I awoke to the sound of elk calls, at least I think that’s what they were, I guess they could have just as easily been the noises made by forest demons, but I wouldn’t want to believe that given my state of vulnerability. I hadn’t planned to spend much time in Humboldt Redwoods, but I had woke before I had plan so I decided to take a quick stroll through the woods. Soon I found myself once again surrounded by giants. I walked lazily through the forest, in no hurry and with no particular place to go, just an early morning walk through the woods.
The trail I was on connected the campsite and visitor center to the town of Weott, and soon the trees opened up into a playground at small school. It was still too early for anyone to be around. I decided to head back to the car and finish up my drive, the short winter days meant I spent a good portion of my waken hours in darkness, which meant hiking was limited, so I wanted to get to Redwoods National Park to get at least one hike in before I had to settle in for the night.
Leaving the campsite I decided to continue the drive along The Avenue of The Giants, the road North of the campsite less notable then that which had brought me in. The groves of tall trees were more sporadic and soon they ended all together. As I drove through a small town on the edge of the park three men were butchering a cow caurcus on the side of the road. A giant slab of meat just hanging from a pole as the men expertly wielded their knives, taking chunks off the lifeless skeleton.
Back on Route 101 the highway turned mundane, the landscape indiscernible from millions of miles of highway across the country. No one thinks of rural California when speaking of the Golden State, caught up in imagery of Hollywood Hills, Sandy Beaches, the glitz and glamour of the California Dream, but it exist. I pulled off the highway to pick up some supplies before I headed into the park, instantly I was transported to West Virginia, to use stereotypes, giant mud covered pick up trucks littered the parking lot. Camo seemed to be the number one fashion accessory, and the fishing isle inside the store had become a makeshift town hall meeting of the men, all of whom must have run out of lures in the morning and were restocking before dusk. I grabbed my necessities and scurried out.
Within moments I was in the expensive range of “The Redwood National & State Parks” as the signs said. Although Route 101 was far less surrounded by the red giants than it had been in Humboldt, most of the larger trees were further inland along the coast. I drove through the park up to Crescent City, where I refueled the car and stopped by the Park Headquarters in order to get my accommodations for the evening sorted out. Due to flooding one road was impassible, and other road was blocked by a fallen Red Wood Tree, which I can only imagine that sound that makes when it falls, if anyone is around to hear it that is.
Before I left Crecent City a drove along the coast as the waves pummeled the coast, the lighthouse in the distance looked strong on it’s dramatic outpost. The waves crashed hard a hundred feet below sending up billows of sea spray, the wind howling as it raced along the coast. The tide was in, the water reaching right up to the cliffs edge hiding the life that teamed in the rocks below, I would have to wait to see a tidal pool a different day.
So my options were limited and I choose a campsite in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. I still had plenty of daylight left when i finally reached the campsite, which was located adjacent to an open Prairie that was once burned by the native americans to attract elk and is still burned by the Park Service to this day. It was drizzling so i decided to get my tent set up so I wouldn’t be forced to build in the heavy rain that was approaching. A thin layer of fog hung over the prairie, a few elk grazed off in the distance. The campsite was empty, it was just me, the elk, and whatever creatures lied within the forest that surround me. .
The rain picked up considerably as I made pack up and headed into the forrest for a short hike. The woods were soaked, drenched from days of unrelenting rain. The trail led me around through the woods as the fog slowly lowered into the canopies above. I passed by a felled tree which was over 100 feet in length, I know this cause the sign told me, the sign also told me this was only one third of the trees living size. The Coast Redwood, which I found myself surrounded by, are the tallest trees in the world. Some live up to 2000 years and can reach heights of over 370feet, In case that number is incomprehensible, that would be a tree longer then a football field, including both endzones! The fog obscured the uppermost reaches of the trees as I headed through the trails.
Darkness comes early in a redwood forrest and I decided to head out before I would be forced to navigate with a flashlight. The rain had picked up, but I was guarded by the trees. A bat flew around the trees weaving in and out, heading straight for my face before darting off at the last second, he stayed with me for a few minutes before disappearing as quietly as he had come. As I approached the edge of the forrest a herd of deer stood graving along the reek bed. Startled by my presence they looked up. Apparently unconcerned by my diminutive size they returned to grazing without giving me another look.
The rain was coming down hard as I exited the forrest, pouring down and puddling up on the ground. Luckily there was enough of a break in the rain for me to hustle into my tent without drenching the contents. The only break from the sound of rain falling on the tent was the chorus of ribbits coming from the frogs that called the prairie home, there deep groans sent me off to sleep at the wind and rain tried their damnedest to penetrate my flimsy fortification.