There were a few things that we definitely wanted to do on our epic cross-country US road trip. Seeing the Redwoods was one of them. As we drove Highway 101 out of Oregon and into Northern California, Nick and I scoured the woods at the roadside for our first glimpse of the Redwoods. We saw some impressive trees, but not the behemoths we were looking for.
Just north of Crescent City, we pulled into our campground for the night. It was lovely with lots of sites nestled in among a grove of young redwoods. We checked in and found our campsite. In an open field. Right next to the noisy playground. I went back to the office and asked for a different campsite. We were reassigned to a site under into the trees.
We biked and walked through the campground and found a few large live trees, and several huge fallen trees and stumps. The forest was lovely, but definitely not old growth. We were still looking for our giant Redwoods.
As the afternoon wore on, I was grateful that we had moved. We could hear the joyous shouts of children on the playground. As our camping neighbors returned from their adventures, the activity and noise level in the campground increased significantly. A steady stream of cars, bikes and walkers passed by our RV. We were grateful that we were only staying here for one night.
I bought two bundles of firewood from the camp store for the evening. There’s a good reason to purchase firewood at the campground store. Importing firewood from other areas of the state or country can introduce pests to a previously unaffected area. We don’t have camp fires often, but when we do, we buy our firewood at the camp store, and we leave behind any that we don’t burn.
As evening fell and our camp fire was blazing, Nick pulled out his trusty harmonica. For the next couple of hours, Nick played his full repertoire of campfire songs and I sang along. I’m sure our RV neighbors were entertained.
The next morning we decided to skip the nearby Redwoods National Forest and head directly to California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park. National Parks are lovely for people, but they aren’t very dog-friendly. Our campground for the next few nights was in the State Park, so it made sense to get an early start on the 130 mile drive.
A few hours later we pulled off of Highway 101 and onto the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31 mile section of the old Highway 101. It runs through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and over 51,000 acres of Redwood groves. The state park has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods.
As we entered the Avenue of the giants from Highway 101, we were awed by the presence of the magnificent trees. The road was narrow and windy. The trees were pressed against the side of the road, creating a sort of tunnel to drive through. We pulled into the Ancient Redwoods RV Park for our five day stay. As soon as we were hooked up, we leashed up Bella for a walk in the woods.
We didn’t have to walk far to find big trees. Right on the edge of the campground parking lot we saw The Immortal Tree. This tree is estimated to be about 1,000 years old. It was once 300 feet tall before lightening struck and removed the top. It’s still a respectable 258 feet tall. A logger took an axe to it in 1908. Forest fires have left their scars. The tree even survived the “Flood of 1964.” It’s ‘baby” is growing right next to it, ready to continue the Immortal Tree’s legacy when the time comes.
Once out of the parking lot, we quickly found ourselves in the forest. Standing among the giants, we couldn’t help but feel we were in a great, soaring cathedral. The trees feel structural, but they also have an inspiring presence. We could feel their life-force in the air and under our feet. The trees made us feel centered. Grounded. Serene. My description doesn’t do it justice. We re-experienced this feeling of reverence and awe every time we entered the forest. It happened over and over in the four days we spent in Humboldt Redwood State Park.
The next day Nick suggested that we take a bike ride to Founder’s Grove,5.7 miles North up the Avenue of the Giants. We had come in from the South entrance, so we weren’t sure how challenging the ride would be. But according to the map, there were several pretty big hills between us and Founder’s Grove.
Nick was worried that it would be too hard for me, but I assured him that I wanted to do it and was confident that I could manage it. The worst case scenario was that I would have to walk my bike up the big hills, and that it would take longer than the overly-optimistic Google projection of 40 minutes. We climbed on our bikes for the ride North.
Nick and I are not serious cyclists. We don’t have fancy biking outfits or special cycling shoes. Heck, we don’t even have helmets and didn’t even think to take a couple of water bottles with us. As soon as we got onto the road we faced a significant hill. I made it most of the way up before getting off my bike and walking the last little bit.
At the top was the little town of Redcrest. We stopped for a few minutes to check out the Eternal Treehouse before climbing back onto our bikes. There was also a cafe, RV park, post-office and a general store that had gone out of business some time ago.
I was so relieved. We had made it to the top of the big hill! Little did I know that it was only the first of several big hills on our adventure. And little did I know that Redcrest would be the only town we passed through.
I did end up walking up a good part of each of the long, steep hills on our trip to Founder’s Grove. The downhill parts were challenging in their own way. I think I wore out the brakes on my bike trying to keep it to a relatively safe speed.
By the time we got to Founders’ Grove we were hungry and very thirsty. I hoped to find a vending machine with bottled water in the picnic/bathroom area but there was none to be found. We were happy to find roadside bushes loaded with plump ripe blackberries. We picked and ate blackberries until our fingers turned purple.
We were tired and knew that the ride home from Founders’ grove wasn’t going to be any easier than the ride there had been. We made a plan to stop at the cafe in Redcrest for lunch on the way back. It’s amazing how motivating the thought of french-fries and a glass of water can be!
When we arrived in Redcrest and entered the little café, we greeted two couples from Sweden. They were serious cyclists, with matching spandex outfits, gel-padded shorts and cycling shoes. They were cycling from Seattle to San Francisco! I’m pretty sure that they laughed at us in our less sophisticated gear.
We tucked into our cheeseburgers like we’d never eaten before. They weren’t that good, but they tasted fantastic. Our muscles stiffened up while we sat, and it was hard to get back on our bikes. But just as we remembered, it truly was all downhill from there! At the bottom of that last mountain, we turned into our campground. It had been an ambitious bike ride for us, and we felt a sense of accomplishment.
We enjoyed the next two days closer to home. We took a few more walks in the nearby woods, so Bella could come too. Nick picked blackberries from the bushes around the campground and made a delicious clafouttie . I did some reading and caught up on our laundry.
The Redwoods had been on our must-do list for this trip. California has done an outstanding job preserving these magnificent trees. I am grateful that we had a chance to live among them for a few days.
Next stop, California wine country!
Lynne, Nick and Bella