We finished our walk at Lady Bird Johnson Grove at about 1:30pm on September 11. Since we were already partway up Holter Ridge on Bald Hills Road, we decided to continue up to a couple of overlooks that Aimee had recommended before deciding where to spend the remainder of our afternoon.
Our first stop, Redwood Creek Overlook, was barely ten minutes up the road, but at 2,100 feet was significantly higher.
From near the small parking area we could enjoy views of the gentle valley through which Redwood Creek flowed. Beyond, the near shore of the Pacific was covered by a thick, low-lying fog layer. It’s this fog and the moisture it carries through the air that make the entire Coast Redwood ecosystem possible.
This area protecting Redwood Creek comprises the largest contiguous portion of the National Park proper. Elsewhere, such as the areas around the mouth of the Klamath River, the Park fills in areas that were not originally conserved by the California state parks. Parts of the area were heavily logged before an expansion of the Park protected them in 1978. Now it is a patchwork of old growth and recovering forest.
When we turned from the view, we discovered two fellows making an elaborate lunch of hearty sandwiches.
Sean was quite envious of their sandwiches.
Farther up the ridge at Dolason Prairie, it was long past wildflower season.
This portion of the Park underwent extensive road removal to bring the area back to life. A trailhead here leads down to Tall Trees Grove, but we opted to simply take in the view and continue on our auto tour.
After Dolason Prairie, we headed back down from Holter Ridge to Highway 101. We were both hungry, and we debated heading south to Arcata for lunch (and possibly hot tubs) or head north to explore more of the Park. We decided to save Arcata and its hot tubs for the next day, so we turned north and headed to the town of Klamath.
Klamath, population 779, is located within the Yurok Reservation along the Klamath River. We crossed the river on a bridge with ornate sculptures of California grizzlies on each end and drove through town. But we didn’t see anywhere to grab a quick sandwich, so we decided to continue north toward Crescent City.
The highway rejoined the coast at False Klamath Cove. Here the fog we’d seen from Holter Ridge was in full force. But the highway quickly rose from the beach and the fog and followed a cliff high above the coast.
We passed through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and emerged in Crescent City, population 6,400, which is situated on a relatively flat stretch of coast southeast of Point St. George.
We located the very oddly designed Park Headquarters and went into the visitor center on the ground floor. Here we got our postcards, and Sean found a pin he liked, but there were still no patches for me. Ultimately, I’d end up ordering the patch online (from the campground). While we waited in line to make our purchases, we overheard the volunteer at the desk basically disparaging the National Park sections in favor of the state park sections. She was contradicted, though, by a visitor also in line who strongly encouraged other visitors to see Lady Bird Johnson Grove. The whole thing was…weird.
But then again, maybe we were just hungry. By now it was almost 3:30 and in truth we were starving. We left the visitor center and pulled into the Safeway across the way for some deli sandwiches and apples.
As we ate our oily sandwiches, we drove up Highway 199 toward Hiouchi and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We turned off the highway, crossed the Smith River and entered the park on a dirt road that comprised the Howland Hill Road Scenic Drive.
Here the Redwoods were gigantic, and Sean remarked that it felt like the Forest Moon of Endor from Return of the Jedi, so he turned on the Han and Leia Theme from the soundtrack. We also got into a discussion about whether the moon was named Endor or whether it was the forest moon of a planet named Endor. Either way, the film was shot near where we were, so it did indeed look like the Forest Moon of Endor.
We drove on through and didn’t really stop because there weren’t that many places where it was easy to on the narrow road and because there were actually a lot of cars on the scenic drive.
It was about a quarter to five when we emerged back out onto Highway 101 and turned south toward our campground.
We did stop, however, to finally grab a photo of the roadside sign for this Park.
We also stopped for some shots of the coast at False Klamath Cove.
I was keen to drive up (back in the National Park) to the overlook above the mouth of the Klamath River. To get there, we turned west off of the highway before we reached Klamath and followed the Requa Road up a steep, slightly nerve-wracking grade to a parking area some 600 feet above the ocean.
To our south the Klamath River seeped out through its sandbar into the Pacific. Flint Ridge, on the opposite bank of the river, is part of the National Park and boasts a walk-in campground above the surf. It would sure be a tempting place to explore on a return visit.
In the distance, we could see the Gold Bluffs above the beach where our little tent was.
The headwaters of the Klamath are in southern Oregon, not far from Klamath Falls and Crater Lake National Park. We knew we’d see this river again on our trip.
On the way back to camp, we stopped in Klamath for gas and ice. Then we took the (paved) scenic drive through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, emerging not far from Elk Meadow and Davison Road over the ridge to Gold Bluffs Beach.
Back in camp, we got our first taste of how not good our biodegradable coolers were. The ice in them was completely melted and most things were pretty warm. We refreshed the ice, shrugged our shoulders, and said that we’d not use these again, but we’d make do since it was all we had.
This was the beautiful evening that we didn’t have through the heavy fog a day earlier, so we headed over to the surf with cups of wine to take in the sunset.
Sean ran back to our campsite to fetch more wine and our camping chairs.
We settled in for the final display.
Even after the sun was gone, the light show was sublime.
With night having fallen, we built a fire and began cooking a dinner of hot dogs, which were salvageable after the wind blew them off the grate and into the fire.
That night, a fishing boat was quite close to shore and all lit up in eerie green.
The wind picked up even more and it became chilly. So we let the fire die down, said goodnight to Jupiter bright above us, and climbed into the tent for sleep.