Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Redwood National Park

As Heather dropped us off at the top of Redwood National Park and departed for Oregon, we smiled with gratitude as we gazed at the prairie, black oaks, and rolling hills all around us. We breathed in clean, crisp air devoid of any smoke and listened to the sound of the grass blowing in the breeze. Within a few days, the trails of the park would lead us to be wading in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. It felt unbelievable to me that we were now standing in Redwood National Park. 
We have traveled very far and we made it. Thank God.

In the midst of all the grass and black oaks, one huge rock burst out of the ground. What a perfect place to view the sunset, so we shall camp here. When choosing a campsite, we search mainly for shelter from wind and dew, or a place with drinking and cooking water. But to find a place from which to watch sunrises or sunsets, now that's a plus.

Climbing up the boulder, looking back at where we'll set up camp.

Incredible views! Looking at the highest point in Redwood National Park.

Now that we've found the perfect spot, we'll set up camp and return to watch the sunset.

Choosing what food to bring back up with us. From the top of the rock, we'll cook dinner while watching the sunset.

The sun dipping into the Pacific!

As the sun set, we watched the moon rise behind us.

The following morning, we scrambled back up the rock for some final views. 
From there, we saw this guy. My first black bear sighting!

We packed up everything and returned to the road to try to catch a ride down into the park. We had no plans on where we were to go next, no maps on us. All we knew is that we were going to get to see some tall trees that day. As the sun rose higher, it was getting to be fairly warm. We sought out some shade and waited for a car to drive past.

First came a couple, Steve and Chris, who cared immensely and checked on us to make sure everything was okay. They had no room in their car, but they filled up every single one of our water bottles. While doing so, a sheriff deputy drove past, heading in the opposite direction. He, too, stopped and asked if we were fine. Then he left. The couple apologized that they couldn't fit us in for a ride and sincerely hoped that someone would stop for us soon. Before leaving, they let us have a look at their park map so that we would have an idea of where to go next.

Minutes after they drove off, the sheriff deputy returned. He asked us what we were doing out here, and we told him that we were trying to hitch a ride into the park. "Those other people couldn't take you?" We explained to him the situation, and he said, "Hop in." We climbed into the backseat of his pickup truck and told him at what trailhead we would begin hiking. When we arrived, Steve and Chris were in the parking lot, just exiting their car with their dog. The deputy opened his door, 
saying to them with no expression on his face, "Hey. You forgot your people." The couple 
froze like deer in the headlights! They were so nervous! Once they saw us climb out, 
they visibly relaxed and laughed a little.

We ate lunch on the Dolason Prairie Trail in a beautiful, lush forest, and then kept walking.

Dolason Barn.

We then escaped the direct August sun once again and continued walking through 
the peaceful forest, swatting away at cobwebs as we passed through its winding corridors.

This place definitely had a different atmosphere than that of the Pacific Crest Trail in 
northern California. The lush understory of the forest alluded to a heavier rain fall 
in the area. The cool air we breathed was dense with moisture.

Sooner than I expected, redwoods began appearing everywhere!

Here we sat on a fallen redwood, ate trail mix, and napped for awhile.

Gazing down at Emerald Creek.

From there we turned onto the Emerald Ridge Trail and decided to swim in Redwood Creek. 
Perhaps there would be somewhere nearby to camp as well.

Laundry, swimming, and dinner at Redwood Creek.

We each picked a spot to sleep in the midst of giant redwood trees. I tucked away inside of one and had a camping experience unlike any other I've ever had. The comfort I felt is rather inexplicable. All sounds were muffled to a still, sweet silence. I breathed in the musty fragrance of this giant and warmed from the heat its trunk radiated. All was well as I curled up and slept the night away.

The following morning, I whipped out the colored pencils and began sketching away!

One more visit to Redwood Creek, before returning to the Emerald Ridge Trail.

Our first sighting of the "elusive" banana slug.

Entering Tall Trees Grove!

Freebird standing amidst the redwoods.
A beautiful big leaf maple grove thrown into the mix.

Leaving behind the sanctuary that is Tall Trees Grove to reconnect with Redwood Creek via this trail.

As we meandered up the trail, we found a diverging, less-used path that appeared to be 
the result of several bush-whacks over the years. We wandered that down to Redwood Creek, 
looking for the next campsite to set up for the night.

Some mergansers on the shore! We had to sneak past and try not to scare them. 
As you can see from the second picture, that was only semi-successful.

A nurse log.

While I sat along the creek, drawing, Freebird was exploring the area. 
He came across this sign, found me, and brought me over to take a look. 

"Second Tallest Tree, Height (1964): 367.4 Feet"

We had been searching all day for Hyperion, the world's tallest known tree that resides in Redwood National Park. The exact location isn't revealed to prevent flocks of tourists from damaging the tree. Hyperion was measured at 379.3 feet in 2006, not a significant difference from this sign that dates all the way back to 1964, before the National Park was founded in 1968. Overgrown with moss and rotting away, this sign and this general area seems to be unexplored by the park administration.

We stepped back and looked up to the crown of the tree (the middle one), and it appeared to have perhaps about 30 feet of new growth over the years. Whatever the height now, it most likely is taller than Hyperion! Freebird may have stumbled upon the world's tallest tree.

(We later showed the photos to rangers at the Redwood Visitors Center in Crescent City, California. None of them had seen that sign before, nor do they know anyone who has. They will probably be sending out someone to measure the height of the tree, and maybe we'll hear more about it one day.)

A microscopic frog!

We set up camp beneath this big leaf maple, along the shore of Redwood Creek.

A daring feat for the banana slug!

One climbing over the wind screen for our stove, and another creeping across my sleeping bag. Banana slugs were into everything here! We had to be careful not to step on them.

The following morning, we packed up and headed back for the trail.

We got a little rainfall the previous night. It was beautiful how the trail sparkled as we walked along.

As we pulled out food for lunch, we discovered a stow-away!
Delicious vegetable wraps and hot ginger tea!

Sign reads, "Approximate Age:  750 Years."

Father and children doing yoga along Redwood Creek.

As we approached the parking lot at the Redwood Creek trailhead, blackberries grew all over. 
We collected some for later and consumed so much more. I overindulged a bit and 
soon regretted it, a lesson in gluttony.

Blackberry blossoms.
Once we reached the lot, there were a few cars but no people in sight. So we walked up the road, heading for Skunk Cabbage Trail next, which would lead us to the ocean. We would have to walk a section on the highway in between.

Within a few minutes, a woman we met under a redwood tree stopped in her vehicle and offered us a ride. We didn't even have to stick out the thumb first. She got us through the busy highway section (thank God, for there was no extra space to walk there) and brought us to the Skunk Cabbage trailhead. Before departing, we learned a bit about each other. This woman sat down to meditate under the same redwood for years and communicate with the queen of the fairies. What an interesting character! We had not met such a person since the Rainbow Gathering. Before we parted ways, the three of us agreed that it was definitely divine serendipity that brought us together.

 Skunk Cabbage Trail curves through a lush, green forest. I was so astounded by its beauty, 
and surprised that we only saw probably one or two people the whole time. We figured 
that the name of the trail just isn't very alluring to the tourists!

We climbed up a long set of switchbacks. I was tired and sweaty, uttering profanities under my breath, but determined to get to the top! There was an overlook approaching, and the anticipation was building. I had never been to the Pacific Ocean before and was very excited for the experience to come. I climbed and climbed...and then there was the sign, pointing the direction. I waited there for Freebird. We stepped onto the side trail, Freebird insisting that I go ahead first. We turned the corner as I held my breath.... and *gasp* there's some bushes! We could hear the waves crashing at least.

We hiked onward through the forest, knowing that we would get to the beach eventually.

And here it is! 

I was so thrilled and giddy like a little child, running and skipping and laughing 
with wonder. It felt incredible beyond words to finally see the Pacific Ocean - to wade 
in its cool, salty waves, to view the cliffs emerging from the fog, to feel the sand 
sinking beneath my feet, to hear the shrieks of the sea gulls flying over the crashing waves.

We tried to set up camp along the beach that evening, but after dinner the rains came. 
So we moved everything inland to this fern-filled forest. The trees were so thick that 
I was able to sleep without a tent and avoid getting wet.

The following morning, we began beach-walking.

We watched the shore birds in their quest for fish, and I went a little shutter-happy.

At some point we crossed into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park; the border wasn't clearly marked. We continued to hike up the beach there and visit lots of other amazing places along the way, meeting more friendly people. That will wait until the next post.

I will never forget all the fond memories I have of Redwood National Park. I enjoyed exploring the park's diverse climates (from prairies to redwood forests to beaches) and meeting so many wonderful people along the way.  What a beautiful experience. Thank God.

8/12-28/2014. Each circle depicts the four places we camped in Redwood National Park.