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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Its not called “Adventure” for Nothing

A heavy fog greeted me when I woke up on Sunday. Ah, yes! Now, this was the Oregon coast I knew so well. I knew I had been spoiled the last few days of simply gorgeous weather. I had gotten up early as I planned to drive all the way from Pacific City to Crescent City, CA to the redwoods. That’s quite a stretch down the coastline. I was planning to stop at all the lighthouses & any other interesting spot along the way.

Before I left the RV park, I took Geb & Nyssa to the dunes right behind my camp site. Geb had fun playing in the grass & digging in the sand; it was adorable! Nyssa is even getting more accustomed to her harness & started looking around rather than just playing dead, so cute!

My first stop down the highway was Boiler Bay. I had gone there in high school with my Marine Biology class for tide pooling. The tide was in, but I still had a lot of fun looking at what I could see… anemones, limpets, little orange crabs, start fish, muscles, barnacles, snails, and sea urchins. I even found a whole sea urchin shell!

Boiler Bay

As I drove past Depoe Bay I saw they had a sign stating it’s the “World’s Smallest Harbor”. I stopped to take a look & beg to differ. The harbors that my sister, Beth, & I saw in Cinque Terre were definitely smaller than that! However, it is definitely a small harbor by Oregon standards.

I meandered down Otter Crest Loop, loving the rocky shoreline, and stopped to see Devil’s Punchbowl. The punchbowl was formed when the roof of two sea caves collapsed, creating an open topped cavern full of churning & foaming water with tunnels leading out to the sea.

Devil’s Punchbowl

Just north of Newport is Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It was fun to stop there & hike around a bit. I remember going there in high school with Beth one year. We stopped by on our way to Newport to buy school clothes. We had so much fun that day just the two of us. I stood in line for about 10 minutes waiting to go into the lighthouse, but the line was very long & the wait just didn’t seem worth it to me. I still had miles & miles of coastline to drive to make it to California.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Of course I couldn’t resist trying to take the “perfect” fireweed picture on my way back to Sofia!

And, I couldn’t help but laughing when I saw this sign on the walkway as well. Wildlife! Only in Oregon… LOL!

Rather than burning off, the fog kept getting worse the later in the day it got and the further south I drove. By the time I got to Newport, the fog was downright interfering with my view! The Waldport Bridge was completely hidden from site and I couldn’t get a picture of it.

Foggy Newport Bridge

Onward, stopping to take in the sites at Cape Perpetua, Devil’s Churn, & Hector Head Lighthouse, I finally arrived down at the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area. There are lots of areas to stop at, most are geared toward ATV riders. I decided to try the Siltcoos area. Not a great option to see a bunch of big dunes, but this little waterway was beautiful.

Siltcoos Waterway

I had been having so much fun throughout the day just meandering along and stopping wherever I was drawn. But now, it was getting later in the afternoon and I was still a ways away from my goal of spending the night in the Redwoods. I decided I better not stop anymore along the way, of course, except for lighthouses and a quick stop along the highway shoulder to take a pretty picture of a swampy areas & dune.

I did get detoured for a minute at the Coquille Lighthouse outside of Bandon. I walked down to the beach & found a great driftwood sculpture; I think it’s a cute little bug. There were also two little boys about 7 or 8 who were building a fort out of driftwood. “This is going to be the BEST fort ever!” one boy exclaimed to his playmate. It made me smile… They were utterly engrossed in their project, with a beautiful zest for life, so alive in that very moment. It was precious.

Driftwood Bug Sculpture

There are so many beautiful & historic bridges along the Hwy 101 route. I couldn’t help but stop again when I saw the bridge over the Rogue River outside of Gold Beach.

Wild sweet pea & Rogue River bridge

The coastline between Gold Beach & Brookings was so beautiful… I just couldn’t get enough of all the rock formations sprinkling the coastline. I watched the sun setting over these beautiful formations as I continued my journey south.

Oregon doesn’t allow you to pump your own gas. It was interesting to me that along Hwy 101 as I stopped in Newport for gas as well as Brookings, both attendants noticed I was alone & asked me about my adventures. The guy in Newport was fascinated. He said he too wanted to go to the redwoods, but didn’t have anyone to go with him. I encouraged him to just go do it by himself! In Brookings, the woman attendant I talked to also was intrigued. She said that someday she hoped to “get a wild hair” & go adventuring. Of course I encouraged her to do it… sooner rather than later! I really enjoyed my conversation with her & got out of Sofia to give her a hug as I was about to drive away. One of the last things she said, was “I hope you find what you’re looking for on this adventure.” It really made me stop & think as I continued my drive south… what is it that I am looking for out here? Adventure? To see the world? To meet new people? To experience different things? To find myself? To push myself out of my comfort zone? Maybe all of these things… it’s a question I’ve had on my mind since she asked it and I continue to reflect on it.

Just outside of Crescent City. I drove through an area of fields & along the tree line I saw a big redwood tree! It was just there, along with the other trees, seemingly nothing special. But I knew immediately that I had just seen my first redwood tree of the trip. Wahoo! I was almost there, my long fun-filled day of adventure was almost over. I couldn’t wait to find a camping spot. I was planning to eat the crab I had bought for dinner the day before & I was getting hungry!

It was twilight by the time I rolled into Crescent City. Yippee! I had made it! My mapquest directions showed that the address for Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was right downtown Crescent City. I thought that perhaps there was a small section of redwood trees they had saved right there. But no, after driving the 12 blocks down to the beach, not seeing any redwoods (like they would be hard to miss!), finding another lighthouse, & then driving back into town, I realized that the address was actually just an administrative building, which of course, was closed for the night. I pulled out my trusty iphone again & used my RV Park finder app. Sure enough, there was an RV park in the JSRSP and it looked to be only 6 miles away. The app forwards to google maps, so I had directions to follow. I was good to go!

Crescent City is a fairly small town & pretty rural after you get off the highway. I drove by a casino that had a nice two lane road in front of it. At that point, I felt like I was still pretty much in society. Just about 1/2 mile past the casino, the road curved sharply. So sharp in fact that I had to drop my phone I was holding to view the directions & use both hands to turn the wheel! All of a sudden the road got really narrow & really curvy & promptly turned to gravel! There was no place to go but forward & up into the ever darkening mists.

I was shaking a little at this point. Felt like I wasn’t getting myself into a good situation. But what does one do at that point? Go on, I guess, there was absolutely no way to turn around there & I couldn’t imagine trying to back down those horrible curves in the dark! Then I saw that the road ahead narrowed even more. But thankfully right before that there was a “wide” spot in the road. I got out & surveyed the situation. It “looked” like it probably was wide enough to turn around. It was my only option as I was up in the middle of the woods in the pitch dark!

Was dark & scary up there!

Thank goodness for my trusty flashlight. So I left the flashlight at the widest part so I’d have something to aim for & started to turn the tires as much as possible, then backed up. Then, turn the tires the other way as much as possible and go forward. There was a ditch on the side of the road in front of me, so I found a big muddy log I could barely move, but somehow managed to manhandle it & got it positioned in the ditch just in case I went too far forward. I thought it might save me in case that happened. The last thing I needed was to end up stuck in a ditch! I ended up having to take off my bike rack after I backed it into the roots of a huge tree. Little by little I made my way out. When I was about 1/2 out, Sofia completely diagonal to the road, I got out & saw that really there was probably only about 34-35′ available. Sofia is 31′ plus about 3’ for the bike rack. Scary!! At the end I counted my pivots – 15 point turn around. Whew – I had made it!

My heart was beating super rapidly & I was shaking quite a bit from the adrenaline, as I drove slowly down the twisty road out of the forest. I would try visiting the redwoods again tomorrow. I was happy to make it out safely & back to civilization with just a minor casualty to the bike rack. I guess it just has personality now.

I still needed a place to camp for the night, and especially by this point, I really wanted a glass of wine to drink, too! I remembered the beach area with the lighthouse I found when looking for the redwoods in Crescent City just a little while earlier. Arriving there, ready to be done with my day, I saw a sign “No Overnight Parking”. Damn! This day just wouldn’t end!

Again I referenced my RV Park finder app, hoping that I wouldn’t steer me wrong again. I found a campground a few miles away at the edge of Crescent City. I drove over there, but as I drove in I didn’t see any signs for an office or registration. Nothing, except a little circle road with picnic tables that appeared to be a tent camping spot. I drove onto the circle, barely making it around the tight corner. Thankfully no one was there. I decided that was it; I had had enough. I wasn’t going any further looking for a camping spot or for the office or anything. Right there in the middle of the circle was good enough for me! I would just get up at 5am, drive away & hopefully no one would know the wiser. That plan worked!

It was about 10:30pm by the time I arrived at the circle. Exhausted, but hungry, I decided to go ahead & relax by eating my nice fresh crab for dinner & enjoying some Nehalem Bay Riesling. Every time I eat Dungeness crab, I am reminded of my Aunt Julie. For a special treat, she used to take me & my sisters to get crab. Laughing & just enjoying each other as we always did when we were together, we’d go to the beach or to a park and savor each bite of our scrumptious meal.  My meal this night was perfect to celebrate surviving such an adventure-filled day!

Dinner in remembrance of my Aunt Julie