Saturday, July 11, 2009

Redwood Details

We stayed at Gold Bluffs beach campground. There are bear-proof trash and recycling bins, cold running water, flush toilets and solar-heated showers (perhaps "heated" would be more accurate) for the campground, and at each site bear lockers and fire rings. Although we only had a few bull elk in the campground itself (but still pretty exciting, particularly since they were just about in our campsite), apparently the entire herd can sometimes be seen walking along the beach (we saw the herd in a meadow one evening, fawns and all, close enough to the car to hear them chewing. Although… they do chew quite loudly. Their mothers don’t appear to spend much time teaching them the finer points of table manners). The ranger sells bundles of firewood out of the back of the pick-up near the ranger kiosk on the way to the campground (day-use fees for Fern Canyon and other trailheads are also charged there).

Gold Bluffs beach campground is first-come, first-serve, and it is BUSY in the high season. We snagged a site at about 11am on a Tuesday; by noon all of the sites were taken. On the Friday we left, as we were packing up, no less than 5 groups had asked for our site – before 8:30am. Most of the rest of the campsites within 20 miles are reservations campgrounds. However, the ranger let me in on a little secret: the nearby Elk Prairie campground (which is closest to Gold Bluffs, just back down the dirt road and up 101 about two or three miles) is also a very good campground. You can reserve a spot there, and transfer your paid reservation to Gold Bluffs if there’s space there, and that way, you have a campsite even if Gold Bluffs turns out to be full. The bad news? Elk Prairie campground is often pretty full, too. More (and likely more up-to-date) information on campgrounds can be found on the Redwood National and State Park websites.
The towns with actual supermarkets are in Trinidad and Crescent City. Orick has a smaller market, and there's another small market north of Klamath, next to Don’s Gas and Diesel. Trinidad is fairly charming (and tiny), with a dwarf lighthouse and a bay of surpassing beauty (pictured above), studded with sea stacks. Crescent City has a decent bakery (Continental Bakery, which bakes its own bread for the nice sandwiches they make and was sold out of many of their pastries by the time we stopped through a little before noon one day, always a good sign with a bakery), and the usual suspects in roadside chain restaurants. And, um, a Starbucks, if you happen to be longing for someone else to make your morning latte instead of fumbling around with the camp stove of a cold, foggy morning while three hungry kids circle you, waiting for hot milk for cocoa. Lattes (for the espresso-minded) also appeared to be available in Trinidad.

Our top three walks were (and to be honest, we didn't do many more than our top 3; the kids enjoyed goofing around on the beach and watching pelicans and seals. Drive times in between hikes aren't always negligible, either):

Tall Trees (the required permit is free, and gives you the combination to the gate that needs to be unlocked). The final half mile is mostly up, but not brutally so. Curly is going into 2nd grade; it was near the top of what she able to do, but an ice cream sandwich from the Orick market revived her pretty well. Even before she got her ice cream sandwich, though, she agreed - and her brother and cousin agreed with her, that every moment of the walk was worth it. Fern Canyon. Unbelievably verdant, with enough little planks criss-crossing the creek (apparently just in summer, though, so in the off-season galoshes would be wise) to be incredibly gratifying for kids, and tiny sprinkling waterfalls along the side, watering moss that sometimes turns almost blue. It’s just up the road from Gold Bluffs beach, with, for kids, the additional fun of driving across two creeks.
Stout Grove. Up in the Jedediah Smith section, along the Smith River. Loads of poison oak along the path that approaches, but a very short walk to a grove that even locals said still awed them every time they went.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm prepping for a trip here next year and your info was great.