Sunday, January 06, 2008

Up in the Trees

So we left Dave and Em's and headed north to Redwoods National Park, home of the coastal redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens, the tallest tree in the world ... see the little thing at the base of the tree, its a street sign), because when I asked Aviva what she wanted to do in California she said, "I want to see the big trees".

So we left the bay area and drove for 7 hours until we got to Fortuna, stopping just once to get some food for camping and some burritos. I have to say, despite the fact that we were in Ukiah, the burritos were still pretty good. God, I miss good burritos ... well, you gotta love California mexican.

We stopped in Fortuna, just south of Eureka and about an hour from the park. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express, so we woke up feeling brilliant and capable of anything. We grabbed some bagels an yogurt from the surprisingly large continental breakfast buffet and headed up to the park. Our first stop was the Lady Bird Johnson grove, dedicated to Lyndon Johnsons wife by Richard Nixon in honor of her role in the conservation movement and the establishment of Redwoods National Park in 1968. The grove is really a path through a series of old growth redwood groves, and the forest fills you with a sense of foreboding and majesty. The trees are magnificent, with huge trunks and massive branch canopies that block out the sun, so tall that you have to crane your neck to see the tops and even then you cannot tell which trees is taller. Impressed and excited, and very cold (because in the dead of winter even California gets chilly), we got back in the car and ate a quick lunch of turkey and cheese sandwiches, livened up with the always necessary Spicy Brown, and moved on to see Trillium Falls. Trillium is a smaller waterfall, but waterfalls are my favorite natural phenomenon, so I was really excited. We reached the falls after a 2 mile scramble through dense, moist forest full of fallen redwoods and with moss covered trees glowing green from the back light of the sun as it broke through the foliage. We heard the falls before we saw them, the tell tale rush of water growing gradually louder until we could hear it clearly over the ambient noise of the wind. We rounded a corner and saw the falls glowing white against the hillside, a series of small stair step falls cutting through the greenery above and below the bridge.

After the falls, we headed back to the car, drove over to Elk Prairie campground and set up camp for the night. We still had some daylight left, so we drove up to an overlook at the mouth of the
Klamath Overlook to watch the sunset. The view was beautiful, but also cold and windy, so we moved on to a beach a little to the north to watch the sunset, stopping on the way to pick up some Chivas Regal for the upcoming cold night, and some salmon jerky, just because ...

At Enderts beach we sat down to watch the sun drop below the ocean, me running around the beach taking pictures and Aviva sitting happily in the warm car watching me
amusedly. The black sand beach glowed silver in the setting sun, with the black, polished stones on the shore shining with what looked like their own light. It was a beautiful sunset, with the reds in the sky contrasting beautifully with the dark blue of the ocean and framing the massive rocks of the coast in orange light. Dinner was early, soup, bread and animal cookies, and afterwards we quickly bundled up and went to bed because it was really cold outside. Aviva was freezing and slept in about 5o layers, while I was also a bit cold and actually slept in thermals. I got up early the next day and spent around 3 freezing hours taking futile pictures as the sun came up ... the fog was too thick and the back lighting from the sky was too bright. After some oatmeal it started to warm up a bit as the sun burned through the fog so we packed up and went for a hike in the nearby Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This park contains the largest forest of old growth coastal redwoods in the world, and as we walked up the muddy trails, it felt like we were walking back in time. Surrounded by the massive trunks and shadowed by the thick canopy, we spent the next 4 or 5 hours tramping through a shadowy, primordial world of massive redwoods, huge ferns and other lush greenery. Aviva commented that she would not be surprised if a dinosaur ambled out across the trail. In the whole time, we only saw 4 other people, and the feeling of ancient peace and serenity filling the area was palpable. It was definitely the best hike of the trip and I was almost sad to get back to the car.

The next few hours found us driving south down 101, stopping along the Avenue of the Giants to see more enormous trees, hug the Founders tree and gawk at the truly gigantic remains of the Dyerville Giant. I wanted to drive Aviva through the Chandelier tree but it was closed by the time we made it to Leggett, and instead of staying there we decided to head over to the coast. Highway 1 from Leggett to Westport is one of the windiest stretches of road I know of and the rain did not help, so Aviva started to feel pretty ill as we wound up and down the road. By the time we made it to Westport, the longest 45 miles I have ever driven, we were running low on gas and ready to be out of the car. We stopped at the Westport Inn, the only hotel in town, and read a note inviting us to just take any room with a key in the door and pay in the morning. Despite the cute town and the cheap rates, the hotel bore too close a resemblance to the huge resort in the Shining and we elected to keep moving down to Fort Bragg and get a room there so we could avoid the rain and get an early start. Since we had already bought dinner for another night camping, we just set up the stove and cooked in the room. Then, after some good soup, along with the rest of the bread and animal crackers and whiskey, we settled into our warm bed early for the long drive down the coast the next day.

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