We had an easy-going departure from the rest stop and drove up US-101 to Orick, CA. While the GPS said that it should be a three-hour (-ish) drive, the winding ups and downs of the road made for much slower driving and probably added another hour to the drive. As we got closer to Orick we had more views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the surf. We finally reached the Kuchel Visitor Center in the Redwood National Park to pick up the junior ranger booklets and learn more about the park.
After talking to a Park Ranger, watching a movie about the forest and trees, and looking around the visitor center we went outside toward the beach. It was interesting to see all of the signs about the tsunami zone and what to do if there was an earthquake. That brought about a very in-depth conversation about earthquakes and tsunamis, a subject we revisited often over the next few days.
We jumped back into the bus and drove over to Elk Meadow to do the Trillium Falls walk. The kids had picked up a pamphlet at the ranger station with a treasure hunt – it listed things to watch for as we walked which then led to finding the final clue. The kids learned a lot on the walk about the redwoods and found the final clue by counting the number of deck boards on the bridge over a stream at the falls.
After the hike it was time to find our campground, Golden Bear RV Resort, in Klamath. We had called two days earlier to check on availability after we found the campground listed in the Escapees book. This campground was beautiful and nearly empty! It was right on the Klamath River near the Pacific, and at low tide the sandbar at the mouth of the river traps the salmon, making for fantastic fishing. Fishing season was starting in just a couple of weeks, and the campground was already completely booked. For now, the campground was very serene and I was quite content. We had our choice of spots and chose one facing the river. Of course, we didn’t have any AT&T cell coverage anywhere in Klamath, but there was WiFi from the campground so we could send text messages and email from our phones. Ths was an absolutely beautiful location to camp! The owners had told us to keep our eyes out across the river and we might get to see a cinnamon bear come to the river’s edge to feast. Unfortunately, we never saw the bear, but we did enjoy the sounds of the seals barking as they made their way down the river and watched their heads bobbing as they passed our campsite – very cool!! We finished out the evening watching the sunset and getting some laundry done (exciting, no?).
The next day we got up and went down to the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is inside the Redwood National Park. Redwood National Park is unusual in that it is a national park with three state parks within it. It is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the state of California. Additionally, a main road runs through the park, so it is possible that people drive right through the Redwood forest and have no idea they are in a national park! The visitor center there was very different from Kuchel that we visited the day before. It had a lot of stuffed animals on exhibit as well as some really cool bones. They turned in their final clue information from the previous day for a special patch and picked up a pamphlet for another treasure hunt. We went out for a hike down the trail and followed the clues. We learned more about nurse trees, the redwoods, and some of the very important creatures in the forest including banana slugs. I have NEVER seen a slug quite as big as a banana slug – they’re HUGE! The slug in the photo with Dooder wasn’t even the biggest one we saw. We found Big Tree, which is 304′ tall, 21.6′ in diameter, a circumference of 68′, and is estimated to be 1,500 years old!!
After the state park we drove back down to Davison Road where we had been the day before. This time we went up the hill and then down a long, winding, narrow dirt road that took us along Gold Buffs Beach. We drove across a couple of streams to the last beach access point, and then hiked a trail to Fern Canyon. That hike took us across more small streams which necessitated walking rock-to-rock over the water as well as some log crossings – the kids thought that was awesome! After Fern Canyon we decided to hike through the brush and look out over the marshy area and the ocean. Steven Spielberg liked Fern Canyon enough that he used it as one of the filming locations for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.
With a little bit of daylight remaining and hunger not quite setting in, we drove back up to Klamath and then up to the Klamath River Overlook. The rangers said there were recent whale sightings there and if we were patient would likely see some whales breeching. We looked carefully, and saw the whales!
The next morning it was unfortunately time to leave Klamath and the Redwood Forest. I could have spent days or even weeks longer at that campground with the views of the water and hiking through the forest. Keeping a schedule, which wasn’t how we usually traveled, had us pack up nonetheless and make for the third and last visitor center and ranger station at the north end of the park. We arrived in Crescent City, parked the bus and minivan on the side of the road, and walked a block over to the visitor center. There we met with Ranger Rick (yes, seriously!) who talked to the kids about what they learned and reviewed their Junior Ranger workbooks. We shopped for some mementos, patches, and even a pair of plastic banana slugs.
We enjoyed exploring many national parks during our time in California, but we were all ready and excited to be with family. Oregon, here we come!!