In the Presence of Giants

Saturday, December 08, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 35:  Arcata, CA

After running out of daylight yesterday, we eagerly headed back north on US-101 this morning for a proper visit to Redwood National Park.  Three California redwoods state parks were established in the 1920s to preserve the trees' natural coastal habitat.  The national park was created in 1968 and expanded ten years later to encompass the three state parks and better protect the ancient forests.

Coastal Redwood trees
During the age of dinosaurs, much of the land in the northern hemisphere was covered with redwood-like trees.  Today, the range of these majestic giants has been reduced to two areas in California.  Coast redwoods grow in a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of northern California and southern Oregon, while the giant sequoia's range is limited to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The coast redwood grows taller, while the giant sequoia has greater girth.

We drove to the northern terminus of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a north-south road running parallel to US-101.  The route passes through the heart of an old-growth redwood forest and features numerous trailheads as well as a resident herd of elk.

Wayside stop along Drury Parkway
After the Drury, we continued south to the town of Orick, where we caught Bald Hills Road to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trailhead.  From there we followed a 1.5-mile loop trail as it threaded through a forest of old-growth redwood, Douglas fir and tanoak.  The loop wound around to a clearing where Lady Bird Johnson, an ardent advocate for redwood preservation, helped to dedicate the national park in 1968.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove
As we were leaving the parking lot, we discovered that we had enough of a cell signal to connect our mobile Wi-Fi hotspot so we could use FaceTime while on the trail.  So we invited sister Jeanne to go on a virtual hike with us.  Since we were looking for letterboxes along the trail, we didn't bore her with the entire hike but connected with her intermittently.  At one point while we were disconnected, we saw a pair of unicyclists going down the trail.  The next time we hooked up with Jeanne, we told her about the unusual 'hikers' we had seen.  Needless to say, she was a little skeptical until...

Say what?
...around a bend they came again, just in time for Jeanne to see them for herself.  Seeing was definitely believing in this case—for all of us.  Strange encounters can occur in the forest.

Walking among the majestic redwoods and the oversized sword ferns gave us the feeling we had wandered into an enchanted forest.  Understanding how Gulliver must have felt when he found himself in Brobdingnag, we kept a wary eye out for giants around every curve of the trail.  Fortunately, this was only an illusion, but a little eerie nonetheless.

'Honey, I shrunk myself!'
After a glorious three hours in the forest, letterboxing and hiking and FaceTiming with Jeanne, we headed back south to Arcata for the evening.  Tomorrow our trip officially begins its eastward leg as we head to Redding and back to I-5, our friendly artery through Washington and Oregon.

More Photos from Today

Mosses abound in this moist climate.
Redwoods are very hardy and can continue to grow even when hollow.
The lush forest
Ken, swallowed by a giant