Timeline: December 25, 2016 – January 5, 2017
We continued walking on the Founders Grove loop trail and reached the actual start at station number one where the Founders Tree sits. At 346 feet in height, it was once the tallest known tree in the world, but it has since lost part of its top and several other taller trees have been found. Fossil records show that redwoods grew naturally in many places in the Northern Hemisphere, but due to climatic changes and other factors, Coast Redwoods now only grow naturally in a narrow 40-mile-wide and 450-mile-long coastal strip from southern Oregon to Southern Monterrey County in California.
Redwoods are so immense that they live in three climate zones at once. The base of each tree is in one set of climatic conditions, the stem in another and the crown in yet another. They help create their own microclimates through the transportation of moisture from their leaves to the atmosphere. A very large redwood can release up to 500 gallons of water into the air per day.
Redwoods live a long time because they have very few enemies. Fire is one of the major threats to all trees but only the greatest conflagrations can kill mature redwoods because of their thick fire resistant bark and lack of resin. As you walk through the groves one sees many fire scarred trees.
We finished up our time in these two rewarding groves and drove on to our next destination a mile or so further to the former town of Dyerville. Situated at the juncture of the Eel River and its south fork, the town had been a stagecoach stop, shipping port and ferry crossing. When land for the park was acquired, a portion of Dyerville was purchased by the State, which converted the town store in to park headquarters. It remained there until 1955 when floodwaters rose 19 feet in just one hour, destroying virtually everything.
Whatever was left of Dyerville was buried during the construction of Highway 101 in 1957. Less than 10 years later the 1964 flood drowned the north coast again, leaving fill and landslide debris thirty feet high to create a lookout where we stopped, enjoying the view while families picnicked around us. We returned to the car and ate our lunch, the second half of the sandwiches we’d purchased the night before along with an apple and water we’d brought with us.
As we left the remnants of Dyerville and drove towards our final stop of the day, the need for a cup of coffee consumed me and with few options available, we stopped at the gift shop and lodge of the Redcrest Resort to see what they might have available.
Housing a kitschy assemblage of various redwood themed souvenirs and an odd assortment of Big Foot paraphernalia, I eyeballed a coffee maker and asked the clerk about a cup of coffee. She replied a new pot would have to be brewed and that it would take just a moment or two, which then stretched out to multiple moments. After a long wait, just when we were considering abandoning the venture, the coffee was produced, paid for, and ultimately consumed.
Four miles up the road was the Drury-Chaney Grove, with 2.4-mile nature loop trail considered to be one of the most beautiful in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Situated in a protected pocket that stays cool and moist, it is notable for dense redwood growth and a thick carpet of Redwood Sorrel (oxalis oregana), which looks similar to clover. As we walked the trail, we ran across a bench dedicated to Ralph W. Chaney, who re-discovered the dawn redwood in China in 1948 brought the seeds to the United States.
It was getting later in the day and the low hanging sun cast long shadows as we made our way around the loop, marveling at some of the fallen giants. When we returned to the car we checked an app on our phones to see how far we had walked that day and were delighted to see that we had covered a bit over six miles in total, a very good days work.
And now it was time to execute our plan for the latter part of the day, a 35 mile drive back down Highway 101 to just below Garberville for a drink at one of our favorite stops in the area, the Historic Benbow Inn. I first visited here with my parents during that long ago camping trip and have returned a few times since, twice to stay as guests, a few more times to enjoy a meal in its fine restaurant, or to have a drink on the patio overlooking the river.
We found a parking spot in what was a crowded lot due to an expansion of the hotel, causing a number of the stalls to be used for construction related activity. Too cold to sit outside, we entered the crowded bar, secured a table and ordered a round, a Candy Cane Martini for Joanna and Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA for me. We could both feel the alcohol hit our tired muscles, a soothing reward for a long day of activity.
Finished with our drinks we doubled back to Garberville for dinner, parking and walking the downtown area to determine which restaurant to select. We settled on Cecil’s New Orleans Bistro, which had received high marks in Trip Advisor. Located on the second floor of the building, we climbed up to the lobby and were seated promptly, it being early with few diners eating at that time.
We started with a bowl of the soup of the day, Crawfish Bisque, which was rich and creamy with a nice amount of seafood in it. We split an entrée, the Jambalaya Pasta (Andouille, Tasso, shrimp, crawfish and fried hen) served with a spinach fettuccine. It was full of good things, just a bit spicy hot but the rich sauce had us reaching to empty the breadbasket to sop up the last of it after we’d polished off the larger ingredients.
We had accomplished all we had set to and yet we were left with a longing for more. The appeal of the big trees is compelling, the more time you spend amongst them the more time you want to spend. As we prepared to drive down to Napa the next day we found ourselves discussing a future return, one where we could devote sufficient time to explore this breathtaking home to these great trees. To hike, feel the stillness, experience their wonder, a trip we will be sure to take.
Redcrest Resort: http://www.redcrestresort.com/
Benbow Inn: http://www.benbowinn.com/
Cecil’s New Orleans Bistro: http://garbervillebistro.com/