Thursday, July 10, 2008

Redwoods with kids

There are places on this planet where time seems to stand still. The beauty of your surroundings overwhelms you with a feeling of peace. You stand in awe at the marvels that God has filled our planet with. Thoughts of the stresses of home are far gone. Redwoods National and State Park is one of those places. I will never forget the first time I saw these tall trees as a child. We were on a road trip up the coast to visit my Aunt Dianne in Washington. As we whizzed up Highway 101 and into the forest filled with giants, my brother and pressed our heads against the windows of the minivan, craning our necks to try and see the tops of the trees. My dad was never one for stopping on a road trip. He had to make good time. So for years my only view of this amazing landscape was confined to what I could see from the trusty Dodge. Last year I finally got to get a better taste of the Redwoods when we met my Aunt Dianne and Uncle Herb in Crescent City for an introduction to our little ones and a weekend on the remote Northern California Coast.


One thing not to do when you go to the Redwoods- Don't think you can take off and just find a place to stay when you get there. We learned this the hard way. My aunt had rented us a house to stay in but that first night we were on our own until they met us in town. We left Sacramento when Paul got off work and drove into the night hoping to stop in Eureka and spend the night in a hotel. Ha ha. We were funny. It was midnight when we arrived and there were no rooms to be had in town. Anywhere. Okay fine, we just keep going. Surely there has got to be a hotel room in some little town along the coast just waiting for us. Nope. Nada. Zip. By 2 in the morning we headed coasted into Crescent City. Not a room to be had. Paul pleaded with the a front desk manger to let us sleep in a conference room. The manger explained that there was already a family in there. We were out of luck. We had two 10 month olds and no place to stay. That night our kids experienced their first ever night in the car. We put everything that was in the trunk into the front seats and moved on of the car seats back there. Paul slept curled in a ball back there with Ben in his seat. I slept in the back seat with Mari in her car seat. From time to time one of us would turn the car on to heat it up so the kids wouldn't get cold. We peed in the parking lot next to our car. It was not our finest moment. When the son rose we found out we weren't alone. A few others had made the same mistake and were forced to sleep in their cars as well. We couldn't help but laugh at our situation. We headed to Denny's for coffee and rinsed off in the sink. We still had a few hours to burn so we decided to head on over to the forest and kill time.

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There is a great roadside attraction south of Crescent City on 101 called The Trees of Mystery. It is everything I love about a roadside attraction. Super cheesy bastardization of whatever they are trying to promote. Evidentally there is some sort of sky ride you can take through the trees but I have never done it because, well, I am cheap.  I come strictly to go talk to the giant Paul Bunyan. It reminds me the Wizard of Oz. There is some man behind the curtain who talks for the massive Paul Bunyan. You can ask him questions and he will shout out his answer in a booming voice. Its hilariously cheesy. A great photo op.

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Just north of the Trees of Mystery on the left side of the road is a beautiful lagoon. It is covered in the most beautiful giant green lily  pads. Its a great place to let the kids explore while you sit back and relax and watch the mist roll through the trees.

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Finally we met up with my aunt and uncle and made our way to our rental. It was a very nice little 3 bedroom house a few houses from the ocean. The convenience of having a home to go to with children was so nice. You could put them in their cribs and not have to be a prisoner to a hotel room. Since Crescent City has a slumped economy you can get a great deal on a  nice rental. Once again the internet is a valuable resource. Just do a little search and see what comes up. That afternoon was spent walking on the path high above the ocean and enjoying the breathtaking views. The sounds of seals and gulls filled the air as the sun set into the sea.

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The next morning we made our way to Jedediah Smith Redwoods for a walk amongst the giants at Stout Grove. This is a great place for families because it is more of a walk then a hike and there is so much to look at. Trees so tall you can't see the tops of them. And another highlight is the Smith River which runs nearby. This is a great little river. So crystal clear that you can easily see the pebbles that line the bottom. I could spend and entire day sitting by that river and taking in all the beauty. I hope to go camping in that very spot in the future. It is truly a treasure. Another great hike I would like to try is the                        Boy Scout Tree Trail.  It is in the same park and is supposed to be spectacular.

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That same day we also spent some time beach combing and waiting for the tide to go out so we could walk across the little piece of land that comes up at low tide to the lighthouse. There is something about a lighthouse that is just so neat. My mind always drifts to what it would be like to grow up as a child of a lighthouse tender. Taking a boat to shore to get to school. Enjoying a unique life by the sea. I guess its the romantic in me.

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The next day we said goodbye to our family and started the long journey home. We first made a stop at the Prairie Creek Redwoods. This is a magical spot where you are almost certain to see some elk either by the ocean or in open meadows surrounded by trees. You can enjoy the ocean and spend some time along the Coastal Trail . We were pressed for time to we went straight for the highlight of the park. Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is an easy hike in to a narrow canyon that has moss covered walls and a stream running through its middle. It is so lush and green that it takes your breath away. If you do one hike while you are in the redwoods, do this hike. It isn't about the trees but it is such a special place.

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There are many other things to do while in the redwoods that we didn't have time for. It is a place that I hope to visit again and again. The Redwoods Creek Trail and Rim Loop Trail are shouting my name. We didn't get to be a campy tourist and drive through a tree since our SUV was too big. I want to do that. I know. Its cheesy. But I wanna! I would like to spend some time on the Avenue of the Giants. Do some tide pooling. The list goes on and on. The point is, there is something for everyone who loves nature in this very special corner of the globe. Nowhere else will you see anything so tall and and filled with thousands of years of life. So pack up the family and head on our to the Redwoods (but please make reservations first!). I would be happy to help you with your planning and love to hear about your adventure!

PS- here is a great site with some Redwoods hikes all over the California coast.


Terri said...

Beautiful pictures, Shar. You sold me! I would LOVE to go! Maybe we will get there someday!

Mashel said...

Hi, I am new to your site and I have to tell you, I love it! I too am a "Twin Wrangler" as you put it, and have two older boys as well. We live in Washington State and are always doing fun things outdoors with our kids. People always tell me that I am crazy for taking for kids, two of which are 8 month old twins, so many places, but I too believe there is so much to teach your children by taking them places. It is refreshing to see someone else feel the same way. Check out my blog for some of the fun stuff we have been doing.

debi9kids said...

LOVE this trip! I remember it oh so well! (esp. the part about you sleeping in the cars! LOL)
I can't get over how little Ben & Mari were!
You are amazing! Never afraid to explore, even with itty bitty ones!

Shannon said...

Loved this post...this place is definitely on my list. Maybe we'll get there this fall if/when we do Yosemite too. I'll probably have lots of questions for you during the planning stages!

Christy said...

awesome Shar!!! Your writing is beautiful and I love your stories! The pics are great!.. even AMAZING! I have to go check out the redwoods one of these days!

Tamara Mitchell said...

I LOVE the Redwood forests! California is such a beautiful state. You can find some much variety. We are beach people but my goodness when we retreat to the mountains or National Parks, we love it! Great photos

Debbie Moore said...

I would love to take the kids some day!! Great post!

M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

The site you listed is my favorite hiking website to use.

One of that sites pages has linked to a page I've been assembling for a while, on the undisclosed and largest known coastal redwoods:

Largest Coastal Redwood Trees / Photos

Like Lost Monarch, which is across the water a ways from Stout Grove, and hidden in the forest. Or Iluvatar, which is in Prairie Creek redwoods.


M. D. Vaden of Oregon