Day 60 (September 28)
Crescent City to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California
Under gray skies the mysterious beauty of the Humboldt County coast is intriguing, though the weather seems to magnify the grit of the cities, which cannot be hidden behind their notable architecture and hip downtown storefronts, eateries, and historic hotels. One thing can be said for the cities that we walk today: each downtown is like no other city’s, and we hope to return to each on a sunny day when we have more time for leisurely exploration.
It would be easy to spend weeks exploring California’s Redwoods Coast, however with cooler weather on its way, we need to start making our way toward Yosemite before the park’s seasonal closures begin. With no predetermined camping spot for tonight, and our only plan being to stay close to the California coast, we hop back on the Pacific Coast Highway and head south.
Aside from using the Redwood / Crescent City KOA as our basecamp for touring the Redwoods parks, we have spent very little time in Crescent City, whose coastline has been socked in with fog for much of the past three days. So before we head out of town, we take a few minutes to walk around the harbor, which is filled with commercial fishing boats, and stop to walk Crescent Beach.
Does it look cold and damp? Because it is.
Just across Highway 101 from the southern end of Crescent Beach, we stop to watch a herd of Roosevelt elk grazing in a random front yard. They bade us a lovely goodbye to Crescent City.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
We pop back into Elk Meadow in Prairie Redwoods State Park, and see two young black-tailed does running down the road. There is still no sight of the resident elk herd, however we spot the antlers of a resting bull elk in the meadow – our friend from yesterday perhaps?
Continuing south on the coast highway, we further our redwoods education by visiting the Thomas H. Kuchel visitor center in Orick. We find that each redwoods visitor center is different, and worth a stop. (Though it’s funny, we never stopped at the biggest visitor center, which is the information center located in Crescent City).
We are shivering from the damp chill in the air, but the beach is too lovely not to pause and enjoy it for a while.
I overheard a fellow Redwoods traveler remark that Trinidad is a dreamy unspoiled coastal town. Even under the gray skies, one can see that Trinidad is a very special spot. This sweet tiny town is home to Moonstone Beach and Houda Cove. We take only enough time to walk down the rocky bluff to the shore, play hide and seek behind the sea stacks, counting the different types of stone embedded in the sand.
How wonderful it would be to rent an airbnb here for a couple of months and just write, walk the beach, catch a ride on one of those sailboats moored in the harbor, and maybe learn to surf. We are so absorbed in the lovely coastline that we do not take any pictures of the town itself. Oops!
Arcata is… A hip and edgy college town. A time capsule of classic neon and bars with names like The Alibi and Sidelines Cocktails. A busy stop along the “homeless highway”, where travelers congregate in the square to kick around a hacky sack and nap.
Eureka is… A Victorian architecture dream town. A great shopping and walking town. A city of haves and have nots. Another busy stop on the “homeless highway”.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
South of Stafford, we leave Highway 101 and make the scenic drive on Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Humboldt Redwoods contains the largest expanse of old-growth redwoods on the planet. Of the park’s 53,000 acres, 17,000 of them are old-growth forest.
Although it is only mid-afternoon, I am feeling under the weather, so we go ahead and select a campsite at the Burlington Campground, right next door to the visitor center. Our site is huge, and surrounded by first and second growth redwood trees. The campground has private bathrooms and pay showers, and although a bit pricy at $35 a night, worth it. (It is here that we begin to se a trend of campgrounds getting more and more expensive as we get closer to San Francisco).
The Travel Log
We stroll over to the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Visitor Center (redwoods visitor center #4 for us), where we wonder at the “travel log”, a remarkable camping truck made by Charles Kellogg from a 4800 year old redwood tree. An avid conservationist, Kellogg hatched a clever plan for bringing national attention for the need to protect the ancient redwoods. In 1917 he began his unusual project, using a one-man saw to carve a 22-foot long living space out from an 11-foot diameter fallen redwood. He mounted the carved log on a truck bed and hit the road.
Charles Kellogg was a man of many talents. Although he was an accomplished photographer, he was best known for being “The Nature Singer”, famous for his melodic bird song mimicry. Kellogg was able to use his celebrity as a recording artist to his advantage when he toured the U.S. through 1921 in his tree-truck, singing and declaring his love for the redwoods, building support for their protection.
To hear Kellogg’s incredible birdsong, visit Hare’s Breath Records.
One thing that we are learning from our fast travel is that occasionally we start to feel really run down from constantly being on the move. I am really feeling puny and in need of rest, so Robert makes me an Earl Gray tea + Fireball toddy (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!) and we enjoy a quiet afternoon and evening at camp. Although disappointed that I miss the opportunity to explore this special park on foot, I cannot think of a prettier place to enjoy being still for a while.
I truly believe these old forests have healing powers. I awake in the morning refreshed and excited to continue exploring Califonia’s northern coast.
Click on a park name below to read about our wanderings through more Redwoods parks: