Exploring what’s on the other side!

Redwood National Park

Yesterday   │   Tomorrow

Up early, we asked our waitress where we could kill some time in town before getting lost in Redwoods.

Minutes later we were gazing across a low tide isthmus between the mainland and the islet known as Battery Point. On it was the historic Crescent City Lighthouse. Only it wasn’t an islet at the moment. We could walk out to it if we navigated around the pools of water just right.

All four of us went our separate ways, exploring. The kids climbed on top of rocks so high and steep I normally would have forbidden it. But once I saw them thrust their arms into the air as if they had summited Mount Everest, I figured the risk of a trip to the hospital may be worth their reward. I smiled and lost myself in the early morning ocean breeze, taking in all that surrounded me – rocky terrain, massive driftwood mounds, the lighthouse, water and mini rock mountains.

Meanwhile, my wife was tip toeing around the tidal pools, hunched over to examine something. Curiosity drew the whole family back together for a real treat. Crabs galore! The tiny critters were under every rock she flipped. Then they’d scurry for new shelter. As we enjoyed disrupting the quick little crabs, we noticed something else scattered all around us – starfish! There were so many latched to rocks in and out of water we had to watch our step.

“It’s like Bikini Bottom,” said a voice.

“Say what?”

Oh yah, Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Once we had had our fill, we ventured back down the road we came in on the night before. The timing was perfect! Sun beamed through the giant redwood forest in such a way that I spontaneously started to sing Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens. You know I had to be caught up in the glory of the moment because I don’t (rather, I shouldn’t) sing out loud.

When I could no longer take being confined in a metal box on wheels, I swung off the side of the road, randomly, and left the vehicle to go traipsing through my Eden.  I don’t know if the sun rays burst through misty fog, bending around the wooden towers and all their branches, every morning the way it had then, but it was truly a sight to behold. It felt that anything modern in the world ceased and we were in God’s country now.

After a while, and 10 rolls of film (if there was such a thing anymore), we did what anyone would do in this situation – hugged a tree. We tried anyway but it would take a schoolhouse of children to truly get arms around the trunk of any of these monuments.

We were hooked. More trees, please!

We delighted in losing ourselves in the tallest trees on Earth. This old-growth forest spans nearly 40,000 acres along the Northern California coastal region made up of not only of the national park but a few state parks as well. That may sound like a lot of giant redwoods but as recently as the mid-19th century, it covered two million acres! Failed gold miners turned to harvesting the towering trees instead. The clear cutting of the forest continued uninterrupted for decades before conservation efforts began to preserve what was left in the early 20th century. The tallest known California Redwood (technically a Sequoia sempervirens) stands about 380 feet high. Although some argue that there may have been some taller than that, especially according to the Native American tribes of the area.

Our next destination was Fern Canyon, where some scenes from Star Wars, E.T., and Jurassic Park were filmed. That caught the kids’ attention!

But first, we took a little side trek up to Klamath overlook to whale watch. Unfortunately, it was too foggy to see anything at that time. The same held true the other two times we jetted up the mountain road to no avail. On one of the stops, Cliffside, high above the ocean, I decided to ham it up for the video camera, whales or no whales. The fog was so dense, you couldn’t see over the cliff.

Whale Watching

We were the only people there, or so I thought. So I went into mock documentary mode about “whale watching.” Just then, a half dozen people appeared out of the fog just a dozen feet or so away.

We embarrassingly chortled in the mist to our escape. Moving on, laughter still echoed in our ears.

Getting to Fern Canyon was a trip in itself. A winding dirt road, barely one and a half lanes wide, snaked through hilly forest and in and out of creeks, water and all. It was not a short stint. But it was well worth it.

Once we parked and found the trailhead at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, we soon found ourselves deep within Fern Canyon. We walked through the creek, over logs, navigating the rough terrain headed north up the California Coastal Trail. Every now and then we’d stop and marvel at the green canyon walls jutting straight up for what had to be 50 feet or more above us, totally blanketed with Five-fingered Maidenhair ferns. Wow! And nicer yet, we were the only people there.

The kids were timid navigating nature’s obstacles at first. Then they turned pro before long and zipped around with confidence – until our little boy became overconfident and found himself at one with Home Creek, head-to-toe.

We laughed AT him but he got over it.

The day had more adventures and yet another side trek to not see whales. We found ourselves pulled off at a scenic parking lot to gaze at a herd of elk relaxing under a shade tree. Dozens of other motorists did the same, some in such haste they just left their cars on the edge of the road, standing next to them, cameras a blaze.

Just then, the most horrifying sound and sight played out in what seemed to be slow motion. A truck sped along the curvy road, unsuspecting of the mass of cars and flesh littering the berm. Fortunately, perhaps miraculously would be a better way to describe it, the truck spun this way, skid that way, people jumping out of the way, in such a way that nobody got hit. The truck recovered and continued on down the road, never looking back. The expressions left in its wake said it all.

Time to go …and find a restroom!

Ahead of us that night would be hours of driving inland so we could wake up near Lava Beds National Monument.

By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!

Tomorrow: Lava Tubes National Monument next right

last leftYesterday: Muir Beach & Glass Beach


Crescent City

Crescent City

Crescent City

Crescent City

Crescent City

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon