As we were already in northern California, we thought we would take the time to visit another national park. Along the coast is the town of Crescent City, the northern gateway to Redwoods National Park. This is where we decided to make our base for touring the Redwood Coast. We have always wanted to see these giants of the forest. Besides, the temperatures were forecast to be in the high 60s and Crescent City has some great fresh seafood, our other goal of the trip.
Crescent City has a lovely lighthouse on Battery Point. It is an old Cape Code style and still in operation, though as a museum now. There is also a lighthouse out at the end of a reef six miles offshore ; St. George Reef Lighthouse. We did not make it to or see St George as the fog was always too thick. We had our first taste of fresh seafood at Fisherman’s down by the harbor. Great little fresh catch place with picnic tables outside. Jennifer read there were sea lions in the harbor so we drove to Anchor Street and sure enough, there were three groups of them barking, sunning and swimming. A great outing!
Redwoods National Park is actually a combination of National and State Parks. There are four major areas to explore in the northern area; Jedediah State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Redwood National Park. These are the areas where we spent our time. We planned our days to see as much of the parks as possible, hike as many trails as we could and admire the magnitude and majesty of the Redwoods. Our first adventure was down to the main visitor center and Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail. Here, in 1969, Lady Bird Johnson dedicated Redwoods National Park. It was our first experience in the Redwoods. Wow! It was so humbling. Many of these trees were over a thousand years old. There wasn’t a sound. It was so quiet you could hear your own heartbeat. It was early in the morning and the sunlight was sending streaks of light into the forest as it cut through the trees. It was spectacular!
We took a drive up the coast on Davidson Rd, 6 miles of gravel following Gold Bluffs and the coast, to Fern Canyon. What a contrast to the grove we had just visited. Fern Canyon is about a 1.5-mile-long trail through a deep streambed surrounded by walls of ferns. We had never seen anything like it. The trail meanders back and forth across Home Creek. There was only one other group on the trail while we were there. The canyon was also a filming location for Jurassic Park 2 and we could see why! It did look prehistoric. How they managed to get filming equipment in there we have no idea. There is an upper loop trail that walks back through the forest where you could see down into the canyon, so we took that trail. Yes, you could see down into the canyon, but only at the entry point. Regardless, it made a nice loop.
On our return drive we decided to take the Newton B. Drury scenic parkway instead of driving on the 101 highway. Great choice. The parkway runs through the forest and though many groves of redwoods. We made a stop at a short trail to Big Tree. It is a short 1-mile loop trail by one of the biggest trees in the park. The tree is over 280ft tall and over 23ft wide! There were also a ton of other great trees and views along the trail
Doing our research let us know the northern area, Jedediah State Park, has some of the best trails and is the least crowded. Conveniently it is right next to where we stayed, so we hiked “the’ hikes of the area. Boy Scout Tree trail is said to have the densest and some of the largest trees in the Redwoods. We got up early to beat the crowds and hiked the 6.3 mile out and back past Boy Scout Tree to Fern Falls. The tree supposedly got its name because a troop of Boy Scouts had their picture taken in front of it and it was still wider than the entire group or because it looks like the Boy Scout salute. Anyway, it is really big! The trail was truly our favorite of the visit. The redwoods were dense, the forest was deathly quiet, and the trees were spectacular.
We also took the opportunity to drive the coastline up into Oregon. The state border is only about 20 miles north and we had never seen any of that coastline. All of Oregon’s coastline is publicly owned, lined with state parks and public beaches. We drove the Samuel Boardman Scenic Byway and stopped at every pull-over and park. There were some gorgeous viewpoints including the Natural Bridges, Arch Rock and North Island. One of the stops had a group of antique cars with the drives all dressed in period appraise dusters and goggles. We made it as far north as Gold Beach Oregon. A 60-mile total drive that took us 3 ½ hours! Guess those stops at viewpoints add up. We had a late lunch at Barnacle Bistro for more seafood and local brews. The weather was absolutely perfect on the way up, but by the afternoon the winds picked up and the sea spray and mist were obscuring the views so we just drove on back.
We did manage to sneak in one last short hike on a near-by trail. The Leifer and Ellsworth Loop trail is a short 2.5-mile loop. We again got up early enough to miss the crowds and to hopefully see the sunrise produced sun streaks in the forest. We succeeded in missing the crowds but only saw a couple of the famous redwood forest sun streaks. The trail had a lot of dense redwood groves and was a nice morning walk.
To say we were humbled, awed, and inspired but the Redwoods is an understatement. To think these behemoths have been around since the time of William the Conqueror and some even back to Roman times made us feel like just the blip on the radar of time we really are. They are enormous living things which have lived through fires, storms, earthquakes, and everything imaginable. If only they could tell stories of all they have seen.