Memorial Day weekend of 2013 was coming up a bit hectic. Originally, I wanted to go to Hells Canyon. Memorial Day, allegedly, was just the right time to visit this place. But then Rita couldn’t go and I found that I get 2 days around July 4th. So the trip had to be postponed or rather redesigned. July 4th week trip will be in Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains and Memorial Day could be something smaller. One alternative I considered was Red Buttes Wilderness (also from Douglas Loraine’s book). However, it had a large fire last year, so going there this year wouldn’t be enjoyable. So eventually I settled on a short trip to Humboldt Redwoods SP with a stop at Harbin on the way back. Now, I’ve led a trip to this lovely park before. It was a little earlier in the season and we ran into some bridge problems. But other than that it was a fine trip.
Saturday, May 25
Started a bit later than planned. Due to the early start I found a bakery to have breakfast on the way. The place I found was Costeux French Bakery in nice town of Healdsburg.
I was expecting a bit more bakery out of it. It was more like a regular cafe with no much baking to speak of. But the coffee and omelet were nice.
Healdsburg was a nice town. It was Saturday and it had a rather large farmer’s market. Way bigger than what Sunnyvale has. But we still had more than 3 hours of driving. So we continued further North. On a whim of a moment to do a pit stop we stopped at a small winery called Rivino. It turned out to be a nice little winery without a fancy shop filled overpriced staff and groups of snobby-looking wine connoisseurs. In fact, it didn’t have a shop at all. There have had a shed with small tree-lined patio area with a great view of the winery. The shed contained the wine. They also held concerts in the patio on Fridays. Too bad those concerts were early. Getting there from Bay Area on Fridays could be a challenge. Since we got there I though that might as well try their wines. They were fairly good. Had a nice aroma. So we end up with one bottle of white wine.
The rest of the drive to Humboldt SP was uneventful. At that time US101 turns into this two lane mountain pleasure road. Good driving, but takes a bit of time. In the end I again almost missed the park. It is a large part with 6 exits on 101. But the visitor’s center and especially the permit office is not very easy to find. Well, that depends on the direction of travel. After a couple of attempts I finally located it.
The Eel river separates the main of the park from the road and several campgrounds. Technically there are no eels in that river. Europeans saw fish in it that were actually Pacific lamprey and thought there were eels. But we digressed. The park puts up bridges across the river. Last time we visited this place it was earlier in the season and they were out. This time around the time was right, or so I thought. Well, the bridges were still out. Thus the juiciest trail – along the other side of the river through all the towering original growth redwoods – was sadly not available. In reality I should have checked that river. A day later we went to it and it was just barely knee deep – there was no need for no bridge, just walk across it. But I didn’t know that at the time. So we ended up doing the same trail we did the last time.
The trail had a simple parking lot among the giants. Unlike the photo on the right there were a couple more cars. However, we haven’t seen anyone – anyone – during the two days we’ve been there. After that start there was pretty much a fire road going uphill. We got permits for Whiskey Flat campground. Once we’ve gotten there it wasn’t very appealing. There was water, a toilet, and lots of mosquitoes. The campsite was in the middle of redwoods (which was nice), but practically on the road, and had no view. There was still time so I decided to continue walking to the next campground – Hanson Ridge. Based on the description it was located on a West facing slope with a good view.
Indeed it was. After Whiskey Flat the road went up a bit and then forked. The forked section led on a grassy slope of a hill with expansive views towards South-West. We saw a gang of deer munching the green grass in the meadow. And there was no one there. The trail/road ended fairly quickly on a hill. Based on the map the real Hanson Ridge campground was a bit further down. Indeed there was something – an out-house, some remains of old fire, and a water faucet, which I was happy to see. Perhaps this campground was well organized before, but hasn’t been maintained. We could have camped at the real site next to the toilet, but I prefered to occupy the grassy hill with nice view. I could collect enough water for dinner and breakfast. We had the food, watched the colorful sunset, and called it a day.
Sunday, May 26
It was raining during the night. I actually passed out, but Rita woke me up. I had to go out and get the food from the tree. Not that we had much of it there, but it would have been annoying to get it wet. Interesting – I did not expect rain. It wasn’t a heavy rain, just a drizzle. But still. I guess all those lovely clouds that made that beautiful sunset the night before brought it. Good thing I didn’t leave the rain fly at home from the tent. I was thinking of trying this ultra-light (rather lighter) tent option for a long time. Just bring the floor, poles and the mesh if you expect bugs, or the fly if you expect rain. I thought there will be bugs, but it turned out rain instead.
Morning was beautiful. The air still had enough moisture to form clouds, but not enough to form rain. Both created this beautiful fluffy clouds in the blue sky floating above the green mountains. Good thing that we decided to stay at this campsite on the slope. The only down side to all this was all the wet grass, nasty.
We started out a bit later than I planned. Wet up to the main Grasshopper Peak. Well, not exactly to the peak -the trail goes a bit around it. Then after lunch it became apparent that we won’t make it today to Harbin. We had to stay in Humboldt one more night, assuming that was possible. But that also provided good opportunity to hike the best trails of this park – in the original redwood growth forest. Due to some misunderstanding we didn’t take the best redwood trail, but instead pretty much returned to where were started. All in all in two days we have seen just one couple at the starting parking lot. Lovely.
After getting back we picked up one of the last available campgrounds in Burlington campground. Then went to the nearest town to get some supplies for dinner. The choice wasn’t extensive and organic, but good enough. We ended up with a box of sausages, a can of soup, two packs of ramen noodles, and a tomato. The campground had some presentation about the mountain lions in the park at 8PM so the dinner was supposed to be finished quickly.
Well, it turned out that the presentation at Burlington was the day before. This day’s presentation was at the other campground 12 miles away. Sad, I was looking forward to it. So, to kill some time we bought a pack of firewood and sat by the fire. Too bad the sausages were gone. Otherwise nothing beats wood fire roasted meat. The campground was actually busy with activity. Kids running around on their bikes. Nice way to introduce them to nature and keep outside.
Monday, May 27
It was raining again. This time it was really coming down all night. It was hard to tell whether it was rain from the up high or the fog that redwoods accumulate. My half-tent contraption worked fine. As long as there is no wind and all the items were properly tucked in everything could stay dry. We broke the camp early and went down South for some breakfast. Stopped by in the first decent place that was open called Avenue Cafe in the town of Miranda. They had standard American breakfast fare.
But the drive after that was just gorgeous. I didn’t take the main US101 road, but took the Avenue of the giants instead. Early morning brought some rain and fog creating this eery atmosphere in the forest. Reminded me somewhat of that movie – Snow Falling on Cedars. It was also set in the North-West, a bit further North. Still, it was a beautiful forest. Cloudy sky with some fog remains hanging on the hillsides. Great weather.
We pretty much booked it all the way to Harbin. The weather did become a bit warmer further inland, but it would still drizzle occasionally. Harbin was full of people (a lot of Russians). Many were already leaving. It seems that they have had a busy weekend. Standard issue was there – the majority in their birthday suits. This time, however, I have tried the hot-pot. There are many pools – from lap swimming to a small pool of cold water. One the mediation pools is in a small covered structure. I’m not sure where they get water from, but it is steaming hot. It would be interesting to know how hot it was. My skin was all on me so I gather it wasn’t scolding hot. Still, makes for rather interesting experience.
And that was the end of the trip. We packed our things and headed home. I didn’t even fell asleep during the drive despite all that hot treatment. Just had to get some ramen on the way to replenish all that lost salt.