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Seas and Trees: A Perfect Combination of Nature on the Redwood Coast

Grove in the Praire Creek Redwoods State Park
The ocean at the end of the Klamath River as seen from the Costal Drive


For my 2nd annual Columbus day weekend outing, I once again headed up to the little-explored northern part of California for a look at Redwood National and State Parks. Leaving around 3pm from San Francisco, I still got caught in horrendous traffic till I passed Santa Rosa. After that, the ride was long, but scenic till the night came. I wasn't too dissapointed, since I knew I'd be seeing the parts in the dark in the light on my way home. Got into Klamath around 10pm. Stayed 3 nights in the fine Ravenwood Motel. It was a great place in a land of seedy dives and still moderately priced and run by a very friendly guy who even lent me a spoon for my hot cocoa and pudding I brought with me. The town was not luxurious as seen by the only restaurant/bar (they did have Country Club on tap) and "shopping center." Spent 3 days exploring the national and state parks. Really, more time than most people would require, but I really liked not being rushed and it was the perfect amount of time for me. I pretty much did everything there was to do, though to be honest, I still could have stayed more days just to simply bring a chair and read on one of the deserted beaches I came across. Great variety of hiking because you had dark groves of giant redwoods and ocean views or combinations of the two so it was never boring. The smells were just outstanding. Most organic forest smell combined with wet ocean air. Weather was good too for this time of year, sunny and in the mid 60's during the day. And though the sun was blazing, the trees offered great shade so you weren't exposed to the sun too much.

Other than the lack of good food, my only complaint about this region is that I was disgusted by the banana slugs. Here's a fat one. They were all over the trail in the very moist parts in the shade, mainly really close to the ocean where they would recieve the most fog. However, it was rather sunny that weekend so I saw a lot of them under leaves and rocks to get away from the sun. They would leave a disgusting slime trail on the rocks. I was so paranoid about stepping on one and feeling that squish that I had to watch the ground and couldn't enjoy the scenary without stopping. Luckily, their bright yellow stood out in most instances, though with the fall color, they sometimes blended in and I'm sure I created a few casualties I don't know about.

Klamath was the perfect spot for exploring the area as it was smack in the middle of the action. My first stop of the day was to head to the Klamath River Overlook, which was a spot where you could view the meeting of the Klamath River and the Pacific Ocean. I never quite could figure out how the river got into the ocean, but I assume it goes under the sandbar somehow. It was forecasted to be sunny that day, but it was still early and the fog was thick. A look down at the ocean from a platform a short hike down from the parking lot of the overlook. Another closer view of a big rock in the mist. After returning back to car, I put back my jacket as I could feel it warming up a bit and I had worked up a sweat from the ascent. I got my waterpak and set out on the Coastal Trail, which one could take the entire length of the parks' coast if you were backpacking. I hadn't much of an idea of where it was headed, but I knew I wasn't going to do the whole thing. So I just went till I felt like turning around. Here's a nice view of the Klamath River meeting the ocean from the Coastal Trail. You can see evidence of the sun trying to break out. A more expansive closeup view of the ocean from this vantage point. 50 minutes later, a nice shot around the bend on the trail as the sun becomes more of a pressence. There was constantly a misty look in the air no matter the time of day along the coast here. It was interesting as it seemed like you were seeing the fog being born before your eyes. Unlike in San Francisco, where the fog rolls in from far off the ocean, the fog seemed to magically rise from the rocks on the beach, even when the sun shone brightly. Note how it is clearer looking out more toward the sea in this second shot from the same spot. Weird bug (cattepillar?) that was very prevalent on the trail. The combination of tall trees, moist air, organic mineral smells, ocean smells, waves crashing, cool breezes, sun filtering through the canopy and absolute lack of any people was really nice on this trail. Here's a nice shot at the ocean through some trees.

Just as I was feeling like I wanted to turn around, I saw a sign reading .25 miles to Hidden Beach and that sounded like an excellent place to check out and take a rest. On the approach, I knew it was going to be good. I think I disspointed some new age chicks that were doing some zen stuff down there, but I tried to stay out of their auras while check the beach out. I almost was so amazed by the spot that I failed to realize the waves coming in and had to run from the water as I chase me to the rocks where I took this shot looking north. Same place looking south. I took in the peacefullness for a while in several different spots admiring the waves, cool rock with a tree growing out of it, some interesting eroded rocks on the beach, foam from a big crashing wave, cool shadows, and lonely footprints with some nice fog rising from the sand. When finished taking in the beach, I headed back to the car the trail the same way I had come. Nice shot through the trees of the sea below.

Back at the car, I headed to my next destination, the Damnation Creek trailhead at mile marker 16 right off 101. Though a short trail of 4.5 miles roudtrip, this hike was listed as strenuous as it descended 1000 feet though an old-growth redwood forest to the ocean. Still, the distance being short, it really wasn't that bad and it was a great hike and final destination. I think the creek was all dried up because I didn't see anything but a trickle at the very end. Nice shady trail the entire way till the end which was great since coming back was a pain. Here's the first look south and north from a little outcrop near right near the bottom. A look up from the bottom gives an idea of the cliffs in the area. The late afternoon sun sparkled off the water. I risked life and limb to go way on on a rock to get some better angles. Nice foam. Foam to the north. It's obvious to tell that the beaches here are not ones for going in. Watching and listening to the wave in many spots on the trip, I wondered how many people misjudged their power and were lost out to sea. Big wave crash into a rock. Some interesting rock formations out a bit. On the way back up the trail, I decided to take it slow and so enjoyed basking in the moist coolness of the towering trees with the wonderful smells of mineral-rich soil and seabreezes. Here's a look at the trail under the canopy. Nice light hitting the trees. It's hard to get an idea of the size of these giants, but I think this photo does a good job with a tall shot. Near the finish, the late day sun straining through the masses of trees created an interesting diffusion effect. It's strange, but I've never seen anything like this before, almost like the speed of light had been slowed allowing you to see the beams.

After this, I drove further north to Crescent City to get a park map and ask the ranger some stuff. I told her I was disgusted by the banana slugs, and I think she was offended by this. She gave me a good suggestion to check out Jeddediah state park a few miles northwest, which had a nicely-graded dirt road drive and the excellent Stout Grove to check out. It was here that I truly was amazed by the heights of these trees. I have seen big trees in Yosemite and other places, but I could tell these babies were just a bit taller because I was in awe. It was so dark in the grove and late in the day, I didn't think any photos would come out so didn't take any. One feature I liked was the benches in the grove had their backs tilted such that you could easily sit and peer skyward. I also stopped by a second grove on the way back to Crescant City that had some good placards explaining some stuff. Back in Crescant City, I was seriously starving since I had only had 2 balance bars and one of those Svenhards danish at the motel in the morning. This city is pretty sad, so I was forced to stop in a depressing KFC with Walmart employees in line for my classic 2 breasts and a biscuit meal which I gorged in the car along the beach as dusk approached. Back at the motel after a 20 minute drive, I had some Winners Cup gin on the rocks while taking a shower, did a little planning on the next days events, read a tad, then sleep.

Sunday morning, I was a bit perturbed to start because I had brought with me milk and cocoa powder for the morning and stored in the public refrigerator and some punks had used it up for their coffee or something. So I had to make do with just another one of Svenhard's fine danishes provided by the Ravenwood. I found the Berry Horn to be excellent Saturday and Sunday, but the final day, I went for the Breakfast Claw for a change of pace. As full of chemicals as those things are, they were surprisingly satisfying, though it may be due to the lack of culinary offerings that made anything taste good on this trip. This day I had planned very well with alernating activities that melded well and occupied the entire day ending with a nice sunset encore of what I started the morning with. First off was the Costal Drive. It started just an exit or two south of the motel and drove along the Klamath River a bit on the pavement before turning into dirt. Nice shot of the ocean at the end of the river from the other side of where I had been Saturday. This day was also much sunnier earlier and so everything had a totally different feel. Still, there are some nice wisps of fog seen in the air. First stop on the Costal Drive is this turnoff that I had to practically make a U-turn to get into, the High Bluff Overlook. This place was totally awesome and it seemed like no one ever came there. Nice wave crash with fog rising from the sea. I could not get over how the mist rose from the sea here. It was so refreshing to look at. I don't understand how it does it, but the banana slugs are happy so who cares? Wide shot of the ocean. Nice view north from the bluff. There was formerly a trail down to the beach that looked like someone had been on recently, but there was a sign that it was closed for safety which was too bad because I'd have loved to have gone down there. I suspect I probably could have had I really wanted to and that it might have just been closed because people had gone down to the beach and took a nap and not noticed the tides coming in and got washed away, but I figured there might be some real danger in the trail or something so I didn't do it.

A couple wave sequences shot from the coastal drive: Sequence 1, Sequence 2. Along the coastal drive, I saw some trail marker, stopped and saw a shot trail to the ocean and decided to take it to Caruther's Cove. Lots of slugs on this trail which ended on a completely empty beach in all directions. I thought it would be perfect place to bring a chair and just sit there and read in the sun one day on this peaceful beach. A look back up the bluff from the beach. A look south with some nice example of that rising fog I spoke of earlier. I could have relaxed here all day if I'd had an extra day to kill.

A nice shot of sun diffused by the heavy canopy in a redwood grove in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park area along the scenic parkway parelleling the highway.

Driving down a long dirt road to the ocean and paying a $6 fee (the only fee paid on the trip), affords you entrance into the Fern Canyon section of Prairie Creek. You could also hike down to this area for free if you'd like, but I was on a light hiking day today so I took the wimpy way. There is also camping down there and the beach is nice to hang out on. Here's a nice canopy along the walkway leading the the beginning of the canyon. A dark view of the inside of the canyon. A shot of a wider opening. A wall of ferns with sun hitting it. Fern Canyon from above. The cool, dark and peaceful lushness of this canyon was very relaxing.

After an early dinner, I decided to head back again to get a late day sun views from the Coastal Drive. Here is the Klamath River meeting the ocean. Again, from the high bluff outlook, south, straight down, north, nice wave crash, a wider north shot with wave crash, and finally, the sun all the way down on the horizon.

The final day, I did a few hikes in groves for a couple hours. It was quite dark and most shots didn't come out that great, including this one of me with red eyes in the whole of a tree through which the trail went through. I headed home around 2 and drove through the Avenue of Giants off 101 somewhere in Humboldt county on the way back. Even after seeing all the trees over the weekend, this is a highly recommened detour and truly outstanding 30 minutes of driving through awe-inspiring monster-tree forests. For a cheap weekend trip, far-northern CA is really a good place to visit if you've never been. There's not a whole lot to do, but the lack of people, cheapness of accomodation, relaxing scenary and beaches and challenging hikes available make for a good place to spend your time away from the grime of the city and sadness of work.


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