CA – Redwood Coast (Part 2 of 2) (Aug 2021)

The previous post covered my trip south of Orick including Grizzly Creek State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Patrick’s Point State Park, and Humboldt Lagoons State Park plus an introduction to Redwoods National Park (link). As I stated in that post, the relationship between the Redwoods National and State Parks vs other nearby State Parks with Redwood in their name is confusing at best. “Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation that includes Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek State Park.” Basically this combined entity excludes coastal areas south of Orick.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground

This was the only campground I stayed at with easy beach access. What it lacks in privacy and wind protection it makes up for with the best ocean music. You reserve sites through Reserve California which is how I made all my reservations. There is an Iron Ranger should you choose to try for a walk-up option. There is also a ranger fee booth before the campground, but a ways down the long dusty road.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Elk Prairie Campground

This is the best place to base camp if you’re a hiker as there are 75 miles of trails in the Park. Another benefit is nearby elk viewing, well sometimes they visit the meadows but not during the five nights I stayed.

Most days I found a herd somewhere along a nearby road.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Fern Canyon Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Park and as such has a day use fee; however, it’s waived if you are staying at one of park campgrounds or have an America the Beautiful Pass.

This is a place to plan on getting your feet wet and is not the best for those looking for a smooth trail. I didn’t bring my hiking poles and wished I had them to assist with scrambling and slippery sections. There are also a few sets of primitive stairs if you want to walk the loop.

Prunella vulgaris, the common self-heal, heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, brownwort or blue curls, is a herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.

Five-Finger Western Maidenhair Fern (notice the long middle finger).

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Moorman Pond Trail

This trail provides a lot of WOW per mile enjoyment. It’s one of the shorter trails but is much less busy than those within walking distance of the campground.

My friend works for the Forest Service and was well versed in the Redwood trees, teaching me a few key details such as that the trees have a different type of greenery in the canopy verses lower down. The tannins in the bark are what protects the trees from fires and disease. It was interesting to note the trees are not hosts to moss like many other species. Also the cones are tiny in comparison to other trees. To learn more, here’s an educational NPS link.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Miner’s Ridge/Clintonia/James Irvine Loop Trails

Probably the most popular longer trail in the Park is James Irvine to Fern Canyon, with many looping back on the Miner’s Ridge Trail. Since I’d already hike the Fern Canyon loop I opted for an abbreviated version. I got an early start and only saw a couple of backpackers along the Miner’s Ridge section and then didn’t meet hikers again until I reached the James Irvine section and even then probably only a dozen.

I didn’t find any Clintonia seedpods on the named trail but found these on an earlier hike. They were quite eye catching with the blue among so much green and probably standing about 3′ tall.

I look forward to seeing it in bloom someday. I need to go back in early spring some year to see azaleas, rhododendrons, skunk cabbage, trillium and many others blooming.

There was so much visual stimulation.

The trillium was huge with leaves ranging from greens to purples.

It was so peaceful wandering the quiet forests, feeling like a tiny munchkin among the giant trees and plants. I loved the variety with fog, shadows, blades of light, breezes and stillness.

Nursery trees are one of my favorites.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, West Ridge/Zigzag #2/Prairie Creek Loop Trails

This was my longest hike and for the most part it was another day of pleasant wandering through a redwood forest, albeit the name “ridge” is a misnomer and it was much more of a rollercoaster with no true ridges or views. I didn’t care for the northern section of the Prairie Creek Trail. It’s more overgrown with a lot of sun exposure and frequent vehicle noise from nearby Newton B Drury Parkway. I spent time looking at trees sporting obvious burned bark. Most were still alive and growing with large heads of greenery. The rangers indicated there hasn’t been a fire for over 200 years. It was hard to imagine. Redwoods are known to live 2,000 years.

Soft shoots of baby redwoods.

Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana) carpets the ground. The underside is purple and there were still a few blooms.

While staying at the Elk Prairie Campground, I tended to hike in the morning and beachcomb in the afternoon. My favorite spot was near the Kuchel Visitor Center just south of Orick. There is plenty of parking, a restroom and no fees required. In Orick there is a small grocery store and an eatery (that is occasionally open). Trinidad is about 20 miles south of Orick and offers many more options.

All too soon my reservations were up and it was time to say goodbye to the Redwood coast. Now that I’m more knowledgeable about how the State and Park systems work, what is fee based and what’s free, how to get last minute reservations, where to stay and what to do, I won’t wait nearly as long before my next visit.

Did I come to like staying in campgrounds? No; however, I enjoyed a few benefits. Having nearby water and trash was convenient as were showers when they worked. Collecting blackberries for breakfast on my way back from sharing dinner with the invisible elk, was a plus. I hated the nightly ritual of campfire smoke turning my tiny site into an ashtray, not much different than the wildfire smoke I’d runaway from. I seriously wish camping with campfires would become a thing of the past. It was really miserable having to lock myself in my car with the windows closed when it was time to sleep. I just purchased a mini air purifier for my car and am hopeful it’ll help eliminate smoke in the future.

I won’t soon forget the calm I felt among the gentle giants.

TIP: Don’t count on the accuracy of GPS trackers. It’s very challenging to get a clear view of the sky with the tall trees and dense canopy. In fact I hard to work hard to send my Inreach checkins. Usually I had to get to a road or meadow.

DATE(S) HIKED: Aug 12-21, 2021

Link to Part 1

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in California (link)