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The Ave 

Whether it's a gorgeous summer weekend or a wet, socked-in Tuesday afternoon, Humboldt County's Avenue of the Giants doesn't disappoint. It can be undertaken as a whirlwind tour with windshield views of the world's tallest trees or an all-day destination for a romantic duo. Known by locals as "the Ave," this 31-mile stretch was formerly part of US Highway 101 until a more direct route was developed in 1960. As automobiles and logging trucks left to zip along the main highway, the Avenue of the Giants remained as a historic relic. Today, the Ave gives passersby a glimpse into slower and simpler times.

Between the rural outposts of Southern Humboldt's Garberville and the farming hub of Fortuna, travelers can downshift their motors and look for signs to exit at the scenic Avenue of the Giants. As you pilot your car off the highway, both the inspiration and serenity of the Avenue is instantaneous. The coastal redwoods that have grown quietly for centuries in this pocket of the world are as enormous and enchanting as you can imagine. Make sure to roll down your windows and absorb the oxygen-rich breath of these humble giants and you might just feel yourself breathe a little deeper.

If aspiring history buffs are on board, keep your eyes peeled for Auto Tours signs, each of which give travelers the opportunity to check out a historic landmark, a particular grove of redwoods or short trail. Eleven signposts in all, the tour actually begins south of the Avenue at the One Log House in Garberville, which allows visitors to experience the charms of tree house living in a 7-by-32-foot log chamber that once toured the country before retiring alongside the 101. Once on the Ave, the route includes the informative Humboldt Redwoods State Park Visitors Center at stop No. 5, the site of a catastrophic flood that wiped out the town of Weott in 1964 at stop No. 6, a grove of redwoods once slated for the axe until saved by the local Save-the-Redwoods League at stop No. 4 and short loop trails which are well marked and can be enjoyed by the novice hiker at stops 9 and 10. If you're particularly interested in stretching your legs in the redwood forest, try stop No. 3, the F.K. Lane Grove, and enjoy a 15-minute stroll under the dense redwood canopy. Make sure to bring extra layers to stay warm in on the heavily shaded trails and leave Fido in the car — dogs are not allowed on trails.

If your timetable allows for recreation and you come during summer, a splash in the Eel River will cool you down, as will the quaint shops and café's dotting the road selling cold drinks and ice cream. Those hankering for more refined refreshments can even taste local wines along the avenue; keep your eyes peeled for signs around Redway. Finally, if your visit can't be complete without navigating your car through a tree, stay alert around Myers Flat and you'll pay a small fee for the bragging rights.

The Ave offers visitors a choose-your-own-adventure experience — any drive along the road grants views of some of the region's most beloved trees and is peppered with nostalgic gift shops and historic logging towns.

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Nora Mounce

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