June 20, 2016 – Crescent City, Mill Creek

CARoute04Route: CA-96W, Indian Creek Road, US-199S

We got off to a relatively early start because the day’s activities included grocery shopping and laundry! We were westward bound on CA-96W until Happy Camp. We stopped at the Frontier Saloon and Cafe for second breakfast; Dave finally staged his uprising against granola and yogurt and insisted we stop. Portions were generous, food was good. Bacon was amazing – thick cut, not overly salted. Stop in if you are in town.

Our route took us through a remote area; the steep mountain slopes are not conducive to building. The road was twisty and when we crossed into Oregon, Abby earned another state badge. We debated on detouring to the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, but it was 45 minutes out of our way and we needed clean undies. We turned south to Crescent City. We arrived and wanted to stop and Port O’Pints, but they didn’t open until 2. And there was no food as far as we could tell. Pre-made salad from Safeway for the lunch win!

Dave standing by the stump of a redwood.
Dave standing by the stump of a redwood.

History: Redwood logging began in 1851, as the gold rush waned. Technological advances made it easier and faster to harvest the large trees. In 1920, key groves were preserved by the State of California. In 1968, Congress created Redwood National Park, protecting the world’s tallest trees and Redwood Creek’s salmon fishery.

Redwood log next to campsite 40.
Redwood log next to campsite 40.

Coast redwoods have been recorded at 370 feet, almost 70 feet taller than the giant sequoia. There are no known killing diseases and are resistant to insects, believed to be the result of high tannin concentrations, which also provides the red hue to the wood. Fog, created by the hot air of the central valley pulling moisture laden ocean air towards the interior of CA, is key to the survival of the coastal redwood.

Stand of young redwoods.
Stand of young redwoods.

Redwood National and State Parks are a cooperative management effort between the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park are part of the cooperative effort and form a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.

Campground: We stayed at Mill Creek campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. We were lucky to get a walk-up site, number 41. Sites 40 through 42 are spaced the closest and receive the most sunlight. The sites are level and have easy access to Mill Creek. Sites 39 and 55 are prime sites, spacious and well separated from neighboring campsites. Overall, most sites in the camp well spaced. There are some tent only sites that are extremely secluded – you hike to the tent platform through a tunnel in the foliage.

Alex enjoying the rocks in Mill Creek.
Alex enjoying the rocks in Mill Creek.

Activities: Fishing in the park tributaries of the Smith River for cutthroat trout and hatchery steelhead is permitted. Mill Creek is closed to fishing part of the year. A license is required.

Alex enjoying the hike along Trestle Trail on his pack mule.
Alex enjoying the hike along Trestle Trail on his pack mule.

There are a variety of trails for hiking in the park. The Trestle Trail Loop circumvents sites 1 – 74. Off of this trail, one can access the Adler Basin, Saddler Skyline, and Hobbs Wall (via Saddler Skyline) trails. The California Coastal Trail, which is 1200 miles long, runs through the park. Also in the park is the Damnation Trail, which was used by the Tolowa Indians to reach the ocean to gather shellfish and seaweed. This trail drops 1,000 feet over two miles through old-growth redwoods and Sitka spruce. We thought about attempting this hike, but wisely did the math in advance. The average grade on the trail is 10%. We opted for the Trestle Loop Trail instead. This trail was a combination of a relatively flat and wide path (good for Alex to walk a bit) and some narrow, steep hillside hiking (good time to contain Alex in the pack).

Overall: This was a fantastic campground and would be a fantastic place to set up home base for a couple of weeks and explore the coast. There are endless day trip possibilities. Also, the proximity to Crescent City means it is easy to restock food and clean clothes.

Banana slug
Banana slug

Muir Woods

Redwood Creek, taken from a foot bridge.
Redwood Creek, taken from a foot bridge.

Sadly, this is a non-Abby post because we decided to take a day trip to Muir Woods National Monument. We have been around Muir Woods on previous trips, but never managed to visit. The land that became Muir Woods was purchased by William Kent, a local businessman, and his wife Elizabeth Thatcher Kent in 1905. This land included one of the last uncut stands of redwoods and was donated to the federal government. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the area a national monument under the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act, and was named to honor John Muir, conservationist. Flora includes coast redwoods; shade-loving undergrowth, such as sword ferns, mosses, redwood sorrell; and wildflowers – trillium, clintonia, and redwood violet. Fauna include spotted owls, bats, raccoons, deer, birds (warblers, thrushes, Pacific wrens, Stellar’s jays), banana slugs, Sonoma chipmunks, and western gray squirrels.

Muir_Parking
Our parking spot in Muir Woods. Normally, we wouldn’t park next to this guy, but spots were at a premium. Car on the other side didn’t actual encroach into our space, but was parked on the line. Jess let Dave and Alex out of the car, parked, and then climbed out the rear hatch.

Our initial plan was to drive down after lunch so the trip would coincide with Alex’s nap. After reading the National Park Service’s tips for a visit, we decided to get on the road around 8. We pulled in at 10:15 and were extremely fortunate to get a parking space in the overflow lot at the Visitor’s Center. And that spot was wedged between the second place finishers in the asshole parking competition (we had to pull the mirrors in on the car). The first place finishers were parked so badly that you couldn’t squeeze into the spot between them. When we left at 12:30, it was absolute chaos in the parking lot and the overflow lot was also full. So, last minute plan changes work out.

With Alex in tow, we opted to stay on the trails close to the visitors center – mostly paved or board walk and smooth. Great surface for a little boy to walk/run/jump and burn off some serious energy. Jess and Alex abandoned Dave at the gift shop and took off across Bridge 1. Without cell service, Jess had to corral a very unhappy boy, find Dave, and then the journey could begin again. Alex ran along the trail until we reached the Hillside trail head and Alex chose to head up this path.

Muir_family
Hiking on the Hillside Trail in Muir Woods.
Alex on the path in Muir Woods.
Alex on the path in Muir Woods.

The beginning of the Hillside Trail after the Bohemian Grove was quite reasonable – rather wide and smooth, but with a rather steep drop off. Soon it became very narrow and rough, completely inappropriate to have an energetic two year-old free roaming. We packed Alex up in the Osprey child carrier and carried him until we crossed Bridge 4 and returned to the paved path. Along the Hillside Trail we encountered an 8 inch banana slug and Alex had fun cawing at a bird high up in the trees. Alex enjoyed touching a pair of trees we had to walk between on the trail and cried when we kept on walking. He is a curious kid and doesn’t like to leave his interests before he is done checking everything out.

Alex inspecting the signs in Muir Woods.
Alex inspecting the signs in Muir Woods.

Alex also really liked the signs instructing us to stay on the board walk. He inspected them closely trying to figure out how they were constructed and picked out the letter ‘A’ and ‘T’ in each sign. Whenever he saw the ‘T’ he said ‘choo choo’ for train.

Alex checking out a hollow in a tree.
Alex checking out a hollow in a tree on the marked trail.

Overall, we had a great time. The paths near the visitors center are packed, and if we had some more time and were more familiar with the trails that would be better for Alex, we would have ventured farther away from the Visitor’s Center. It took us about 2 hours to walk a 1.5 mile loop, which can be completed more quickly if a toddler isn’t setting your pace. Getting there early is key for securing a parking spot.

Alex enjoying Redwood Creek.
Alex enjoying Redwood Creek.