was treated to what may have been the most amazing night sky that I've ever seen. Living near a large city it’s easy to forget that without light pollution there are actually stars in the sky.

Since staring straight up for an extended period of time while standing on the side of a dark mountain road is not the safest thing to do, we got back in our vehicle and kept going. With not much to see out of the windows in the dark, the ride started to drag a little. Eventually, we made our way out of the mountains and down to Grants Pass, home of the Caveman. Tomorrow promised to be another long day on the road, but there would be plenty to see.

2 comments:

Joe C said...

I've had the Bigfoot Burger in Willow Creek and have to say that I can't wait for my next encounter!

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