Majestic Giants and Stunning Hwy 1 Coastline

Trip Start Mar 25, 2013
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Trip End Sep 10, 2013


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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 1

We headed off early again and it was only about 25 miles on highway 101 before we hit the Redwood National and State Parks.

The Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) are located along the coast of northern California. Comprising Redwood National Park (established 1968) and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 133,000 acres (540 km2). Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totalling at least 38,982 acres (157.75 km2). These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles (60 km) of pristine coastline.

In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of the California coast. The northern portion of that area, originally inhabited by Native Americans, attracted many lumbermen and others turned gold miners when a minor gold rush brought them to the region. Failing in efforts to strike it rich in gold, these men turned toward harvesting the giant trees for booming development in San Francisco and other places on the West Coast. After many decades of unrestricted clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. By the 1920s the work of the Save-the-Redwoods League, founded in 1918 to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks among others. Redwood National Park was created in 1968, by which time nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged. The National Park Service (NPS) and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) administratively combined Redwood National Park with the three abutting Redwood State Parks in 1994 for the purpose of cooperative forest management and stabilization of forests and watersheds as a single unit.

The ecosystem of the RNSP preserves a number of threatened animal species such as the Brown Pelican, Tidewater Goby, Chinook Salmon, Northern Spotted Owl, and Steller's Sea Lion. In recognition of the rare ecosystem and cultural history found in the parks, the United Nations designated them a World Heritage Site on September 5, 1980 and an International Biosphere Reserve on June 30, 1983.

Given we had already seen the giant Sequoia Groves in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon national parks in May I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the big trees. I was totally wrong.

What made these so special was not only their beauty and awe inspiring size but the fact that there were so many of them and that they were literally right on the side of the road only inches from the pavement. It was an incredible drive and one I will never forget. We parked and went for a stroll through the Simpson – Reed Redwood Grove which was a magical old growth forest complete with many large tall old Redwoods, ferns, toppled giants, stunning bright green mosses and lichen everywhere and new life budding from the decay. The trunks of the fallen trees were often big enough to climb and sit in so Zach loved that. He was also searching for the elusive skunk that he had become a little obsessed with due to its ability to spray people with a stink smell….boys!

We walked around the grove for about 45 minutes wondering at how some of these trees are more than 2000 years old before continuing cruising down the 101 through the Valley of the Giants.

Next stop was the Klamath River Overlook. One of the little known facts about the Redwoods National Park is that it also includes some stunning Pacific coastline beaches that we really enjoyed. The overlook was the first proper wave breaking beach views we had seen in about 4 months and it felt like home. I was happy to be getting back to Perth beaches in a few days.

We found the jointly State and National Park managed visitor centres and trails were pretty small, boring and not well maintained with maps that weren’t even accurate. The signage was also terrible. I would definitely rate it as one of the best for majestic beauty and one of the worst national parks we visited from a visitor services perspective.

We continued down the 101 to the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway which has many of the large old trees and lots of trails to take through the Redwood forest groves. Our main stop was THE BIG TREE which is 304' x 21' in diameter.  This tower stands out in one of the prettiest old growth groves. Located north of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center the 100-yard trail to the Big Tree is paved. Two nearby bonuses are the Roosevelt Elk herd in Elk meadow, and Fern Canyon, where a creek splits two walls of sheer rock draped in a thick carpet of ferns. Its prehistoric look convinced Steven Spielberg to film a "Jurassic Park “scene there. 

We left highway 101 to check out the 30 mile long 'Avenue of the Giants’ which runs parallel to the 101. This is a must do diversion when travelling down the California coast. You just travel in awe of these majestic trees. It's like stepping into another world. Truly inspirational.

We had planned to finish seeing the entire Avenue by the end of the day but we only got about two thirds of the way through so we stayed in the nice Giant redwoods and RV camp just off the road.

Day 2

The next morning we stopped to see the ‘Drive Through Tree’ (Surprising the RV doesn’t fit) which wasn’t very exciting but you had to pay $10 per person to see it. Luckily they also had some pretty cool tree houses that Zach enjoyed playing in.

Looking at the map I thought it might be nice to leave the 101 and drive to the coast and continue down the famous Highway 1 otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Little did I know that this would be a 30 mile windy road that was really difficult to take the RV down which totally stressed Chris out especially since we were returning the RV in only a few days time so we were both a bit hyper sensitive about doing any further damage to it. Zach was very overtired so he of course had a huge meltdown on the road to highway 1 as well so also further delayed the trip.

Once we finally made it to the coast it was magnificent and stunning and lived up to all the pictures I had seen.

State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. Highway 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway. Its southern terminus is at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and its northern terminus is at U.S. Highway 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. Highway 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile (87 km) stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The highway is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA, leading to its designation as an All-American Road. In addition to providing a scenic route to numerous attractions along the coast, the route also serves as a major thoroughfare in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and several other coastal urban areas.

SR 1 was built piecemeal in various stages, with the first section opening in the Big Sur region in the 1930s. However, portions of the route had several names and numbers over the years as more segments opened. It was not until the 1964 state highway renumbering that the entire route was officially designated as Highway 1. Although SR 1 is a popular route for its scenic beauty, frequent landslides and erosion along the coast have caused several segments to be either closed for lengthy periods for repairs, or re-routed further inland.

We drove about 60 miles south along the coast to Fort Bragg and then drove back inland on the I-20 to the 101 which was also a tough 45 min drive in the RV due to the very windy road.

We headed down the 101 to Healdsburg and made it just in time to ‘J’ winery  http://www.jwine.com/ which is run by the daughter of the owner of Jordan Winery as special winery for my family as my dad knows the owner Tom Jordan. Even though we paid $25 dollars for a tasting (finally something more expensive in the USA than Australia) but they were decent pours and we tried their bubbles through to their reds.  Some great souvenirs and very nice pinots we pick up a couple of bottles and headed off to the local RV park run on the each of a Skyline Wilderness state park. We have a few issues with Zach eating his dinner but I manage to get him to eat by telling him a story about sneezy smurf. We decided on an early night to try and catch up on sleep.
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