The next stop on our RV adventure is Redwood Meadows RV Resort in northern California. We’re just ten miles from Crescent City. We chose to be on the northern fringes of the Redwood National and State Parks to see the towering redwood trees and to also explore the southern Oregon coast, checking off two things from our bucket list. Now that is what we call “killing two birds with one stone”.
We took a drive after unhitching the camper. We wanted to do a little recon and explore Crescent City, hopefully finding a service station, grocery store and a Walmart; places we will need later in the week. The winding road descended through a shaded forest of old-growth redwood trees. Giant trees inches away from the road towered up and out of sight. One curve after another, grammi and I would exchange wows. “Wow! Look at that one.” “Wow! Did you see that one?” We were awestruck.
Crescent City is an incorporated Pacific coast city on U.S. Highway 101 located twenty miles south of Oregon. With a population of around 7,000 people, it is known for its crescent shaped sand beach. It also harbors many commercial fishing vessels and located on a jetty near the harbor is the Battery Point Lighthouse. Built in 1856, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the first lighthouses built on the California coast. We found a Walmart. Stopped to pick up a few things, then returned to the camper before dark.
The next day, our first stop was the Hiouchi Visitor Center. The building was closed to the public. There was no short movie about the park’s history. There were no exhibits or interpretive displays. There was, however, a ranger wearing a mask standing outside under the shade of a pop up canopy. Maps and other literature were neatly stacked on a folding table. Stickers stuck to the sidewalk indicated six feet intervals. We see this outdoor set up at a lot of parks now. We appreciate the effort from the rangers and park employees. They are very helpful and provide us with information and good tips.
The Redwood National and State Parks is unlike any national park that I know of because of the unique partnership between the state and federal park systems. Three California State Parks, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods combine with the Redwood National Park to protect 45% of the remaining old-growth redwood forest.
Coast Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They can exceed heights of 300 feet. The tallest one measures 380.1 feet and is named Hyperion. It is said to be located in a remote area of the park. Park officials keep its exact location a secret “to protect the tree”. I know this for a fact because I asked a ranger where we could find it. Becoming guarded with his answer, he told me that area of the park is closed to the public and he would not give me any more information. However, I think anyone with a smartphone could probably find it. Respecting the park service wishes, we didn’t try.
From the visitor center, we went for a couple of hikes. The trailheads located off the rough and dusty Walker Road in the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park has very limited parking so arriving early was a good idea. We first took the Simpson-Reed Trail, an easy 0.8 mile loop hike through an old growth redwood grove featuring some very big trees. The forest floor was covered with tall ferns. The path cutting through the ferns increased the enchantment. We were surrounded by giants making us feel very small and insignificant. It was like we were somehow transported to Jurassic Park.
The second hike was Leiffer Trail, a moderate hike of 1.3 miles. This less traveled trail up a hillside featured a variety of trees where the redwoods were much less prevalent and smaller.
After getting a glimpse of the redwoods, we drove toward Crescent City and headed for the Pacific Ocean. I’d never seen the Pacific Ocean before and neither had grammi. We felt a sense of excitement. Finally, without fanfare, it came into view. We made it! We have driven across the country to the Pacific Ocean.
We turned onto North Pebble Beach Drive and immediately found an overlook to park. I shut off the engine and listened. Grammi and I, almost instinctively, inhaled deeply to smell the salt air. The faint sound of barking sea lions was heard over the crashing waves. Sea birds seemed to struggle against a stiff breeze. About a ½ mile offshore was Castle Rock, a prominent jagged island where the sea lions rested. We could just barely see them through our binoculars. This is where we would eat our lunch. I set the chairs over looking the rocks and while looking out toward the ocean we enjoyed our sandwich.
We drove along the beach after lunch, going up to Point St. George and walking through the dunes. We then drove south toward the harbor. We stopped and walked the beach for a while. Grammi said she could walk the beach for miles. I believe her. It took quite an effort to convince her we’d gone far enough and it was time to turn back. We drove past the lighthouse and stopped at the harbor where we saw more sea lions laying on a manmade platform about a 100 yards from the dock. There were so many that we were amused to watch them struggle for space on the platform.
The next day was a beautiful clear day with mild temperatures. Perfect for a drive north on the 101 to Oregon, where there are miles of shoreline featuring rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, sea stacks and hundreds of small islands. We focused our attention on a 12 mile section located between Brookings and Gold Beach known as Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Named in honor of Oregon’s first park superintendent, this picturesque corridor can be experience by either spending a day hiking this segment of the Oregon Coastal Trail or by stopping at the many parking areas to explore its features. This stretch of highway features one turnoff after another.
Of course we chose to drive and stop at ALL the turnoffs and parking areas. As we did, we crossed over the Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon at 345 feet above Thomas Creek. Some of our favorites stops were:
— Arch Rock Viewpoint and Picnic Area featuring a massive stand alone rock arch where we ate lunch.
—Natural Bridge where a short hike lead us to a viewpoint of seven arched rocks and blowholes.
—House Rock Viewpoint where a commemorate monument stands for the park’s namesake and a vista with wide open views north and south of the coastline.
—Whaleshead Beach where we walked the beach again. Grammi waded in the water, stopping occasionally to pick up a stone she thought was pretty. There were no seashells like we’re used to seeing on the Florida beaches, but there were plenty of rocks.
Toward the end of the day we made a u-turn and headed south, going back to the camper. The clear weather disappeared into the approaching sea fog. Amazing how quickly the weather changed from bright and sunny to gray and foggy. But then again, as we turned toward camp and left the coast behind the sun reappeared.
We returned to U.S. Highway 101 the next morning. The fog still laid thick along the coast. We drove south to explore more of the Redwood National and State Parks. As soon as we got away from Crescent City we passed a herd of Elk grazing in a field. Scattered in the herd were a few bulls with large velvet covered antlers. Beautiful animals.
We went to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and hiked the upland redwoods. The grove was dedicated to the former first lady because of her environmental work.The steep, narrow, winding road up to the parking lot was an adventure. We backed our pickup truck into the last available parking spot in the small lot. At approximately 1200 feet above sea level, this grove offers a different perspective. There are more shrubs and smaller trees that block your view. There are some off trail paths going to some of the larger redwoods so you can see them but I’m not sure if this is really recommended.
We had lunch at the beach near the Kuchel Visitor Center. The fog still present hung offshore obscuring the horizon. Endless waves crashed on the beach. Seagulls stopped by to see what we were eating. Driftwood scattered on the sand caused grammi to wonder how she might get some of it home.
We drove the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park where we saw some of the biggest trees yet. It was there near the visitor center where we saw “Big Tree”, the 15th largest coast redwood tree. This old growth redwood has a circumference of 74½ feet. It is estimated to be 1500 years old.
On the final day in the area we explored Stout Grove, another old growth redwood grove. This one may be the best. Located on 44 acres along the Smith River are some 300 feet coast redwood trees. Towering into the sky like a fairy-tailed beanstalk, these guys are breathtaking to see.
The past five days in this area has amazed and overwhelmed us. It has lived up to all our expectations. There were a lot of first. First time seeing the Pacific Ocean, first time seeing a redwood tree, first time seeing a wall of sea fog move over us, first time seeing a sea lion some where other than Sea World. This was quite the adventure. Tomorrow we leave this place. We will remember the area as a special place. One where we’d loved to come back to.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.