Road Trip – Walk in the Redwoods – May 2015

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Prairie Creek Walk

Monday May 11, 2015: I go for my early morning walk, but instead of going along the path that I know, I go the other direction through the campground to see other sites that might be good when we come again, and I find a trail along Prairie Creek through the jungle there.

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The trees are thick and the brush is dense along Prairie Creek

The trail comes out along Elk Meadows and I follow a hint of a dirt road along the meadow back to the campground. During this portion of our trip, this is the only time I see mist.  Even though the redwoods are usually wet and misty, this has been an unusually dry spring with no rain and no mist in the forest

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Elk Meadow

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Clifford drops me off

After breakfast, we drive out of the state park far enough to get cell service to check on emails and take care of any pressing needs for Carnicom Institute. Then back to the Newton-Drury Parkway where we again visit Big Tree. Clifford drops me off so I can walk back to camp, while he heads on back to return to his studies.

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Clifford returns to his studies

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The path through the forest

I am at first a bit uncomfortable walking alone in this forest because of the reports of mountain lion sightings in this area. However, as I go along, I become more comfortable with being here by myself, enjoying the deep silence, and admiring the trees.

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On my own

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As I walk, I see the most humongous “family” redwood, as I call those trees whose main trunk splits into two or more trunks as it continues its climb to reach the sky. This particular tree is like a family with grandma, the kids, the grandkids and even great-grandkids, as there were so many trunks coming from the one base. I wish Clifford was here to take a photo of me beside this great redwood family. How tiny I would have seemed next to it.

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A “selfie” of me and a medium-size redwood

Once I reach the campground, I take the familiar trail through the redwood forest back toward our campsite, stopping to take selfies of myself with my favorite trees. Wish I had thought to do this with the big family back up the trail, but I have not been one to take selfies at all. I’m just doing it now to have photos of them in right perspective. I mean, these are not just big trees, they are BIG trees!

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Redwood forest

While here with the trees, I have become aware of my habitual tendency to walk slightly hunched forward, with eyes on the ground for sure footing. Being among these tall trees and looking up has encouraged me to stand and walk more upright.

Back at camp, I make one last campfire and after dinner pack up the kitchen stuff, as we will be leaving tomorrow morning. I will be sorry to leave this place with the creek at my front door (which is our only door) and being surrounded by trees and birdsong.

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In honor of the redwoods I will walk straight and tall

Road Trip – Newton-Drury Parkway – May 2015

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Camping at Prairie Creek

Sunday May 10, 2015: It is overcast this morning. I take a few photos before building a little campfire to keep me company while I write in the journal.  Here it is May and a campfire and a wool poncho are welcome parts of my life.  I love this weather.

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Big Leaf Maples are huge and covered with golden-green moss that looks like fur.

By time I am done writing, it is too sunny for good photos in the forests what with bright splashes of light and deep shadows. But I go for a walk, anyway, just because the forest is so wonderful.

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Light and shadows in the forest

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Trees along the Newton-Drury Parkway in Prairie Creek State Park

Back at camp, I download photos and edit until my laptop battery is dead. Then Clifford and I decide to go for a drive up the Newton-Drury Parkway, which is a road right through the heart of the redwood forest in the Prairie Creek State Park.

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Driving the Newton-Drury Roadway

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Shamrocks and ferns, as well as moss, grow out the decaying wood of dying and dead trees

In addition to driving the 10 mile length of the road, admiring the great trees as we go, we stop and follow paths to a couple of the most outstanding trees in the area.

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Clifford and Carol in the Prairie Creek Redwood forest

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The Corkscrew Tree

The Corkscrew Tree is a redwood famous for the unusual entwining growth of its four trunks. It looks quite different depending on the angle at which one approaches, but it is no doubt unique, no matter where one is standing.

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Corkscrew Tree – a very twisted Redwood


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Clifford looking up at Big Tree

The other famous redwood in this forest, Big Tree, is a single trunk 20 feet in diameter with a 68-foot circumference. This wonderful giant is about 1,500 years old.

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Clifford and Carol at Big Tree

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Big Leaf Maple leans precariously as Clifford looks upward at other tall trees

The big leaf maples are also amazing… so very tall with great branches reaching out, covered with moss like golden-green fur.

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Moss-covered Big Leaf Maple

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Leaning Big Leaf Maple

I am in such awe of these giants of the earth and reluctant to leave them, but on back to camp we go. I continue reading “Legacy of Luna” by Julia Hill, admiring her great courage and stamina to stand up to adversity of all sorts while living for two years in an old-growth redwood near Eureka, done to bring awareness to environmental issues and logging practices.

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A redwood like Luna, but smaller. Could I live in her branches for two years?

As I walk in the forests in the evening, I look up at the old-growth redwoods around camp and consider what it would be like to live in the upper stories of one of these giants, never setting foot on the ground for over two years.

I am so in love with trees, tall trees, short trees, straight trees, leaning trees, crooked trees, furry trees.  I’ll dream of trees tonight.

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“Furry” trees

Road Trip – Old Stomping Grounds – May 2015

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Ocean to the west of us

Saturday May 9: I wake up in the night thinking about ticks. Hmm… guess I should have taken a shower after our outing to Fern Canyon yesterday, but waking up in the night is not helpful. It is overcast this morning, which is not something we’ve seen much of on this trip, even though I had heard how foggy and overcast it would be on the coast. Well, the weather is not being “normal” anywhere, it seems, so who knows what to expect.

Today we are going to Eureka and Arcata to the south of Prairie Creek where we are camped. After showers and breakfast, we head out, stopping at a rest stop on the way, as I see one of those beautifully blooming bushes that I had never seen before arriving in California.

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I later learn that it is a rhododendron, which I also learn has blossoms similar to azaleas, but the leaves are different. It is a very pretty drive down this curving highway with tall trees frequently obscuring our view of the ocean just to the west of us; lagoons and flowering shrubs add to the beauty of the landscape.

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Tall trees obscure the view

North of Arcata we stop at Clam Beach, as this is one of the hang-outs where Clifford lived part-time in his van for seven years while going to school at the College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University in his late teens and early 20’s. He used to camp in the dunes for free, but now there are a couple fee-campgrounds. We walk out a ways into the vegetation-covered sand dunes so I can see the ocean and take a few photos.

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Clam Beach

We drive on through Eureka to Fields Landing, a small poor fishing village where Clifford would also park for free during those van/school years. The dirt lot where he used to park is now a day-use paved parking lot for folks coming in to launch their boats. Seeing these places after 40 years brings back a lot of memories for him. After Fields Landing, we find another spot off the highway near the College of the Redwoods. The dirt road down to the “secret” parking place in a clearing in the woods alongside the highway is now obscured with dense growth, as is the clearing, but he recognizes where it used to be. How things change over time!

At the College of the Redwoods, we walk around admiring the lovely campus: lawns, flowering trees, ponds, foot bridges, and flowers of all sorts grace the grounds around the attractive dorms and classroom buildings here.

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Blooming shrubs abound

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Delightful shrub

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Vivid new leaf growth

What a great place to go to school! We go inside the building that houses the cafeteria where Clifford used to work washing dishes, and he recounts the experience of being there one evening when a friend of a friend streaked through, to the delight of the students who were witness to the event.

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Then we head back to Eureka and out to Samoa, a jetty where the Samoa Cookhouse, once used to feed loggers, is now a popular spot for locals and tourists to have a good home-cooked meal served family-style. We sit at a long table covered with a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth. Big bowls of soup and salad and a platter of fresh bread are placed before us. This is followed with platters of potatoes and roast beef and a bowl of gravy. We finish off with a spice cake for dessert. To begin with I was a bit cautious because of my food allergies, but for the most part, everything sets well with my finicky digestive system. We both enjoy the plentiful food and the ambiance of the place, which is also a museum of sorts with photos and paraphernalia of the logging operations in the area, as well as photos of the loggers who used to eat at this very establishment. While it was a great time for the logging industry, photos of old-growth redwoods, with stumps big enough to become small dancing floors, lying dead on the ground are a source of sadness for me. I am so grateful that national and state agencies are now protecting most of the remaining old-growth forests so that I and others and those to come after us have the opportunity to stand in awe under these giants, some of whom are more than 2,000 years old.

After our hearty meal, a quick stop at Wells Fargo and a visit to the library in Eureka to check email, we head north to Arcata to buy a few groceries. Clifford wants to visit the plaza for more old memories and in the process we find a used bookstore. It is perfect for Clifford because of the college text books that he finds there on microbiology and organic chemistry. In a sudden rush of memory, I decide to see if I can find the book “Legacy of Luna” by Julia Butterfly Hill and am pleased that there are several like-new copies at the used book price. I don’t know much of the story of Luna and Julia, but recall that it takes place in the redwoods, or more precisely in a redwood called Luna. Right now is the perfect time for me to read this book. I take my purchase to a chair and begin reading while Clifford continues his search for text books that will aid him in his research.

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On the way back to camp we stop to take photos of the elk in the meadow adjacent to the campground.  It is getting  late and they are already bedded down, but I take a photo, anyway.

When we get back to the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) my intention is to download photos, but I read instead and continue reading long after Clifford goes to bed. I am quite taken with Julia’s courageous adventure, especially being here surrounded by the magnificent redwoods that she was trying to save.

Road Trip – Arrival at Prairie Creek Redwoods – May 2015

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Heading south from Crescent City, California

Wednesday May 6: Today we start packing as soon as we are up, as we are headed south from our campground at Panther Flat to Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. We say good bye to our host, Jeff, and his wife, JoAn. They have been especially friendly and helpful. I say good-bye, also, to the trees and shrubs at Panther Flat and to the Smith River, which has beguiled me with its beauty.

We enjoy a beautiful winding-road drive with occasional glimpses of the ocean until we reach Elk Prairie Campground.

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Winding road with occasional glimpses of the ocean

Quite a beautiful place: old-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, a few western hemlock, and Sitka spruce stand tall and majestic. Big-leaf maple also tower above the puny humans camped beneath their boughs.

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Big leave maples tower over the humans camped below

A variety of shorter trees, shrubs, ferns and grasses make this forest more like a jungle where there are no trails. Prairie Creek runs through the campground.

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Prairie Creek runs through the campground

Alongside the campground is a large meadow where the Roosevelt elk graze and bed down, giving the campground its name.

Elk Prairie Meadows

Now to find the right spot. I want to be by the creek and there are very few campsites that have a view of the creek. Clifford wants sun so the solar panels can charge the battery. We compromise on a beautiful spot that is right on the creek, but too small to fit comfortably.

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A beautiful spot right on the creek

In spite of the “help” from the camp hosts, Clifford gets the Pony (pop-up tent trailer) angled in so that the door faces the creek and we are off the road. It takes a bit more work to get leveled and set-up, but in the end it is worth it, as we have a private spot by the clear water of Prairie Creek, surrounded by amazing trees, and sunlight on the panels.

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Challenging to get parked and leveled, but worth it

“Go With the Flow” was the suggestion from the Sacred Geometry cards before this road trip began, and that has become my mantra. Sometimes it has been a challenge to keep it in the forefront of my mind, but certainly helpful today as we found our spot and got set up. So many times on this road trip “Go With the Flow” has kept me from becoming upset and anxious. Of course, I have heard this and versions of it most of my life, but implementing it on a day-by-day basis is the real trick to having it make a difference.

In the early evening we walk the path through the woods to the Visitors’ Center at the other end of the campground. The trees are a constant wonderment.

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Evening walk to the Visitors’ Center

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It is nearly dark and getting chilly by time we get back to our camp. We sit outside to look at the stars and listen to the creek. Feels like it will be cooler tonight. What a wonderful place to spend the next few days!!!

Thursday May 7: It was 37 degrees last night, a good excuse to make a campfire this morning. I have a cup of organic French press coffee as I write in my journal. I admire the morning light on the creek in front of me and the alder grove on across the creek.  Sunlight filters through the tall trees of the camp, and the sky is a beautiful blue – so great to see.

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Morning light on Prairie Creek

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Standing beside Prairie Creek

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Beautiful blue sky day

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After breakfast we head to Orick, the nearest town to our campground, so we can check our email and phone messages. Then we drive out to the Visitors’ Center to see what books they carry, get information about camping further south, buy a couple post cards to send to family and friends, and get quarters for the showers at the campground. We walk out to the ocean shore, but the sandy beach doesn’t offer many photo opps, especially with the wind blowing so hard that I fear for the safety of my camera lens.

Back in Orick we buy gas at the only gas pump in town, a 40-year-old relic that still works. Then we drive out to the Lady Bird Johnson grove and do a walkabout. This old-growth forest of redwoods and Douglas fir was dedicated in 1968 to Lady Bird Johnson for her efforts to preserve the natural beauty of this country. A brochure that we pick up at the beginning of the trail describes the environment , the history of the area, as well as information about the life cycles of the plants and trees that grow here, including the hardiness of the redwoods. It is obvious that the old growth trees have all survived a forest fire, as they are all blackened and wounded, but they still live. In some cases, the lower portions of their great cores are burned out, creating caves so large enough that a person could set up house in them, kind of hobbit-like.

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Inside a redwood, looking out

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Blackened by fire

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At the foot of a redwood

On the way back to camp, we stop to look at a herd of Roosevelt elk, but they are not in a posing mode. However, it is still fun to see them and be glad that they are thriving after nearing extinction.

Roosevelt Elk thriving in California

Clifford takes a nap after a late lunch while I make another campfire, a must if I am to sit outside in the chilly afternoon, and write in the journal. Personally, I prefer this cool weather and am grateful not to have to cope with the heat. Just before we left Idaho, I overheard someone saying that it was over 100 degrees in California, so I took some of my cool-weather clothes out of my duffle bag and replaced them with warm-weather clothes…. Well, so far, I would have been better off to have left things as they were, but next time I will inquire what part of California is hot, as the northern coast certainly is not. Except for the extreme wind right off the ocean, I am liking the weather here. So glad to be here with the cool breeze, and where I am surrounded by and can walk amongst wondrously tall trees. I am loving northern California!

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Afternoon light coming through the trees