So, after a lot of postponing this trip finally happened. I wanted to go to explore this area of California for a long time. Some years ago my friends and I were traveling in Trinity Alps and eventually ended up in Eureka. We were driving back on 101 and I saw this gorgeous forest all around the two lane highway. It was beautiful. Much more than any of that I-5 desert. So, as it often happens, I had the seed planted in my heart for this place.
I found this park on Google maps. Just looked up Northern California and found the largest green spot within reasonable distance. An article in October 2009 National Geographic also helped. It turns out that this unknown to me State Park holds one of the largest areas of the original grown coastal redwoods. It is also the oldest State Park and the third in size. It was actually partially bought on money provided by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Actually, I respect more and more this guy. Don’t know how his dad really made all the fortune, but he definitely put it to good use. Smoky Mountains NP, Grand Teton NP, Acadia NP, and newly discovered Humboldt Redwoods SP – all these great parks were created partially with money from John D. Rockefeller Jr.
I looked up a map generously provided on the site and planned a small 2 something day event. The original plan, as described in one earlier post, was this:
- Get there Friday night and camp at Burlington Campground.
- Then get up, get permits and head towards Grasshopper Peak. Have lunch there and perhaps head a bit farther to some prettier campgrounds.
- Sunday return back to the starting point by going down towards Albee Creek and the following the river. Since the trail was downhill and then flat I figured it was doable.
Well the plans were way too ambitions. As usual life changed the plans quite a bit.
We left at 3:30PM with quite a bit of time. Craig was driving his beloved Prius. Other than some traffic jam in Santa Rosa due to construction we were making good progress. However, despite what Google told me, we reached some point close to the park by the time it was dark already (around 8PM). After the town of Willits, CA it was difficult to find anything, let long a place to eat. So we stopped at the only open Pizza place – Angelo’s Pizza – in a town called Leggett. It seemed like a family run joint. Rita and I got large pizza by mistake instead of ordered medium and raw eater Craig got a salad which I was eying enviously eating that loaded with fat pizza. So eventually by about 10PM we made it to the campground. It was dark already and difficult to see all that beauty that it has.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
After one night at a gorgeous Burlington Campground (highly recommended, you sleep between these columns of the redwoods. Feels like a small ant in a giant forest. The air there is unbelievably fresh. ) We packed up and headed to get permits.
It turned out that we cannot get to the trail-head. The trail-head is on the other side on the South Fork Eel River and it is not the season yet for the seasonal bridge to be in place. Well, I saw the river on the map, but I didn’t realize to ask if the bridge is there. (Failed) In reality this whole place was quite remote. There was no cell phone service. Nearest tiny city was rather far away. It was all forest all around. It was stark contrast with all that busy anthill of Bay Area just 4 hours away.
Ok, fine, no one really wanted to cross that river, so let’s find an alternative route. It should be possible, according to the map, to get to the Grasshopper Peak from Albee Creek trail-head. Well, not so fast. Due to the upcoming marathon (that Valerie already done, several times) and the recent break in the weather the government decided to fix the small road that leads to Albee Creek and thus no car movement is allowed. Bummer, big time. So we were stuck – can’t cross the river and can’t drive. That was super bummer. So we went to the park visitors center right next door to the permit station to figure out what to do with this weekend. Some ideas came to do lost coast trail or parks of it; maybe go to the Redwoods National Park. Eventually the solution presented itself after some time of talking and a couple of phone calls by the helpful people at the center. It turned out that at 11AM there will be a convoy through the road being repaired and thus we can get to the Albee Creek. The next day is Sunday and no work would be done. Sweet. We quickly got permits and went to wait for the road to open (I didn’t even had a chance to see the visitor center).
We weren’t the only ones waiting there on the beautiful Saturday morning. There were a couple of tourists, some guys on old trucks, probably locals. Once we were allowed to go we passed that part that clearly was in the need of repair, parked on a side of the road just across from Albee Creek campground, packed up and went off on the trail, sort of.
It wasn’t really a trail. It was actually some old road. By the numerous redwood stumps around it, it was probably a logging road. It also led to the fire lookout – so it was also a fire road. It was a rather brutal trail, sorry – road. It was just climbing up and up. It seems that I seriously underestimated it (again). There were trees around. At some point the vegetation become similar to Henry Coe’s – typical coastal mixed forest – with some addition of dispersed redwoods.
We reached the Grasshopper Camp by about 5PM. It wasn’t much of a camp – just some sort of flat area on the ridge at the edge of the forest, a toilet, and a bear box. That was all. It wasn’t even much of a view from it, just some forest all around. Since it was on the ridge and cold wind was blowing from the ocean it was a very cold place. We went down a bit from that hill, on which the outhouse was standing, to get away from the wind. The place was still ok – a bit of old wood logs, some bones of some old deer I suppose, and it was an incline. That was fine, under the circumstances. The next potential site was a bit far away. The bigger problem was actually water.
Grasshopper Camp does not have any water source on it. None. Without water you wouldn’t be a very happy camper. There was a very hopeful sign pointing somewhere and telling that water was there. It turned out that it was leading to the top of the actual Grasshopper Peak where the lighthouse stood. It was a nice view for some hills all around, a bit windy, but no water. There were some faucets here and there, but nothing was coming out of them. So we were kind of stuck. Luckily the weather wasn’t too hot (it was actually very cold) and there were water a bit down the road. We should be fine.
The supper was rather short. We just sat around that lone environmental candle that I brought, didn’t even drink the fire water that Jenny brought, and went to sleep. It was cold (or maybe people were just tired after that quite difficult trail). Mostly due to the cold wind blowing from the ocean. Seriously, even in Alaska last year I wasn’t that cold.
My sleeping bag also turned out to be a bit inadequate for this task. Rita’s female bag was much better and warmer. It actually rated to 20F (-6C), so it should be fine. The temperature didn’t go down below zero. But still. Maybe it is just too big. Rita’s bag is tight for me. Mine is rather loose with a lot of space inside to heat up.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Well, the usual – get up, cook, eat, break camp, go, maybe take some photos. By about 9AM we were out. Good timing.
We went down the same fire road we came up. Got the water at one of the tiny creeks that was flowing from the mountain. It had this horse drinking bath contraption. But the water was still very good and clean. Pure forest joy. Much better than some of the bottled stuff they sell in stores. After the Johnson Trail camp the road turned into trail and that’s where the fun began.
Generally, it is a lot more fun to hike on a trail, than on a road. The trail we were on was especially beautiful – towering redwoods, some small creeks, some flowers, even the wildlife. For example we ran into this fellow:
Apparently it is the threatened Spotted Owl. Good that it survives here in the wild. Actually, I have never seen a live owl. So it was twice as good. He was just sitting on that branch basically posing for photos. We were able to come quite close. Very nice.
There were also wild flowers here and there that people were desperately trying to photograph from various angles. We were very lucky with the weather. There were some rains a couple of days before so everything was lush green. We passed by one fallen redwood that was recently cut to clear the trail.
Seriously, I have never thought that a redwood could smell so good. I generally like to smell wood and different trees smell differently. However, redwood had proven to be the best. Damn, this tree is the tallest and the best smelling tree on the planet!
Eventually we made it to the river.That was the place where the original, thick old growth redwood forest was – he very thing we came there for. It was a beautiful if a bit dark place.
We finished the hiking part at around 3PM. Due to the upcoming very long drive back no one really wanted to stay and hang around some more. So we started back. We had dinner at Taqueria Bravo in small town of Willits. Again, one of the best Mexican foods I’ve ever eaten. All that main road stuff in Baha Fresh is so bland. The real stuff is made in small mom-and-pop places. Well, I guess like everything else.
Humboldt Redwoods SP Trip at EveryTrail with the complete map and elevation profile.