Among the Giant Trees

Awake before dawn, I sleepily got in the driver’s seat & headed back to the little beach wayside in Crescent City by the lighthouse. I did manage to make it out of my overnight “hiding” spot before anyone inquired. Once it got to be daylight, I took Geb out for a walk as has become our routine in the mornings. I wanted to walk over to the lighthouse so I could take a good picture. Geb was such a little trooper! He totally walked the whole way there & back, across the rocky beach. His little paws were so wet, but he was having so much fun!

So cute!

The beach wayside was a perfect spot to work & rest that day. It was such a pretty spot, even despite the low-hanging gray clouds.

I went down to the National & State Parks Ranger Station during my lunch break. Those redwoods almost kicked my ass yesterday I figured I better get some expert advice. Come to find out, at the end of the jeep trail that I headed toward in the darkness last night, there really IS a RV park. My trusty iPhone app didn’t steer me wrong. Just the directions app that it sent me to did. The map the rangers gave me said in nice bright red letters “No RVs or Trailers” on that road. Yeah, I guess that would have been nice to know! There is another way around to get to the RV park in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park that is a nice windy paved road that is suitable for Sofia.

Returning to my little lighthouse wayside haven, I finished the afternoon. By 4pm (5pm MDT), I was more than ready to be done with my work day & tempt my fate with the redwoods again. I headed east out Hwy 199. What an incredible stretch of road. They really preserved the forest when they put in that road. I was so grateful for their foresight. Huge redwood trees standing there so close to the road that the sides of Sofia were almost brushing them as we drove slowly winding through the groves. I only had the one night to wander through the redwoods, so the ranger had recommended the Walker Road area.

Turning onto the graveled Walker Road, I quickly realized that the other section of the state park that I was in last night really wasn’t that much different than this area. Meaning, this forest park is still very wild. Even in 2012. The roads are really not developed. Signage is pretty much non-existent after the initial sign that said Walker Road. I was trusting that the ranger would not send me down a road I would have to repeat my turn-around escapade of last night! And thankfully, the roads weren’t quite as narrow.

Sofia in the Redwoods

I kept driving until I reached the Smith River. I hadn’t known there would be a river amongst those trees. I managed to find a spot to turn around & pulled over. I wanted to explore this magical place on foot. I grabed my camera & set off. Back up the road I drove in for a while and then changed roads to a smaller side road that branched off. I kept wandering off the road into the groves to see an extra big looking tree or a fallen log covered in moss that intrigued me well.

Mossy log & huckleberries

Crazy enough, the whole time I was by or walking along the road, only three cars passed by… for hours! I literally was alone out in those huge magnificent trees for hours.

I loved being amongst those trees!

Although, it was quite humbling to be just a girl wandering among those ancient giants. They felt so grand and so wise. It was very quiet in the groves, occasionally I’d hear a bird, but that was it. Not even any wind in the trees that day. I finally found a sign “Trail”. Of course it didn’t say where the trail went, but I followed it any way. It didn’t feel like I was hiking through there, no, it really was a meditative stroll, so serene and peaceful.

There was just so much to look at and take in. The trees themselves, from their height and girth, to their branches and needles, their bark with deep groves in it, some covered in mosses and lichens, some not. The forest floor is soft with sour grass, mosses and duff, hundreds of years of needles falling there, so rich and nutritious for the abundance of huge plant life there. The underbrush added to the tranquility of the forest with vine maples, rhododendrons, huckleberries, many kinds ferns, and salmon berries. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be when the rhododendrons are blooming; my next trip to the redwoods will have to be in the spring.

I saw many trees with old burn scars. Amazing how those old trees could weather such a fire & survive, but many of them did. Of course not all of them; I’m sure that’s why some were laying as logs covered in moss. I don’t know how many hundreds of years ago the fire happened, but only the rugged, huge old trees had burn scars. It made me reflect upon the difficulties in life. I guess the saying is true that says “what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger”.

I found wildlife in the underbrush as well!

As well as slugs, as I walked along I saw lots different varieties of shelf mushrooms growing on dead or dying trees.

Fascinating shelf mushroom

I was really excited when I found this incredible mushroom that was bigger than my hand spread wide! I still need to work on identifying it.

HUGE Mushroom

I also saw this parasol type mushroom that was huge as well; probably more than 10” across. I took its picture & admired it for a while, then wandered off to continue my exploration. Upon my return several hours later, it had fallen over, I’m thinking that it must have just continued to grow & had collapsed under its own weight. What a place this forest is with its giant trees and mushrooms!

Parasol Mushroom

And, finally, I found some mushrooms I could eat! Oyster mushrooms! They were way high up in a tree, but I have hunted these before and know how to coax them down from their lofty heights. I found a long stick & pushed up on their hold to the tree to break them loose. Works like a charm! The only difficulty was then finding them all in the dense underbrush, but I got them! They were delicious addition to my dinner later that night!

Dinner!

Walking along the trail, I found an old log that a bench had been cut into. It had a plaque in honor of Don J. Leiffer, May 31, 1925 – February 18, 1970. “Lover of Nature, People, and Life – He burned his candle at both ends… and it made a wondrous light.” That saying is inspiring to me… don’t just be busy with life, but make something wonderful out of the busyness. Further down the trail there was another plaque, “Walk wonderingly through the forest and experience the joy of discovery.” – Dorothy and Murray Leiffer Grove. I smiled when I read that as I had spent the last several hours doing exactly that!

As I wandered, I reflected on the book that inspired me to come back to the redwoods. I had visited the giant trees when I was a kid with my family, but hadn’t thought much of them since. Then several years ago, I found a book called The Wild Trees. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in nature. Its all about the first people who learned how to climb the redwood & giant sequoia trees and about the entirely different ecosystems that they found up there. Truly fascinating! Ever since reading and rereading that book I’ve wanted to come back, just to wander among these majestic trees.

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