Standing Beneath Giants: California Redwoods


We were awestruck by the energy and beauty during our travels through the California Redwood parks, we decided they deserve a post devoted solely to them. The Redwoods have been sitting in my bucket list for over a decade waiting patiently for me to make the trip. I always heard people speak of these grand trees and couldn't wait to be standing at the base of them peering (way!) up. Driving down the California coast we were lucky enough to visit three different redwood areas: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Avenue of the Giants, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.


But first, I was in serious denial as we left our last state campground in Oregon with plans to head into California. I had a death grip on our campsite picnic table and was pleading with Chip that I couldn't bear to leave the state. As he tickled me off the picnic table I reluctantly climbed into Spud and cozied my body into the passenger seat. I haven't blogged about Oregon yet, not because I'm neglecting our time, but because it deserves a really over-the-top freakishly awesome post (or perhaps several!). Someday soon, I promise. The only thing that got me through our exit from Oregon is the fact that we were about to see big, magical trees. As we crossed the border into California, Spud sputtered a pathetic toot and I gave Chip one of those lousy high fives. You know the one where someone goes in for a slap and the other person doesn't reciprocate? Ok, it wasn't that depressing. But for real, our love for Oregon runs that deep. 

I'll move on. We got the recommendation from a couple different friends not to miss Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. There are several redwood parks in California but this one sits just over the Oregon border in California. My guess is that it's probably the least visited of all the parks due to its location and size. But it packs a mean punch and is not your typical California State Park (except for the expensive campground fees) due to its relatively small size, lack of crowds, and proximity to these ancient tree giants. Instead of a paid campground in Jedediah, we learned of free dispersed camping along South Fork Road. Typically if the "free" camping is easy to find, not too far out of the way, and feels safe when we get there (trust me, there have been plenty where we are pretty sure an axe murderer was going to pop in unannounced in the middle of the night and kill us) then we will snag a spot. Within a mile from this park's redwood drive and hikes, we found a perfect spot nestled along the Smith River. We texted our Westfalia friends who also happened to be traveling around in the area and let them know of our top-secret location with hopes of a last minute rendezvous. 


That is not a matchbox Spud.


For about three minutes we sat at our new campsite twiddling our thumbs as the boys circled us with their dump trucks (on repeat). Our ears just about exploded from the ruckus the dump truck tires made, and we both popped up simultaneously and agreed we were too eager to wait to see the redwoods until tomorrow. So off we went!

The main artery through Jedediah Smith Redwoods is the 10-mile long Howland Hill Road which was, pleasantly, a mostly deserted gravel road that twists and turns alongside these behemoth redwood trees. Several hiking trails branch off from Howland as well. We opted for the Mill Creek Trail because it was rumored the "Grove of the Titans," the largest of all the redwoods, were recently "discovered" there. Spoiler alert: yes, we found that "Grove" but in all honesty, almost every tree out there was impressively huge so it didn't matter to me which few were supposedly the biggest.

Minutes after passing the trailhead sign it felt as though we were immersed in an alternate universe. The trees were just as friends had described. Some reached so high in the sky I wasn't sure my neck could even bend that far nor my eyes fathom the actual height of the trees. It was also absolutely silent on this trail. And by silent, I mean chatty toddlers exclaiming "mom, mom, mom, holy smokes. Look at THAT tree! It's massive!!!" Only they say "mastive." But besides the boys' voices, we were surrounded by solitude. We did not pass a soul the entire hike. There were no cars, trucks, or highway noise. The forest felt alive but void of a single noise. The energy consumed us. We could feel it in the air, on our skin, among the trees. It was enchanting being surrounded by something living for the last 700 years. 

Mill Creek Trail/Grove of the Titans:


Bennett cruising among some of the smaller (but tall!) redwoods.

We gave a little squeeze to this one that sat right along the trail.


Jib cozied in a redwood.


Hiking beside a giant fallen redwood.

The jibs must have hiked close to 4 miles and pretty much enjoyed the whole thing, until the very end when dad rewarded them with a shoulder ride the final hundred feet.


Checking it all out again in the morning light.

Stout Grove Trail (The Following Day):

A Giant Redwood Tree and Bennett tripped on a tree root and fell. Here is the sad aftermath. 

Reid feelin' groovy with his scoopin' truck and redwood trees.

Goodbye Jedediah Smith!

Camping with awesome friends: Casey, Ransom, Jules, & JD.

We broke up the tree-sightseeing with a visit to the Lost Coast. This is the only portion of coastline in California that has no major highway or even a decent road for that matter. The few towns that remain are isolated from the rest of California. We figured this place would be a little more well-known. After all, it is California, where there are literally people everywhere, right? Wrong. After leaving the cute town of Ferndale on the north, we began to ascend a very windy, very bumpy, narrow road to the middle of nowhere. After forty minutes on the worst road known to mankind, we passed two cars, one biker, and a lot of cattle. Chip's mood switched from excited in the beginning to slightly cranky as the minutes wore on due to the condition of the road. Thankfully we hit the coast and found a tiny pull-off to enjoy the sunshine. The following hour was spent on the beach jumping off logs. Some much needed fun!

Back in the van, and on our way inland towards Petrolia, the melodic voice of Gregory Alan was peacefully rocking the boys to sleep. No wait, that was the non-stop twists, turns, and potholes in the road. But either way, they fell asleep quickly in one of those "holy shit, that looks painful" positions. You know, the slumped head hanging down so low you could pick it up off the floor? Ouch! The boys always look so pleasant when they're sleeping though. Those snoozing faces can erase any ill will I have towards them and immediately melt my heart. Must be a mom thing. Naturally Chip and I reminded ourselves during this quiet time how great, for the most part, it has been to have kids on this trip. Sometimes no. Some moments suck. But most of the time these two go with the flow on any occasion. They hang out with each other every day, playing for hours and hours without much fighting. They enjoy getting in the car and adventuring (or Spudventuring as we still call it). They sit for hours on end in their carseats with their chosen toy of the day and they look out the windows, and talk, and sing all while we drive around looking for things like the Lost Coast or some giant tree. They show just as much excitement when we arrive at a new place and can't wait for the next best campground. They nap on command. They love our music (I consider that a huge bonus because nobody has time for disney tunes).

But most of all, they just want to be near us, hanging out with their parents all day every day. Some days I don't feel I even deserve them. I get short with them. Or beg for alone time. I forget to read them books at the end of the day. I pretend I don't hear them when they say "moooom, I need to go poop." I despise that dreaded phrase. But then I snap out of my adult-tantrum sometimes quickly, sometimes not and realize I am the lucky one. Parents have a tough job. Day in and day out, it can become exhausting. Monotonous at times. But loving a child (or children) tops it all. It has been pretty damn fun to have them accompany us on this cross country journey. I wouldn't have it any other way. Although I hope they don't remember the times we begged them to leave us alone.  

The Lost Coast. Reid is likely finding some new toy in the sand to play with for the next hour. He has eyes for new toys!

No people. Nothing to do. Let's jump!

I'm not going to lie, jumpshots really do bring out the belly laughs and kid in everyone! Just look at those faces. 

More jumping!

We will leave you with two final frames. A video through Humboldt and our favorite picture along Avenue of the Giants. The video came at a time when we were incredibly sick of driving having just done our four hour long Lost Coast tour. The combo of redwoods and new pavement in Humboldt revived us after that drive. The picture is during our drive through the Avenue of the Giants, which parallels 101 but is far more rewarding in terms of views and lack of cars. 

A winding drive through the Redwoods, California.


California is our: 14th state
The Lost Coast was: long, bumpy, and in our opinion not worth it for the short coastal views. Maybe if you stay the night.
Reid's Current Favorite Song: Alone - Alan Walker
Bennett's Current Favorite Song: Down in the Valley - The Head and the Heart
Chip's Current Favorite Song: Engine Trouble - The Last Revel
Looking forward to: Downloading Stranger Things and watching it on our iPad in the forest at night(!!)
Where to next: Yosemite & Mammoth Lakes Area