2000: California Coast

The Redwoods

July 18

 Giant redwoods - finally!

We have tea and toast for breakfast; the toaster unexpectedly sets off a deafening smoke alarm overhead. After a few seconds of clamor, Mike yanks the battery and we are spared. Ruefully, this will not be an isolated incident.

Today we will explore the redwoods in earnest.

We are quartered just off the Avenue of the Giants, a section of old Highway 101 which winds through 20 miles of state park redwood groves. A Visitor Center is about four miles up the road (we are told), so we decide to break out the bicycles and hope for not-very-steep grades. Having my Zap electric motor as a security blanket makes me courageous.

Mike and very big friend.

We strike out early on the bikes, around 8 a.m., and are rewarded with sparse traffic and wonderful solitude. Barely a mile up the road, we find a beautiful deserted grove with walking trails and picnic tables. We explore it thoroughly, walking on fallen giants laid end-to-end like Lincoln Logs, a zig-zag of signposts inviting us deeper into the forest. 

A small furry creature darts nimbly over the maze of tangled supine trunks; I later learn it is a Douglas squirrel, a small charcoal-gray version the size of a chipmunk.

The end of a trail breaks out onto a cliffside overlooking the boulder-strewn river, with an endless vista of redwood soldiers proudly poised at attention on the opposite bank. I revel in being alone with all this splendor and Mike can barely drag me away to continue our ride.

The Avenue of the Giants dips and rises mildly, but at a rate well within my puny athletic abilities. We ride the rumored four miles, but there is no civilization in sight. Even with my electric motor, my conservative nature says to turn back and not overdo it, so we retrace our path to camp.

Max (the Jack Russell) and his people have pulled out while we were gone; I had hoped we would see them again. Sic transit RV-acquaintances.

A worm from Dune?!?

We decide to explore the rest of Avenue of the Giants in The Cube. We rumble off in search of the Visitor Center, which we find only one mile beyond our bike turnaround! I make a mental note not to give up so quickly next time.

We collect literature and view the exhibits: a display of local wildlife (stuffed) and an old truck made out of a single redwood log. We choose our destinations on the map and forge ahead.

Founders Grove, home of one of the tallest known remaining redwoods (Founders Tree, of course), is a bit touristy, and after the obligatory photos standing inside a redwood trunk, we depart.

A side road purported to lead to more scenic forests proves too narrow and winding for The Boxcar, and we turn back for camp. It's difficult to explore freely when you must drive your entire house!

This evening we get a new set of neighbors in the adjacent, empty space, and they are active and noisy. A young boy, one of three children, pounds incessantly on a wood table with a hammer. Mike finally goes out and asks him to stop.

We settle down to an uneasy evening, feeling our space invaded.