A Week in the Redwoods

Published: December 19th 2008
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1: In the Redwoods 65 secs


We had an early start this morning. After visiting Natalie briefly yesterday afternoon to raid her wood pile and then collecting our tent from keely's dad and having a practice set up in the garden we were ready to go. Keely, Natalie, erin and I all piled into the car with our stuff.
The drive was around 13 hours. Vaguely concerned about such a long drive I took a travel sickness pill which after warning me 'may cause drowsiness' promptly knocked me out for the entire trip (note to self: never take travel sickness pills again!) I just about managed to stay awake for the first five minutes and paid my contribution for 'gas' before setting off. I briefly woke as we stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast and I sat stupified staring at the desert around us while the others filled up on food. I even stayed awake long enough to catch sight of a coyote running in the distance. I woke up the next time we stopped for petrol and found we had smoke coming out from the bonnet! A couple of friendly fellow travellers helped us out and the rest of the trip past uneventfully (especially for me as I slept the rest of the way!)
We eventually made it to Humbolt - our first campsite. I finally woke up feeling human again and helped the others make camp. We tried to get a fire started but with limited kindling and a strict rule of 'no collecting firewood' it was a little difficult. Fortunately I found a perfectly reasonable way of bending the rules - we were told not to collect firewood, but no-one said the dead leaves were off limits! We carefully heaped some handfuls of dead leaves and fern around our wood and soon had a fire merrily crackling away. We went in pairs to make use of the showers before it got too dark. The showers were very clean and well equipped. They ran on 10 cent coins and we were all able to have a good shower for very little cost. I was quite impressed - I was expecting much more primitive facilities at the campsite.


I woke up to a stunning view this morning. The tent roof was pulled back and through the mosquito netting I could see the trees branching overhead framing the perfect blue of the sky. The cool morning air was fresh and there were the sounds of the birds singing over breakfast. We set up our stove and sat of the picnic bench wrapped in shawls and eating oatmeal. A group of blue crested jays flew down to investigate and at one point we had 11 of them sitting in the trees around us.
We packed up and drove on to Del Norte. We stopped early on to buy some essential supplies... marshmallows and coat hangers. We couldn't find any metal coathangers so bought plastic covered ones... I was a little dubious how well those would work for cooking over an open flame! We got back to the car to find the keys sitting on the front seat inside! After a lot of moaning we set about trying to break into the car using a bent coat hanger which proved to be about three centimetres too short to reach the lock. After getting a few too many strange looks from passers by we decided to get some real help and keely and I set off in search of a mechanics or something. Miraculously there was one about five minutes walk away, that was open and had a mechanic free. He drove us back to the car park. Natalie and Erin were still standing by the car, bent coat hanger in hand, when Keely and I rode up in a giant truck... a bit over the top I thought. Especially when the mechanic managed to get into the car in about 30 seconds which left us all feeling rather silly. Fortunately we were all soon on our way again. I enjoyed being awake for this drive as the scenery was amazing. The weather was much cooler further north and the Redwood trees covering the mountains were shrouded with ribbons of mist. We stopped for more petrol at a tiny roadside petrol station. The four of us stood unsure how to use the old fashion petrol pump until eventually a local woman pushed in with some disparging comment about 'out-of-towners' and did it for us.
We drove past a long beach with rock formations out in the sea and a while later arrived at Del Norte camp site. We drove a long way through the trees and finally picked a campsite that was close to the shower block and the start of some local trails. We set up our tent and found a banana slug was sharing our new home with us. I've never seen anything like it before - I thought it was huge but apparently it was just a baby one. We followed one of the local trails and it was amazing to walk beside the towering trees and the huge ferns. The size of some of the trees was incredible.
Back at the campsite we built a fire again and then sat on logs around the fire pit cooking sausages over the flames.


We decided to start the day by returning to the beach we saw on the way yesterday. We had a lot of fun climbing over the rocks. We watched a black cormerant diving into the sea for fish. A while later we saw hime drying off on the beach. He soon collected a gathering of admirers and strutted his stuff up and down the beach.
We drove onto the 'Trees of Mystery' which was simply amazing. As we arrived we were greeted by a towering figure of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox. The figure spoke as we approached. At first I thought it was simply a recording playing from inside until I realised he was actually speaking to the people around him - a little boy in a red t-shirt was climbing on his foot and he kept telling the boy to be careful and stop tickling him. As we walked past the figure told us to have fun - Natalie jumped andsaid it had freaked her out. We walked up onto the trail and the voice followed apologising for scaring us!
We paid for our tickets - my wonderful international student card coming in handy again - and followed the trail. We saw the 'Family Tree' an amazing redwood that had 12 other living trees growing from its branches - presumably all seeded by birds. The cathedral tree was a tree that had split into several trunks and looked somewhat like a cathedral tower.

''This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal.

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, O traveller, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.''

We stopped at the Brotherhood Tree which has a massive 19 foot diameter is dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man. From there we took the sky trail cable car up into the canopy. The views from the top were incredible, but looking over the spindly tops of the trees it was hard to credit the monstrous trunks reaching down to the forest floor. It was hard to realise just how high up we were and that these trees were really THAT tall.
The walk back down was fun. We had to cling onto the rope the whole way as the path was so steep. A few wooden signs warned us that we were in bigfoot country but we didn't see anything apart form the massive ferns and the trunks of the redwoods.

The next part of the trail led us through a collection of chainsaw carvings depicting the stories of Paul bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (all of which were new to me). At the end there was a huge slice from the trunk of a fallen redwood. Along the rings of the trunk small plaques gave the year and what was happening. It was incredible to think the tree in front of us had stood through the discovery of America, the signing of the Magna Carta, the Crusades....it really showed just how ancient the forest around us was.

We went into the museum on site. The 'End of the Trail' museum is dedicated to Native American artifacts collected over the last 40 years by Marylee Thompson. I saw some beautiful examples of Native American clothing and weavings. We paid a quick visit to the gift shop and then left - with Paul Bunyan waving goodbye as we left!

Back at the campsite I curled up with a book in the tent for a while and then went off with Erin to explore one of the other local trails. then it was back to the campsite again to make our fire for the night... a process that took a ridiculously long time as the wood was rather damp.


We woke up early again and I wandered around the campsite wrapped in a shawl and wearing two pairs of socks with my sandals until the sun warmed us up a bit. We ate breakfast and then packed the car again and drove back to Humbolt camp site. After setting up camp again (we've got pretty quick at it!) Erin and I headed off to find the river while the other two relaxed back at camp. We walked out of our campsite and across the road where we found the trail down to Eel River. We had the river almost entirely to ourselves and despite the algae the water was perfectly clean for swimming. I had no costume and had to content myself with paddling but Erin joined a couple of children in climbing on the rocks and jumping off.
In the evening we built our last campfire and celebrated by cookig marshmallows in the flames. Unfortunately the coathangers we had to put the marshmallows on were plastic coated. I managed to strip of the plastic coating but most of the others wound up with melted plastic which I really hope they didn't consume along with the marshmallows!! I had great fun cooking marshmallows which the others ate for me as I can't stand them. We also had an impromptu singalong around the campfire.


Last day in the Redwoods today. We had a bit of drama getting home. We weren't even out of the Redwoods when we stopped to get something from the boot only to find we couldn't unlock it. Keely said the boot could be opened from the inside so Natalie crawled in from the back seat and fiddled with the catch from the inside. Eventually the boot swung open and we found ourselves looking down on a very red faced Natalie sprawled across the sleeping bags, her legs still waving around in the back seat!
Fortunately that was our only disaster of the homeward trip. The rest of the drive was very pleasant although I was bitterly disapointed as we drove past what I am about 90% sure were elk but couldn't find anywhere to stop or turn around for the sake of a few photos.
We arrived back in one piece and Erin and Natalie drove home.


20th December 2008

That was a most beautiful sound in a peaceful place. Love the photos!

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