Another morning of sleeping in. Piggy ate some of her breakfast, but decided she was still too cold. The fog is still touching the top of the trees as we make our way to the Redwood National and State Parks. South of Crescent City we see the Pacific Ocean – and each time it tells us to come feel: the sand and what it may consist of; the salt water and the life, history, and distance it contains; the driftwood and empty shells and the lives they supported, and the patches of grass watered by the wispy clouds above.
And every time we listen. Each visit also brings birds that fly, eat and sing; crabs that run and dig or tuck away in their shell; boats that are sailing and working; fish that are swimming and jumping; and rocks that are either covered in moss and anemones or that have been smoothed round by wind and water. We are surrounded by tall trees, steep cliffs, and big rocks – some things are bigger in California. Time always surprises me on trips – what the map says will take mere minutes takes us only hours – in this case to weave our way along the 101 to False Klamath Cove.
We come to the Lagoon Pond with the Yurok Loop, about a half mile, and the Coastal Trail, probably three miles one-way, as options to explore the area in more detail. I choose the path to the right for ferns, mushrooms, pink and yellow flowers, and a view of the ocean. Not far from our walk are the Trees of Mystery with Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox, guarding the entrance to the Kingdom of Trees Trail and the museum with Inuit, Navajo, Yupik, and Shoshoni artifacts – clothes, rugs, masks, baskets, art, and tools – along with news clippings, books, plants they used for dyes, beadwork, and Kachina dolls.
Outside could lead us to the gondola, that even allows dogs, but we happened to come on the one day that they choose to do annual maintenance and quality assurance checks. We will satisfy ourselves with seeing the world’s largest family tree, using nature’s underpass, stretching to be as tall as a root base, to stand in the temple of trees, and to jump in fright at the moss-covered bear with her cub near the giant squirrel and pooped logger that are some of the largest carvings out of milled redwood.
It’s one thing to see a tree, another to see it as a house or carving, but a whole other sense of size is gained when you’re able to drive your car through a tree. We stood in the tree and a lady offered to take our picture. She tried a few times, but kept hitting the ISO button, and then only focusing the image when I turned on live-view. We thanked her anyways and then I drove the car through, almost breaking a mirror off, while Caleb took a picture and laughed. The ‘tunnel’ is tall enough for two cars, but just wide enough for one.
We make our way to the short but scenic alternate route – Newton B. Drury Parkway – nine miles of driving in the middle of the forest instead of the edge that the 101 offers. Along the way we will stop at the Prairie View Trail and appreciate the ecosystem that Redwoods provide whether standing or fallen and be in awe of their strength to endure geological changes that killed dinosaurs and early human presence that took these giants for granted – some even so today as a woman chooses to do crosswords in the car while her husband enjoys what these wooden wonders have to offer.
After the Thomas Kuchel Visitor Center – with many great books inside about hiking, cycling, and paddling the coast and Redwoods, and children’s books about nature, baby animals, and outdoor activities – we walk the Elk Prairie Trail in search of the namesake, but none are seen. We stop on the other side of Freshwater Lagoon to compare the rough seas to the serene water separated by 500 feet of sand, pavement, and grass. All this beauty is making me hungry.
We stop in Trinidad for gas and get coffee and a giant donut (for dessert) and are hopeful for pizza across the street, but it’s closed. We go to the grocery store next door looking for food and I only have a mind for sugar. While Caleb is getting lunch and water I will be shopping at the chocolate bar shelf and trying to decide which new flavors I should get. I narrow it down and them am worried about the price, but the cashier gave us some discount or made a mistake making my selection sweeter.
From Pepperwood, we will hike the Drury-Chanel Trail; see the Immortal Tree that survived lightning, logger’s axe, forest fire, and a flood; and the Eternal Tree House that’s over 2500 years old. It was felled in the 1900s to be used for fencing and railroad ties. The remaining stump has been used by Indians, hunters, travelers, and livestock for shelter until 1950 when it was refined into a gift shop. It’s nearing dinner time so we need to look for a place to sleep.
We had planned on camping in the Redwoods, but the first exit for camping says closed. We drive down the five miles of winding busted road to see how closed it is. There is a bar across the road and we don’t know how far the hike would be to set up in a designated spot. We drive to the next campground and the host tells us it will be $35. As we debate this for a moment, a cyclist pulls up and is told he only has to pay $5. I understand his vehicle may take up less space, but our tents will be the same and neither of us needs electrical or waste water facilities.
We drive to the next campground and it’s closed too, so we attempt the nearby inn. The man and his two kids greet us and he tells us that he can offer us a room for $160 with breakfast included. We let him know it’s not in our budget and he tells us it has to be expensive because it’s the nicest place in the park. (Personally I think on the ground near the trees would be better, but that doesn’t seem to be allowed tonight). He lets us know that we can find lodging in Garberville, “about 16 miles from here”, for around $70.
We don’t make it that far before we see a camping sign. The office is closed for the night. We arrived after 9:30 pm. We set up at R1 which had the least amount of light (they should be motion sensored or off). Sleep will come fast tonight with our bellies full of mac-n-cheese, mine even more so with coconut curry chocolate, and with the greeting dog barking at all the cars going by. I wonder if the drivers have any idea what they’re missing.