Sunday, July 17, 2011

Redwood National Forest

On Friday morning we started off for the one-hour drive toward the Redwood National Forest.  Along the way we passed through more small towns with some fun signs.

Who wants a ride on the Skunk Train?

We couldn't figure out what all the confusion was about once we got there.

Most of the driving today had been right along the coast with some beautiful scenery.  We felt like we were driving in the clouds and from the looks of the sky, we expected rain to start any time.  In the four weeks we had been travelling, we hadn’t had a single day of rain yet.  Scott spotted a beach with public access, so we got out to take a stroll and let the girls play in the ocean for a few minutes.

Once we got to Redwoods National Forest, our first stop was the visitor’s center for some advice on the best places to see the most.  The ranger pulled out her trail map and filled us in.  The first place she suggested was a short hike through the Redwoods at Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove.  Then she mentioned the scenic drive that ran parallel to the highway as well as showing us on the map an area where a California gray whale and her calf had come into one of the channels off of the ocean, had swam up the river, and had been just hanging out in that area for about a week.  And finally she suggested a hike through Stout Grove where the biggest Redwoods were.

Scott had been driving to this point.  Since he’s better with a map than I am, I offered to drive so he could navigate.  As we started off the main road onto the side road to get to Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove, I noticed that the gas light popped on (supposedly three gallons left).  Did I mention that for quite a while we had been driving through a forest with a few tiny towns in between with maybe three buildings in each of them, a sprinkling of houses, and lots of winding steep highway.  Didn’t notice any gas stations in those tiny towns.  No need to panic anybody just yet.

We got to the trailhead and off we went.  The girls had a blast standing inside the enormous hollowed out trees for pics.  And Scott just kept saying, “Oh, wow!  Look at that one!”  We were pretty much alone for most of the trail, so it was a nice leisurely hike.

Awwwww, how sweet!

 This tree started as one at the bottom
but split off about 1/4th of the way up.

This redwood had a growth.

Once we got back to the car, I mentioned the light on the gas tank.  Scott punched in nearest gas station on the GPS – 25 miles away.  We had probably driving about 20 miles since the light had popped on, and the indicator was well below the empty mark.  I’m so glad that God cares about the desires of my heart because at that moment it was not the desire of my heart to hike to the nearest gas station.  So we turned off the air conditioner, I coasted when I could coast and cruised when I could cruise.  We pulled into the Pey-Mey Gas Station (on an Indian reservation) on a fume and a prayer!

Scott then spotted a sign on top of the gas pump with a menu for a Mexican fast food restaurant inside the building.  We were hungry, they were cheap, and it looked nice and clean!  He finished pumping the gas, and we went inside to check it out.  When we got inside, we noticed an armed guard sitting right inside the door… along with a row of about 10 slot machines.  The girls’ eyes were bugging out of their heads.  Too funny!  We grabbed our tacos and a bag of chips and sat at the four person counter for lunch.  The girls were entertained by the sprinkling of people playing the machines, and we were entertained by their many questions.  Teachable moment at the Pey-Mey Gas Station in Klameth, California!

Lunch at the Pey-Mey Gas Station

Watching people play the slots
On our venture to find gas before running out, we missed the scenic drive through the redwoods.  We started to detour back and drive through, but Scott realized we were near where the whales had been hanging out, so we chose that instead.  We got to a spot on the road where people were sitting on a retaining wall alongside the river and decided that was the place.  We pulled into a turnout just past the wall and joined the handful of others staring at the water.  Just before we got up the nerve to ask what they were looking at, I saw a spray of water shoot through the air.  There they were, two California gray whales letting the river float them past us.  Then they turned around and swam back up the river.  They floated past us three times in a matter of about 10 minutes.  A ranger had driven up with his camera during that time, and he said having a whale swim up the channel into the river hadn’t happened in decades and that they had been there for about a week.  We stayed about 30 more minutes but they never floated back past us again.  And I’ll say it again… right place at just the right time!

California gray whales - a mom and her calf

We loaded back up, with a happy gas tank, and drove toward Stout Grove.  On our way there, you can see below the photo opp we couldn’t resist.

Babe, Paul Bunyan's big blue ox.

Posing with Paul Bunyan

We arrived at the turnoff for Stout Grove and drove about six miles off of the main road into the forest on a one-lane dirt road.  There weren’t very many cars going in or coming out, but when we did have to pass a car, one of us had to squeeze close to the edge so the other could pass.  Can’t imagine what it would be like on a busy day in the grove. All the trees we have seen thus far have been huge, enormous.  They looked even bigger here.  Then we got to the trail head, which was an easy half-mile hike.  We’re pretty sure this grove is the location of the three tallest trees in the world.  They won’t pinpoint the exact location for fear that visitors will want to walk around the root beds, but after seeing these trees, we can’t imagine any trees being taller.  You can get a bit of perspective on the width of the trees with the girls standing beside them, but there was no way to capture their height in a photo.  Absolutely amazing!

Tree huggers, literally!

Another great ending to a great day!

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