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June 30, 2011

North Coast: Roadside Attractions

Filed under: California, Infrared, Photography, Travel, United States — anotherheader @ 10:21 pm

North Coast roadside attractions

Not long after Redwoods National Park was established in 1968, my family road tripped up the North Coast for a visit.  I don’t recall much in particular about the park aside from its astoundingly tall trees.  What I do well recall is the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox.  Paul and Babe are memorialized as mammoth statues in the parking lot of Trees of Mystery, a

Apparently Paul Bunyan has a very hairy chest

roadside tourist attraction.  I have no recollection of whether my parents forked out the entry fee and allowed us to tour inside the fence at Trees of Mystery.  I’d guess there’s a good chance we just gawked at brightly colored Paul and Babe in the parking lot and then moved on down the road like Becky and I did this time through.  In retrospect big Paul and Babe defined my road trip experience.  Silly as it seems, it’s what I remember most.

Amongst the segmented Redwood State and National Parks are numerous roadside attractions similar to Trees of Mystery.  These old school tourist icons have a vintage appeal.  Invariably, standing in the front of each attraction, is an over sized brightly painted sculpture of something typically inappropriate to the area.  Perhaps the French Canadian fakelore tradition of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox somehow is justified amongst the giant trees of the area.  But why does an oversized, yellow raincoat clad sculpture of a sailor figure to bring the drivers of a dense redwood forest road in for a closer look?  Perhaps we shouldn’t question why the statues are there.  Clearly the scheme, like the plethora of roadside dinosaurs lining highways everywhere, works.  The appeal of the awkwardly unusual is universal.  And, after all, it always pulls us in.

Paul and Babe have been greeting visitors at Trees of Mystery for decades


  1. Becky is becoming quite the poser! 😛

    Is that were the term “blue balls” came from?

    Comment by 1bd — July 1, 2011 @ 2:34 am

  2. Hit both Trees of Mystery and Confusion Hill on a western states road trip earlier in the year. I love roadside attractions. It was a shame we had to drive past a few more that were closed (too early in the season). I reckon Prehistoric Gardens (near Port Orford, OR) with it’s “scientifically-correct” replica dinosaurs left us feeling particularly sad when we found it wasn’t open.

    Comment by Rob Rogers — August 2, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

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