Published: April 17th 2012April 4th 2012
There are too many superlatives to describe this place. They are trees yes, but not normal trees. These are Redwoods, the tallest living beings in the world. So outstanding the sight of these trees towering over you - Even a popped tyre on the slushy forest bed can’t dampen the spirits of this awe-inspiring visual. Who cares about the rain raging down on you as you leverage your way to release the bolts. It’s a Redwood forest your in, easily the best motivational tool to become a tree hugger.
So I was back in USA again for one last hurrah for JP5. I flew into Oakland Airport this time to cover the North West of the states. A flight delay meant I arrived after midnight, which was fine by me. My idea was to yet again hire a car and drive north, straight away by passing San Francisco and headed to California’s northwest for the Redwoods National Park.
Coming from Cancun the flight I took was about 95% Mexican. We line up at immigration and one officer comes along and speaks only in Spanish. Holding cards up and explaining which aisle is which. I looked
around, questioning why is he not explaining this in English and only a handful of people from 3 flights were not Hispanic.
When my turn came up the immigration officer asks me some questions and points out that I overstayed my visa by a day last time (actually 4 hours). She is trying to act all intimidating (combined with the stress that at 1am she has a stack of people to get through.) I informed that I took an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles that had a stopover in Miami so I was only in transit. But I left my original destination on the correct date. I also informed that the ticket I booked was for Panama not Miami. She says that I could have changed the flight in the last minute. Of which I replied, “But I didn’t, shouldn’t that give you an indication of what my intentions were?”
I was asked to move to the side and sit in the bad boys corner with a whole bunch of other Mexicans. Whilst this is happening I am freezing because this airport had no heating so their officers can feel more comfortable in
their puffed up uniforms.
Eventually my name is called out and I am stamped through. She didn’t say, “I hope you enjoy the states.” or anything like what I’ve got every other time. Maybe it is just the female immigration officers who are like this. The two nice officers that asked me questions with no attitude and wished me a pleasant trip previously were men. This woman was not as bad as the Canadian women but it was like if you are going to be a bitch about it once you let me in then you must still think I’m suspicious so don’t let me in. If not than treat me like a human being and welcome me into your country.
So I put myself in the thick of things again and by 2am I drove off but this time with no GPS as it broke. My bed, being whenever a micro sleep was about to start I’d wait till the next truck stop came up and pulled over and reclined. I am a bit concerned because I managed to drive on the right side quite naturally. I’m concerned because in a week’s time
after dropping off the car I will be back in Australia driving. Whereas here I can get away with the odd mistake with an officer. In Australia I can’t say, “Oh gee sorry I’m Australian and I’m not use to driving this side.”
I was wanting to get to Redwoods NP by the end of the day but US’s beauty doesn’t allow that. I drove up Hwy 101 passing over the Golden Gate Bridge prior and cut across wine vineyards on Hwy 128 to Hwy 1.
The last two hwy’s weave in and around hills, valleys and coastline and I just couldn’t help but just stop and take photos. The 128 links with Hwy 1 close to a small town on the coast called Mendocino, which has some nice walks. The coastline is dramatic and it was hard to veer off it but the price for gas had increased so much that I had to make some tough calls.
In only 3 months the price had increased from roughly $3.30 a gallon to $3.70 nationally. In California, which had already exceeded $4 around Christmas, was now $4.50. That meant a tank
of petrol would set me back around $10 more than before. In fact 3 of the 5 states that I went to for the final 3 weeks are now averaging more than $4.
But had it not been for the expensive gas I would have spent most of my time straddling the coast instead of veering off Hwy 101 to the Avenue of the Giants. USA has a tendency to over exaggerate with some names of sights so I almost didn’t do the turn off. But Avenue of the Giants had a ring to it so I did it.
Covering a 32-mile track the road parallels Hwy 101. (From the south, take exit 645. From the north take Exit 674.) It’s part of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park covering 53000 acres, with approximately 17000 acres of old-growth coastal redwoods. 10000 acres of that is at Rockefeller forest – the largest continuous old growth redwood forest in the world.
The avenue has 8 auto tour stops, with each one providing a small hike and a chance to stand up against a losing battle. The road was built originally as a stagecoach and
wagon road in the 1880’s but now is a great attraction for any traveller. On both sides of the road these trees that can grow up to 500-700 feet (150- 215 metres) and can live to around 2000 years of age. They have no known killing disease. This is because it has foot thick bark that makes the tree resistant to fire and insects.
I originally thought that Redwoods National Park was just the one place so this part of the trip was seen as an added bonus. See Redwood parks are scattered all up this final part of northern California coast and into Oregon. I got some more information of the place and it turns out that the coast redwood is the tallest living thing on earth and fossils show that relatives of today’s coastal redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era, 160 million years ago. The impressive stats just continued but than you read that about only 5% of the worlds old-growth redwoods exist today.
1 million years ago most of the northern hemisphere was covered by the Redwood. Preferring coastal foggy environment, which is perfect to the north California lifestyle, it is
said that it’s the closest you can get to experience the dinosaurs living conditions. Of all the redwoods that remain, more than 95% of the world’s old growth redwoods live in California. And 45% of the total are in this small patch of northwest California.
As I thought the Avenue of the Giants had finished Drury-Chaney Grove (auto stop 8) was complete. I saw this large red thing lying down in a forest of redwoods. I get out of the car again and what I saw was a carpenters fantasy cause Jesus Christ it was amazing.
The only killer apart from humans cutting them down is through soil erosion when the great beast thunders down. Up rooted, it must have either happened that day or the day before. Along the walks you see old roots and a small stump but that’s about it. But this was untouched. The bark had been shed, the branches and leaves from the top had mashed up together and the trunk split into pieces. Up close the smell was filled with oxygen goodness. I’d close my eyes and lap it up.
I climbed up into the
tree, which is some feat from the wrong side… That was my move. What a photo opportunity it was so I was mixing that with sniffing the redwood, which has a distinct smell. A perfume that took me back to roaming around a furniture store for some reason?
One of the greatest things to happen for these trees is for it to naturally fall. As it slams down, the fractures in the wood collects soil and water and over time deteriorates into the ground providing nutrients to the soil, which helps continue the cycle.
And so the road continued, eventually leading toward the coast again. Probably the most ideal way to drive this coast is from north to south. The viewpoints are on the west. For me I was going south to north meaning the west is to the left. Going this way unfortunately some viewpoints are not as simple as just veering off the road.
Hitchhikers are everywhere in California. More so than anywhere else in the states. I was told that Californians are “full of arseholes” and that’s why they don’t pick anyone up. But I think it is
because there are so many here and they are just fed up with it. The problem to is that most of them look like bums and appear like they’ll stink your car out.
I managed to get as far north as Trinidad and Arcata. There is a nice lighthouse in Trinidad and a memorial plaque of all the fisherman who have died at sea. There were a few basic things I needed to do before arriving in Redwoods NP only 45 minutes away.
I had to buy a new mobile… again. See in Costa Rica this woman decided to wear a see through bikini top and was walking past me when a big wave came along and collected my belongings, including my USA mobile. It happens to the best of us. So yet another cheap shitty phone was bought for $10 and it again had a Spanish booklet provided. The two languages are very prominent in California.
For the two days that I was in the area I got the best of both worlds. Some sunny patches to see the trees in its ideal setting, whilst on the second day in
its element of fog and/or rain. The Redwoods State Forest is broken up into two main areas. The southern area, the more popular stopover. It’s the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It was the first established national park for the Redwoods in August 13 1923.
Unlike the Avenue of the Giants this part of the Redwood forest enables a better look at the varying stages of the Redwood. Some parts are still in its natural way. Whilst others have been strategically planted, especially along the road of Bald Hills Road where young trees line up along most of the road heading to the Vista Point. This point usually you see out to the ocean, which for a portion is part of the National Park. But on this day you could see nothing.
A walk along a trail in Lady Bird Johnson Grove sees the combination of the Redwoods with ferns and other plant life. My memory card was full so I started to delete some of my older photos from a month ago. Looking at the old photos of a broken down car ferry in Guatemala. I am asked by my camera to re-confirm
the delete. I press okay and put the cameras viewfinder to my face and what do I see? Just one of the greatest natural beauties I’ve seen… The Redwoods National Park. It’s just such a satisfying moment being here. That was just one of many moments I can recall thinking this.
The only problem with these places, I can see, is that there is so much more hiking I wanted to do but with the car and so much more stuff to see I had to move on, by choice.
As well as the reduction of the trees over time, the fauna of the Roosevelt Elk dropped to 15 in Prairie Creek in 1925 but a conservation effort has increased it to 1000. Poaching and road kill are the major threats.
The north coast of California was ignored mostly by non-Indians until the 1850’s when gold was found in Gold Bluff. Logging began in 1851; evidence of this can be seen along the whole coast. You can see redwood lumber used to build the American dream. The most famous ones are San Francisco’s Victorian homes.
The north part
of the Redwoods borders and infiltrates a portion of Oregon. In parts it has a rougher terrain to drive along. Whereas the rest of the drives are along nice paved roads, the Jedediah Smith Redwoods state park is more a dirt road with a higher concentration of potholes. This is where the tyre popped.
To get a visual - This is the park where scenes of the Moon of Endor was filmed in the movie, Star Wars Return of the Jedi. The main scenes are where Chewbacca’s little munchkin friends drive off as a distraction and the white robots follow through the woods and start a chase through the forest. Well it was here I drew a flat. Going about 20km/hr and too busy concentrating on my surroundings instead of in front of me I hit a large hole and within 2 minutes a noise and bugger me a flat tire 9 miles from the exit of the park.
This is not the most common of route to take especially in this weather (Crescent City is the more common route on the main highway.) I was going to get the shits but I laughed
instead. As the rain drenched me I thought that this is the greatest popped tyre I’ll ever have! My only concern was that I wouldn’t be able to get the car jacked up with the soft ground but I drove a little further to harder ground and changed to that small style half tyre spare.
Most places in the world it takes days to get a wow factor but the USA only took 5 hours. I may not agree with many of the actions Greenpeace and other activists do but when you look at the preservation of a place like Redwoods you find a new sense of appreciation. If it weren’t for some people in the 1920’s this true natural wonder of the world could have been lost forever.
Northern California is not the California you’d expect, a very low population, farming is the main earner and they concentrate more on local businesses. I failed to see a Wall-Mart the further north I went.
Of the old-growth redwoods still in existence, about 80% are protected in parks and reserves. The Redwoods forest holds the world’s greatest reported volume of living matter
per unit of land surface. There are so many impressive statistics and if that means we have to put up with some hippy at a corner street than so be it. They may not be about to talk about Redwoods but it maybe something just as important.
I too may not give them the time of day either the next time I see them in my local area and keep it as a non-verbal appreciation for one another. But let them carry-on because it probably is for the good of the world. They definitely have me if it’s about cutting down Redwoods unnecessarily. (I’ve converted haven’t I? Let me clarify, I’m not saying never ever cut Redwoods but in moderation and outside any of the old growth. Lets make sure its managed better.)
I suppose you are wondering whether I ended up being a tree hugger? Well… I had to hug it. It was like hugging your grandfather again. But not in his fragility of the hospital bed this is when he’s all up and about. Fully fit with the muscled beer gut you just can’t get around. And like when I was a
child I tried my best to wrap around but I couldn’t, instead hugging it with all my might.
There are more photos below