Friday, March 20, 2020

Redwoods! - March 2020

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version & highlighted text are links to additional information

Among the Giants

"Why aren't you at work?" I sternly asked my friend Ted.

It was early Monday morning, the second of March. Ted had just climbed out of their camper, parked next to ours in a campsite at Wrights Beach on the California north coast.

At first Ted looked puzzled with my question. Then a grin lighted up his face. "That's a good one!" he answered.

The joke was that this Monday was Ted's first day of retirement. Going to work was a thing of the past. And not only for Ted, Mrs. Ted started her official retirement in mid February. The days of toiling away at a career were now over for both of them and the days of waking up and sitting on a glorious beach watching the waves were just beginning.

"I want to go to the Redwoods!" Mrs.Ted announced during a visit to our home several weeks before. We were talking about where they'd like to go on their first trip in retirement. They so graciously invited the Lady and me to come along. We rendezvoused Sunday night at Wrights Beach to start the adventure.

Ted was in perfect form and brought fresh crab for Sunday supper.

The Lady supplied the tablecloth. I didn't know we owned one.

Monday morning was wonderful as first light hit the ocean.

Ted, the retired traffic engineer, worked on mileage calculations to our next destination.

Then he relaxed with his first breakfast in retirement.

Following the mandate of, "I want to go to the Redwoods!" our next stop was Humboldt Redwoods State Park, where we stayed two nights at Burlington Campground, the only campground open in the quiet season. A beautiful Redwood grove was across the Avenue of the Giants from camp, as was the South Fork of the Eel River.

We walked among the giants and explored along the river. The Teds were like happy kids!

The Lady and I sleep well on our camper adventures, like death we often say. This first night at Humboldt Redwoods was no exception. The Lady stirs to life, wiggles before dawn and we often lay in suspended slumber as first light builds. Around five-thirty a strange howl came from the direction of the river. I had never heard an animal sound like this before. It rose in pitch and then descended in pitch. The howl was repeated three times. It was not answered nor were any additional sounds heard. Was it bigfoot? No way I'm jumping to that conclusion. I classify it as a UHO - Unidentified Howling Object.

We spent the day leisurely exploring the state park. Our first stop was the Hidden Spring Trail down to the South Fork Eel River. The now three happy retirees took direction from their photographer.

We knew the greatest hazard we faced was a sore neck from gazing skyward at these towering giants.

The old stone work on the trail was excellent. We wondered if this dated back to the depression days and the Civilian Conservation Corps?

The Lady was first to the river's edge with her see mores and quickly pointed out a river otter swimming upstream.

The otter pulled out onto a log and took care of necessary grooming. An otter has to look good.

We enjoyed the bird tracks in the sand - ravens and waterfowl.


We got back to getting sore necks.

Our next stop was the Big Trees area along Mattole Road. We wanted to see The Giant. The seasonal bridge was not in place across the creek. A fallen giant provided a high passage across. The Lady helped an elderly couple cross on the tree. The down climb off the end was difficult for them. I complemented the Lady for helping the old folks and instantly got the "They could be younger than us," response.

We also stopped at the Tall Tree. The retirees remained in an obliging mood.

If you are curious, and you should be, this link provides information on the actual largest and tallest Coastal Redwoods - Sequoia Sempervirens


After two nights at Burlington Campground, we moved further north to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park administered as part of Redwood National Park.


We found a nice campsite on the Smith River in the Jedediah Smith Campground. We spent the remainder of the day happily along the Smith River.


The next day, Thursday, the Lady suggested the hike out to the Boy Scout Tree.


We traveled together - thanks Teds! - to the trailhead on Howland Hill Road.








This trail is an incredible walk through old growth redwoods.













It is staggering to think that only 5% of old growth redwoods remain. It is impossible not to dwell on this fact when walking among the giants. 95% have been harvested since the end of the 1800's, a testament to what we can accomplish when we really put our minds to it.























I noticed a small creek had cut down to bedrock showing how shallow the soil is here.








This continued to be a remarkable adventure.








A short steep spur trail led us to the Boy Scout Tree.









The boy scout responsible for placing the sign was one tall young man.








The tree is actually a twin, two trees that have fused together as they grew. The trail article - linked above - states this is why it is named the Boy Scout Tree, because it is like the two finger boy scout salute. Come on, even I know the boy scout salute is three fingers. The cub scout salute is two fingers. Here is all I could find on the naming of this tree - Famous Redwoods.


We continued on to Fern Falls but were sidetracked by an amphibian.








The girls had been watching for amphibians since leaving the trailhead and loved finally finding this, I believe, rough-skinned newt.


Fern Falls was around a half mile further down the trail.








After another quiet night along the Smith River, we turned back south to Prairie Creek Redwoods, again part of Redwood National Park.


A stop at the Visitor's Center on the Newton B Drury Parkway confirmed we could get a campsite at the small Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.













The ancient Klamath River flowed to the ocean in this area. The bluffs above the ocean are gold bearing sand and gravel deposits from this ancient river. The area was mined in the 1800's.The placer deposits were shoveled into sacks and carried to higher ground by mules. The area's heavy rains were then used to wash the dirt down sluice boxes to concentrate the gold.



The Teds worked on adjusting to their new retirement lifestyle.








The Lady and I walked the two miles up the road to the Fern Canyon trailhead.



There are several stream crossing along the road.








Signs warn people to not approach the elk.








I was surprised to learn Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the four remaining subspecies of elk in North America. The three other subspecies are Tule, Manitoban, and Rocky Mountain. Originally called Olympic Elk, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the elk after his cousin Theodore in 1937.


We encountered elk at the trailhead.


















Weaving through the crowd, we continued on to the mouth of Fern Canyon and made plans to return in the morning.








Clouds were foreboding when we returned to camp.








Rain drove us all into our campers right after dinner and continued through the night. The next morning dawned dreary but without rain. The Teds accompanied us as far as Fern Canyon.







A group of young bull elk had joined the herd at the trailhead.








The Teds relaxed at Fern Canyon and would return to camp. The Lady & I would spend the day exploring and hiking.


We entered Fern Canyon.








All was damp and wet after the rain. A wooden board walk is in place up Fern Canyon in the summer. We brought along our wading scandals for this off season trek.








This is a truly special place to visit.























We continued well past where the loop trail exits the canyon bottom. The canyon narrowed and became choked with vegetation. We scrambled over and under downed trees.













We finally turned around and retraced our steps all the way back to the canyon's mouth.













We hiked up the James Irvine Trail into the dark woods - a land of ferns, moss, small streams, and redwoods.







It was such an enjoyable day spent wandering and exploring. We returned to camp around four, pleased to find sunny blue skies above.








We took advantage and turned our camper into a gypsy camp. We wanted to dry out as much as possible.








The near full moon rose as we sat out in the cool evening.








We broke camp the next morning and started the long drive home. We reconnected with the Teds - we stopped in Arcata - at Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area to spend our last night together. The campground was empty except for the host. We don't know who was lonelier, the host or his dog. Ted build a campfire and baked salmon over the fire. The shower water was cold in the restroom building so we warmed water on our stove and carried it over for the privacy.


As darkness came, the Lady was off on a walk. Mrs. Ted was in their camper. Ted and I were telling stories around the campfire. Mrs. Ted suddenly opened the camper door, looked at Ted, and asked, "Did you shake the truck? Were you up front getting something?"

"No," Ted answered.


The Lady returned and we asked if she had given the camper a shake or had perhaps seen bigfoot giving it a big push.

"No, not me or bigfoot." the Lady replied.


Mrs. Ted was the only one of us that felt the 5.8 quake that hit at 7:59 pm on March 8th off the coast from Eureka, California.


We parted ways with our friends Monday morning. We returned home and the Teds turned south on Highway 1 to find more beaches to sit on to watch whales pass by and further immerse themselves in the joys of retirement.


The Teds, thank you so much for the kind invitation to join you on this special trip!


  1. Another great adventure! Soon we will all be able to get back on the road -- please stay healthy and keep exploring!

    1. Same with you Dan! Let's keep with the new health guidelines - stay home, social distancing, wash your hands, and let's get this all behind us in the shortest time.

  2. Great way for Ted to start retirement. Glad you got up there before everything got shut down. We had a May trip planned. :-(

    1. Bill, thanks for the comment! As I said above, let's all work together and get this virus behind us.

  3. Another great time. Thanks for sharing. Retirement is fun.

  4. This is Hari saying hi.
    Great adventure and wonderful photos! Did you shake the truck? LOL. Fern Canyon looks amazing. Missing Kofa?