In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Big Tree Country

After I left Mount Rainier I figured I had the perfect amount of time to head down to northern California to check out the Redwoods. I'd have about a week before I needed to be back in Portland so that should give me enough time for a leisurely drive down the coast along Hwy. 101 and then I could meander my way back north. All I can say is that the Oregon coast is absolutely amazing! Everything from nice sandy beaches to tall craggy cliffs to mile and miles of sand dunes. It's all very diverse and all very beautiful. The weather was cool and overcast for the whole drive but I think it made some of the scenery even more spectacular, while dulling others. Either way it fit my mood well. I felt like just spending some time in the car driving and thinking and it was perfect for that. I didn't make a whole lot of stops for exploration along the way but I did get out for some good hikes. The most memorable was getting up early and hitting some trail along the coast, not knowing where I was it where it went. It led down to a beach where I found plenty of surfers up and it it early on a Monday morning (apparently I'm not the only slacker without a job). From there the trail continued to the end of a cape where I found a nice place to sit and just take in the incredible scenery.

After a couple days I made it into northern California where I entered Redwood National Park. You know how everyone says you can't prepare yourself for the massive size of the trees? That you have to see them in person to appreciate their incredible size?

Well, they're wrong!

Hearing that over and over along with thousands of pictures of people being dwarfed by these trees does a pretty good job of preparing you for what you see in the park. Not only that but the really big trees take up a pretty small portion of the park so it's not like you're surrounded by acres of these mammoths. That's not to say that the trees aren't impressive though, they are...but it wasn't the life changing experience most people make it out to be, at least not for me anyway. I actually think the trees look bigger in the picture I took of me standing next to one then they did in person. Maybe that's because I was hiking alone so I didn't have anyone else there for comparison sake.

Still, I had a fantastic time in the park and I'm very glad I went. I hiked the Redwood Creek trail to 44 camp where I spent the night before getting up the next morning to check out the “Tall trees” area of the park. It was a long hike with a really heavy pack but I managed to survive. Apparently it was slug mating season because they were getting it on all over the place; I don't know why they can't find someplace a little more private for doing that. Or maybe they're exhibitionists and they like people taking pictures of them doing it.

When I arrived in 44 camp I only found one other person there, this guy (John Elliot). He was sitting next to his tent with his guitar and strumming a tune. We talked for a while and it turns out he's a musician and is originally from Minnesota. It was nearly dark when I got to camp so after talking a little I went to set up my own camp and cook something to eat. As I cooked and laid down to sleep for the night I was treated to my own personal concert deep in the woods. You wouldn't think the woods would do much for acoustics but it sounded like being in a concert hall. The next morning we chatted a little more and parted ways; but not before I found out the name of his band and website. He's done the whole 'travel in your car on the cheap' deal too and it was fun to talk to someone else who'd had similar experiences. He seemed like a cool guy and I enjoyed talking to him. I downloaded his album that's available on i-Tunes and it's some pretty good stuff, you might want to check it out. Just search for "the hereafter" on iTunes and you should find it.

On my way to the tall trees grove I crossed Redwood creek and found a gorgeous, deep blue/green pool that looked amazing. There were plenty of little tadpoles swimming around and some small trout a little farther out in the pool. All along the rocky shoreline were tons of small little toads only about 3/8” long. After hiking around a little more I decided it was time to head back to the car, it was a 9+ mile hike after all. Thankfully the pack was lighter now that I'd eaten most of the food and drank a lot of the water. I thought about staying another night in the park but decided to head out instead. Though I enjoyed driving the coast down through Washington and Oregon the traffic was a little heavier then I'd like for a relaxing trip, not made any better because of the all the slow moving motor homes on Hwy. 101.

As I was working my way to the coast from Olympia I saw there was some real beauty inland as well. Lots of dense, deep forests and pastures on small blacktop highways that ran through rural towns that reminded me a lot of small towns in the midwest. I'd parked on a gravel and just spent some time walking the woods along the road and I decided I wanted to do some more of that on the way back. So I took off on Hwy. 199 in northern California to get myself inland a little bit as I headed north.

I'm amazed at how fast the weather changes when you get away from the coast. The whole time I've been along the coast the weather has mainly been in the mid-70's with many days only in the 60's. When I left the Redwoods the temp was only in the 60's and it felt a little on the cool side. After only 1 1/2 hours or so of driving I found myself back in the mountains of southern Oregon and a little ways from the coast. As I was going to sleep last night I realized that I was uncomfortably warm as I tried to sleep for the fist time since I'd left on my trip. Checking the weather today finds the temperature here in Grants Pass, OR to be in mid-80's while just a little ways west on the coast the temp is in the mid-60's. That's just not something I'm used to in the midwest. If it's hot in one area of the midwest you can be pretty sure it's hot in the entire midwest.

Today has been a big lazy catch up day for me. I've spent pretty much the whole day here in Grants Pass getting some photos organized and catching up with some stuff online. I've still got a couple days until I need to be back in Portland so there's no rush at all. Boy, I'm sure getting used to living like this; I hope I can survive a weeks worth of work.

I doubt I'll see much more of the actual coast on this trip and I've put together a Flickr set with many of my shots from the coast if you want to check it out.


debbieuu said...

Of all the stories you've told about your big adventure, the story of listening to guitar music in the night forest is the one I can actually "see" in my mind. That must have been magical. Thank you for sharing.

Edith said...

I have always wanted to see the Redwoods too. I also thought they may be disappointing.

GT said...

great photos!

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.