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Trip Report Highway 199, California Redwoods, Highway 1, Fern Canyon, - A short report.

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After a week with family in Sun River, OR, (July 2010) DW and I travelled SE to take in the northern Redwood country of California on our way home to Central Calif. We had been there before, but many years ago. We first detoured to Crater Lake where we found 3-4 feet of snow still standing around. We spent time taking pictures from the vista points along the western and southern rims. Grabbed a snack at the cafe, and off we went for NE California.

Our first Redwood treat came as we travelled Highway 199 from Grant’s Pass to Crescent City. The road from southern Oregon on was twisty and narrow, but well paved. The awesome part was the old growth redwoods. They were numerous, thick and huge. Ferns created a luxurious undergrowth. Some trees along the side of the road had obviously been scraped by vehicles negotiating the many curves. For several dozen miles we averaged no more than 30-40 mph or so.

There are many campgrounds and lodges along the way. Also several trailheads for hikers. One of the many pull outs was an overlook area of the river gorge. Sorry, lost my notes as to the area and the river’s name. It is quite narrow, and platforms have been built on the side to look down into the gorge and the rushing water. The sides of the gorge are covered in ferns. A very beautiful spot, well worth the stop. There is no fee. Just a very short walk to the platforms.

We found this section of Highway 199 to be more impressive and beautiful than the highly touted Avenue of the Giants further south on Highway 1.

We pulled into Crescent City about 8 without reservations. We had no guidebooks on the city, so we just drove around and found ourselves at the end of Front street at the Hampton Inn. They had a vacancy at $175. All rooms overlook the ocean, with balconies. Beautiful views. The rooms are very basic, nothing special. Did not sleep well, due to the comforter. We prefer blankets. Breakfast was pretty good, included in price.

Continued south on Highway 1. We had picked up some brochures in the lobby, which guided us to the highlight of the north coast for us. South from Crescent City, on Highway 1, just south of Klammath, the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway splits from Highway 1, follows the “old” Highway 1, winding about 10 miles through an incredible redwood rain forest. The ferns are thick and varied. DW was thrilled. We stopped at several of the pullouts, which generally feature loop trails through the forest, including “Big Tree Waypoint;” the tree is some 300 feet high. There are numerous trailheads for hikers of varied abilities. We recommend this Parkway for any serious Redwood seekers out there.

South of the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway, in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, was THE highlight. Fern Canyon. This is a state park facility, Gold Bluffs Beach, $8 per auto entry fee, paid at the entrance to the beach. You turn off of Highway 1 at Elk Meadow a little north of the town of Orick. (No elk when we went through, but we did see females grazing down by the beach, very close to the road.) The Canyon is at the end of Davison Road, about 8 miles in on a very narrow, twisty dirt road. 4 wheel drive is not needed, but large RV’s and trailers won’t make it. Near the end are a couple of streams to ford, but no problem for most vehicles. At the end of the road are campgrounds on the beach, rest rooms, and picnic tables. About a 1/4 mile very easy walk to the canyon. Once you enter the canyon, you find yourself in a wonderland of green, green, green ferns and mosses and trees. In July of 2010 water was flowing in the gravel stream bed, ankle deep at the deepest. Sand shoes recommended, though the ranger at the entrance told us it is usually dry this time of year. It’s a lot easier if you don’t mind your shoes getting wet. You can see a video here:
The brochure says Spielberg used the canyon for some scenes for Jurassic Park 2.

We walked up the canyon about 1/2 mile. Walking is easy enough, but not at all friendly to handicapped or the not so sturdy. There were countless varieties (brochure says 5; had to be more) of fern clinging to the sheer walls of the canyon, which is about 30 feet across. The walls are about 75 feet high. Where water drips down the wall, several kinds of mosses grow.

Large trees, some very large, have fallen into the canyon, and make a dramatic scene. Kids scramble over and under these obstructions. We climb gingerly around them.

This was truly the highlight of our short time in the redwood country. If you are touring the redwoods, try very hard not to miss this beautiful spot.

Further south, we entered the Avenue of the Giants, which also follows the “old” Highway 1, and were bored after the first few miles. They have 8 numbered pullouts and you can follow a brochure you pick up at the entry. Sort of a self guided tour of a Redwood forest. At each stop is a loop trail of varying lengths with some explanatory exhibits. Didn’t take any. I think after Highway 199 and the Fern Canyon, we were kinda redwood-ed out, but we truly did not think the Avenue of the Giants as impressive as the other places mentioned.

We spent the next night in Ft Bragg at the Surf and Sand Motel, a very nice place north of town. We had an upstairs room looking out at the ocean. Located along a biking and hiking road that crosses an old railroad trestle. Several trails branch off the road down to the cliffs overlooking the beach. Tide pools abound on this rugged section of coast and there are a few places where you can climb down to the ocean.

Next day, after a hike north and out to the ocean cliffs, we continued south, brunching in Mendocino in a second floor restaurant looking out over Mendocino bay. Cash only, but excellent breakfasts, especially the blueberry pancakes. Cant remember the name of the place, but its the only one on a second floor on the main street along the bay.

The rest of the trip is grueling driving, though stopped in Bodega Bay at the Tides for a great crab sandwich lunch. South of Bodega Bay, we turned left and picked up the 101 at Petaluma. Then Freeways south to Central Cal and home. Lotsa driving in a short period of time, but some great scenic memories.

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