Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 19 (Saturday May 30) Redwoods!

We awoke to an overcast (foggy?) day pretty early in the ATV campground at Oregon Dunes. I was ready to go since: A) they would be starting up the ATV's soon, B) it was cold and I wanted to get the heater on, C) the campground was all gravel with no good place for Max to walk, and E) I've wanted to see the Giant Redwoods of California since I was a little kid. So, since we had conveniently (and intentionally) slept on the air mattress in the back of the Jeep, I just slid into the driver's seat and we were on the road. We had a nice walk in the dunes at Crissy Field State Park, just North of the California State Line, then continued down the coast. 

Then we were in California and arrived at Redwoods National and State Parks. I stopped at one of the Park Information offices in Crescent City to get a map and figure out exactly what we should see. A very helpful park ranger highlighted the things he thought we should see on the map and we were off to drive a big loop through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The size of these trees increases gradually, and is very difficult to convey in a picture if there is nothing else next to them to give it scale. At one point we were walking back to the jeep and it almost looked like a toy next to the huge trees.

We got out and hiked quite a number of times throughout the day. One of the first times we did, Max seemed to want to run right up this tree.

At one point we had just parked and a couple of older folks were also just arriving and the man commented that he had a beagle when he was younger. They were admiring a fairly large redwood right next to the parking lot, and I offered to take their picture in front of it. They returned the favor and we got a pretty good shot of Max and I in front of (and on) a pretty big tree.

I had always wanted to see truly old-growth forest like this, and I guess redwoods are the oldest living things on the planet, living for up to 2200 years. The only thing I know of that I think might compare, and I hope to one day see for myself, is the Belovezhskaya Pushcha which straddles the border between Belarus and Poland. It has survived simply by always being a favorite hunting ground of the royals (and nazi's) throughout European history. Anyway, some of the scenes in the forest seemed very unreal today, especially when these giants had fallen and smashed into each other.

After our loop through the Jeddediah Smith section of forest, we continued to work our way down the 101, sometimes detouring from the forest up to some high bluffs overlooking the Pacific. The ranger said that there were still some Grey Whale sightings last week, but they are usually gone by late April. It was a very calm day but we were not able to see any. Still, observing the ocean from a 400-foot bluff is always enjoyable for me. Just being around the ocean seems to give me a sense of calm. We also tried to find the spot he said you could often see the Harbor Seals, but we didn't have any luck with marine mammals today.

The last area we were going to hike was a one-mile loop through the Ladybird Johnson Grove of Coastal Redwoods, but before we made it too far the fog started rolling in pretty thick. Dogs aren't allowed anyway, and both of us were tired, so we turned back, hit the road, and found a campground not too far down the highway. Set up the tent, cooked dinner (including some smoked salmon prepared in the traditional local native-american way that was delicious), did laundry, and now bed. Max has been snoring soundly for an hour or so. I think he had a really good day. I know I did.

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