Day 148 – Redwood Highway, April 24, 2011
I’m not sure why I keep hoping for better weather. I’m in the Pacific Northwest during the rainy season. I think I just associate California with the sunny beaches of the southern half. Regardless, the weather was somewhat reasonable today. I started the morning taking the hottest shower of my life. Those that know me know that my tolerance for heat is super high, so for me to say the shower was hot, is like saying boiling water was flowing from the spigot. At least I was clean briefly.
Redwood National Park encompasses Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where I spent much of the day. After speaking with the ranger yesterday, I decided to walk up the dog friendly Cal-Barrel Road. Generally speaking, I’m not that fond of walking along the roads, as I’d rather take trails, but I must say this was my favorite part of the day. The gate, usually open to vehicle traffic was closed for the “winter” season and no cars were parked in the small area at the base of the hill. Petey and I had the forest to ourselves.
The unpaved road climbs three miles into the hills of a redwood forest. Covered in Sequoia and Redwood needles and shaded by the enormous trees, the road felt more like an extra wide path that wound through the forest’s fern covered floor drenched in water from the night’s drizzle. Intermingled with the fern were a myriad of wildflowers including trilliums. Moss covered limbs poked through the light fog above while birds chirped at the tree tops. It took close to an hour to ascend to the road’s end and only thirty minutes to return to VANilla as our pace quickened in the now light, morning drizzle.
Wet enough to require a toweling off, we reached the cover of VANilla and proceeded to Elk Meadow to hike Trillium Falls. The literature claims Elk Meadow and the campgrounds are prime places for elk sightings. While I found some fresh elk scat near my campsite this morning, all my elk sightings havebeen on the side of Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. This morning I stopped to snap a photo of seven male elk with antlers of all sizes resting in
someone’s front yard. It’s hard to believe that in 1925 Roosevelt neared extinction with as few as 15 elk remaining in California’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park before protection of critical habitat in parks and surrounding areas has allowed the population to rebound. I’ve seen close to 40 in two days!
After a few minutes of marveling, I hopped back in VANilla and steered her toward the trailhead for Trillium Falls. Petey waited for me in the car while I hiked 3 miles in muddy slop. I paused to admire Trillium Falls, moss covered trees, elk tracks, a snail, wild mushrooms, countless creeks, and some wildflowers, yet interestingly no trilliums despite the trail’s namesake.
Not far from the parking area at Elk Meadow, an unpaved Davidson Road led VANilla to Gold Bluffs Beach, another area known for elk sightings. I was really hoping to see some elk on the beach. Wouldn’t that have been unique? Petey and I walked approximately three miles on the pebble strewn, grey sand beach as fog hung in the distance and waves lapped ashore. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any elk, but we did see a few Whimbrels and remnants of holes dug by clammers. The closest I’ve come to seeing any antlered friends on the beach was spotting deer tracks when I met Roger with his Abalone.
After our walk on the beach, I attempted to make one more, short walk in Fern Canyon where seven kinds of ferns drape 50 foot canyon walls. A closed gate stopped our drive to the trailhead a mile short, so I thought I would walk the road to half-mile loop. No sooner did I pass the gate, than I came across a six foot wide, though shallow creek. Given I was finally dry, the ankle deep water and the unknown ahead surpassed my curiosity, so I turned around and joined Petey in VANilla once more.
My final walk of the day was simply a quarter mile loop called Circle Trail in Big Tree Wayside. The Stellar Jay in the parking lot, in my opinion was the most interesting part of the walk. Perhaps, by this point, I had seen enough redwoods for the day. While I didn’t see the tallest trees in the world which are in a remote area of this National Park and inaccessible to visitors, I did see trees 20 feet shy of the tallest in the world!
Having joined me on nine of the twelve miles I hiked today, Petey appears to be wiped out. He has been snoring away in VANilla , while I’ve been enjoying a little sun poking through the clouds and a restful evening. ETB