Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The Redwoods, Day Two: Trees of Mystery
On our first full day we woke up ready to go. The goal was to head about 90 minutes north, into the Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park to a pretty touristy destination called the "Trees of Mystery" and then work our way back down through the park via the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway to see Fern Canyon and hang out at Gold Bluffs Beach before heading back to Arcata for dinner and Eureka for the night.
The weather in the redwoods is really interesting. Apparently, it's always around 60 degrees. In the mornings, it's foggy. In the afternoons, sometimes there is a break in the clouds, but otherwise, the weather doesn't waiver except in the winter, when it's just 60 degrees and raining. It was so strange to see such heavy clouds and no rain, especially because at home right now, the clouds we were seeing in California would have meant inches of rain and bitter cold. But in the redwoods, it was really pretty pleasant.
Interesting note: Redwoods contain no resin or sap and have a special type of bark which makes them resistant to fire, pesticides, water and bugs. That's why they grow to be so big and live for so long. Most of the redwoods along the California coast that make up the multiple Redwood Parks are 300-600 years old and 200-300 feet tall. The trees, in their initial growth, go for height first, striving to reach the sunlight, and then they start to add their girth. That's why there are no short fat trees, just tall giant trees. There are of course, other types of trees in the forests, like evergreens and dogwood trees and rhododendrons but they aren't as tall or as impressive and people don't travel for hundreds and thousands of miles to see them.
Another interesting thing to note is that there are no animals in the Redwood forests. No squirrels or rodents. No bugs. There are mosquitoes closer to the coast, but not inside the forests. Apparently, the trees do not make good homes for critters. I guess there are a few bears, some Bigfoot here or there, and lots of birds and that's about it.
Anyway, at the end of the tree tour there is a gondola ride that takes you, I think, 700 feet to an overlook at the tree tops. Great idea right? Not if you are afraid of heights. I'm not sure what I was thinking, being the one who suggested the thing, but the boys in my family loved it. I was terrified of every single second going up. Eyes shut tight. Holding on, bracing for dear life. The view from up top was foggy at best, but still pretty cool and the ride back down, with my back to the down, wasn't nearly as scary as the ride going up.
After the gondola, and a wander through a pretty pathetic gift shop, it was time to find lunch. But guess, what, lunch is pretty hard to find in the middle of a redwood forest. We drove around for a while through some tiny towns when I finally asked for some help and was directed to a little gas station that had a small restaurant in the back that could fix us a pizza. SOLD! The pizza was pretty good. The french fries were tasty. The dirty old man who was limping and not wearing any underwear who ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a beer was pretty entertaining. And, Quinn chose to sit in a high chair for lunch, something he hasn't done, for, oh, about 9 months maybe. Good times.
After our very late lunch, we drove the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway. Let me tell you, this was the most magical and mythical rode I've ever been on in my life. The sun could barely poke through the trees and as we drove, it's like you were just waiting for fairies and magic dust to pop out, or maybe a dinosaur to swing it's tail across the road. I think I smiled the entire drive. The trees were gigantic, absolutely gigantic and the green! The deepest most emerald sparkly green your eyes could ever stand to see.
After this, we headed on a 4 mile dirt road that took us from an emerald forest, to what felt like a jungle out of an Indiana Jones movie to another 4 mile dirt road along an isolated beach. Here we saw elk. Yes, elk. Elk by the ocean, eating grass, is one of the strangest sights you ever will see, and also one of the coolest. We parked and walked a short hike to Fern Canyon, which is a deep canyon, lined up all sides with ferns. It was impossible to take a picture to do it justice, but it was really quite cool. It was also very wet and in our 20 minutes there, all three boys lost a shoe and pant leg or two as victims to the creek we had to cross multiple times.
With everyone wet, it made perfect sense then, to get more wet so we headed straight for Gold Bluffs Beach and the ocean. We found a completely isolated spot and the boys had a great time getting chased by waves, beach combing, and just getting all around soaked. The ocean in northern California is so much different than in the South. Warm gray sand, no shells or signs of life, and just the birds to keep you company. This was Quinn's first time to experience the ocean. He was a bit timid at first, for about 5 minutes and then he just went for it, chasing his brothers, burying his feet in the sad and having so much fut. The boys found a dead fish and each had to pick it up. They also found crab legs, which I'm sure were left by a bird that Elliott wanted to bring home. As the boys followed their dad down the beach, I found a quiet spot and just listened to the waves. They were so loud, quite literally crashing in a way that they don't crash on Huntington beach. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end the day.
We went back to the beach house and got cleaned up and headed into Arcata, California, which is so much cleaner and hipper and cooler than Eureka for dinner. Ross found a place, Renata's Creperie for dinner and it was delicious. The boys each had a sweet crepe, filled with fruit, and Ross and I had savory. A great way to end a great day.