We resume the journey where I left off last; we had made it to the boondocks of northern California in Humboldt County. We turned out onto Avenue of the Giants, a narrow paved road that parallels Hwy 101 but snakes its way among some of the hugest giant redwood groves still standing.
We stopped at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor center to get the low down on camping this early in the season. They have this cool display of a relatively small 1000-year old log.
If you click on the picture below, I think you can read what events were happening when this tree was a baby.
It was already more than 4 feet in diameter when the Pilgrims came to America!
The nice volunteers told us to go up to Albee Creek Campground, about 8 miles back away from the highway, where we would likely have the campground all to ourselves. (Many of the state parks are now run by volunteers and have sections closed off because of California’s budget crisis.)
So we motored up to the campground and found a place for our rented ice-cream van among a 2nd-growth redwood grove.
There were a couple of other campers there, but our closest neighbors were actually the wild turkeys that wandered through camp a couple of times.
Drew fixed his broken spoke under one of the big trees to stay out of the light rain while I took a good long hot shower, the first since leaving home 5 days ago! That explains how we can look so fresh and clean in this picture – look at that body in my hair!
Life is good camping among giant trees with local brews and pesto pasta for dinner.
We slept well that night, knowing the only thing that would bother us is hungry bears nosing around our picnic table. (they didn’t.)
Tuesday was activities in the big trees day. After full breakfast of eggs, hash browns and toast, we set out to hike in the Rockefeller Forest, the largest, most impressive stand of old growth redwoods in the world.
Many of the trees in this part of the forest are over 300 feet tall. The park volunteer explained that they can grow so large right here because the King Range protects them from the worst of the winter storms coming off the Pacific and the location inland a little ways allows for slightly less fog and more sunlight (although redwoods typically get 1/3 of the moisture they need from fog).
This is one of my favorite pictures because Drew looks so tiny compared to the giant trees.
These trees are coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Redwoods have existed along the coast of northern California for at least 20 million years and are related to the Giant Sequoia of central California. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth. Mature Coast redwoods live an average of 500–700 years and a few are documented to be 2,000 years old, making them some of the longest-living organisms on earth. They are highly resistant to disease, due to a thick protective bark and high tannin content, which also explains why they are great for building decks. Redwoods prefer sheltered slopes, slightly inland and near water sources such as rivers and streams.
The seasonal bridge across Bull Creek was not in yet so we forded the stream to be able to go over to the Giant Tree.
This tree as been designated the as one of the world’s largest trees. One nearby that may have been larger was taken out by a falling neighboring tree in 1991. There are several in Redwoods National Park that are about 10 feet taller, but the number of really big ones in the grove we were in was even more impressive than seeing just one super tall tree.
We don’t even come close to spanning its girth!
I tried to look at other things on the forest floor too. The rain made everything so fresh.
But really it was the palpable quiet and peace that surrounded the trees that was so special.
Nature is so many thousands of times cooler than anything humans create. These trees made me realize that again.
We hiked back to our campground along the Bull Creek South trail.
After a quick lunch at the campground, we set off for the first bike ride since our 8 hours on the bikes on Saturday. We climbed 3000+ vertical feet over 7 miles on up to 30 percent grades on a fire road to an old fire spotting lookout.
I guess I wasn’t recovered yet because that was a tough climb and I wasn’t really having a good time despite Drew’s never ending humor, but at the top were 360 degree views and we could just make out the coastal fog rolling over the mountains to the west, so it paid off.
Time for the descent down through a burned out section of forest.
And those 30 percent grades were much more fun on the downhill.
We saw this weird little guy – maybe a skink? Looked like a cross between a salamander and a lizard. He ran kind of funny and hissed at us.
Here is a picture of a landslide taking out the road. With all these trees and forest, the geology is way too hard to see and blog about. I had to get geohazards in here somehow.
Enough activity for the day. Time to pack it up and drive out. This is a 30 second clip of driving through an the Rockefeller Grove old growth redwood forest. I suggest watching the first 10 seconds at least to get a feeling for how big they are when you are driving through them.
Goodbye amazing, awesome redwood trees!
Next we would head over to the coast and journey south.