We headed directly up the coast of California with plans continue north; to stop in Oregon, in Washington and then to cross the border by ferry to Vancouver Island, British Columbia and cross by ferry again to mainland Canada.
But first, we stopped at another National Park. Redwood National and State Parks are actually four parks, one National and three State Parks, managed cooperatively. These parks “protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly forty miles of pristine coastline, including the majestic coast redwoods”.
Coast redwoods are related to the giant sequoias that we visited earlier in the spring but they only grow in a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of California and southwestern Oregon. Although the giant sequoias’ trunks are wider, the coast redwoods can grow much taller, to nearly 380 feet. In fact, somewhere in these parks stands the world’s tallest tree, a coast redwood.
Our drive from Noyo Harbor was long, California is just so darn long! But not as challenging as our last drive, and part of the way was through coast redwood forests.
One of the very cool things about visiting the coast redwoods is that you get to enjoy the woods and the coast. Our campground was in Crescent City, just outside one of the entrances to the parks and home to several beautiful beaches.
Crescent City is also home to the Battery Point Lighthouse, a picturesque little lighthouse on a tiny islet. It’s only possible to visit the lighthouse when low tides expose a two hundred foot isthmus between the mainland and the island (unless you have a boat of course). So we never made it to the lighthouse, but enjoyed quite a few nice views of it.
The handsome ranger, whom I decided to call Clark Kent, gave us tons of recommendations. And he mentioned that there was a pod of whales feeding where the Klamath River empties into the Pacific, part of the national park.
Whale lovers that we are, we drove out to the overlook to check it out. And we found a short but steep trail down to a lower overlook.
There was indeed a pod of whales, mommas with calves swimming around.
We spotted the spouts and then the backs of the whales going over the water. Apparently, some whales stay here awhile before continuing on their northern migration, and others stay put until they migrate south for the winter.
We also went on a couple of forest drives and hikes. We drove through the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There we spotted some Roosevelt Elk, the largest of the North American elk, found only in the Pacific Northwest.
We hiked the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail in the National Park, a beautiful and easy hike that documents the history of the park and honors Lady Bird’s (First Lady to President Lyndon B. Johnson) campaign to preserve America’s natural beauty.
And since we could choose to walk on the beach or in the forest according to our mood, we continued to find beautiful beaches. They all had lots of driftwood, remnants of the age when logging was king.
We also hiked on the Yurok Loop Trail starting in Lagoon Creek in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, which connected to the Hidden Beach Trail. The trail led to a quarter mile long beach below some cliffs with lots more driftwood and great rocks in the water.
On this trail, we spotted the most unique wildlife yet, a banana slug! These are the second-largest species of terrestial slugs in the world, and are only found from Southeastern Alaska to Santa Cruz, California. Many people mistake them for banana peels.
We returned to the overlook on Klamath River to see more whales. And as we arrived, there was a Peregrine Falcon flying around. Hector snapped a couple of shots.
We met another photographer, Alan Justice, who had a scope and was sharing information about the whales with tourists. He was also letting folks peek through his scope to get a close-up view of the whales. Another wildlife lover for sure.
On our last day in the area, we stopped at what seemed to us to be a tourist trap, Trees of Mystery, described as “California’s premier nature attraction on the North coast”. Giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox welcome the public.
This area is the suspected habitat of the very hard to spot and mysterious Bigfoot.
The attractions include a gondola ride through a redwood forest, a walking trail, the largest milled redwood carvings in the world, and the cathedral tree, a grouping of nine trees growing out of a single root in a semicircle that is the site of Easter services and weddings.
But attached to the gift shop we discovered their End of The Trail Museum, “one of the largest privately owned world class museums for Indian artifacts”.
The impressive collection has been assembled over a period of about 40 years by Marylee Thompson, owner of the Trees of Mystery. It includes baby carriers, weapons, tools, pipes, pottery, jewelry, instruments, dolls, photos and more from tribes from throughout North America.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the museum collection. And the museum is free “as a gift to the touring public, supported entirely by profits from the Trees of Mystery”. Never judge a book by its cover.
We were sad to leave fantastic California after having spent four wonderful months there. Next north to Oregon!