First Encounter with the Giants

Friday, December 07, 2012 Road Junkies 1 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 34:  Medford, OR, to Arcata, CA

We drove back north about 30 miles on I-5 from Medford this morning and headed west at Grants Pass on US-199 toward California.  Known as the Redwood Highway, this scenic byway passes through the Rogue River Valley and follows a number of creeks as it winds its way southwest toward the redwood forests of the coast.

One of the creeks along the Redwood Highway
Entering California, we were met with an agricultural inspection station.  Since agriculture remains at the center of the state's economy, California has implemented border stations to ensure that no harmful pests enter the state that might harm its agricultural crops.  If our experience was any indicator, the process may lack some effectiveness.

Agricultural inspection station
Agent:  "Are you carrying any fruits or vegetables?"
Us:        "Yes.  A couple of apples and a couple of oranges."
Agent:  "OK.  Have a good day."

Yet later we read that oranges are prohibited from all states.  Maybe our inspector didn't get the memo.

As we approached the intersection with US-101 and the Pacific Coast, we began seeing gigantic redwood trees along the roadside.  Near Crescent City, we stopped in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park at a site where several giants had fallen during a recent storm.  Two things were immediately clear:  a) people were not allowed to harvest the wood from the fallen trees; and b) they're not called redwoods without reason.

Don't even think about taking this home for your fireplace.
A series of letterboxes led us to the Howland Hill Road scenic drive a few miles east of Crescent City.  Located in Jedediah's state park, the unpaved road was originally an old stage trail and winds in and around the massive trees, offering a close encounter with these amazing giants.

Howland Hill Road
And there's nothing like a close encounter with a 350-ft. tall tree to give one proper perspective on one's place in the world.  After completing our odyssey through this Brobdingnagian forest, we were left with just enough time to make the 75 miles south to Arcata, our destination for the night, before sunset.  With more of Redwood National Park and the related state parks to see, we'll be returning north tomorrow.

As we drove south on US-101 and caught our first view of the Pacific Ocean on this trip, the sun began its slow descent beyond the horizon, reminding us just how short these winter days can be.

Sunset on the Pacific


More Photos from Today
Redwood needles turn red after they fall from the trees.
These trees come in XXXXXXXXXXXXL.
Even the ferns are huge.
Howland Hill Road
This is as far west as we can drive.