July 23 – August 3, 2020
After a pleasant sleep, a nice gift as the first night back in a tent is usually one filled with tossing and turning as you get used to this different environment, we woke to a warm morning that promised an even warmer afternoon. Our only real plan for the day was to try to get in one or two short hikes and with that in mind we set out later in the morning for the nature trail that led out of the visitor center.
Today’s visitor center was built in 1931 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, who later constructed the park’s campgrounds, picnic facilities, trails, water systems and restrooms. Unfortunately, most of the CCC-built facilities were damaged or destroyed when the south fork of the Eel River overflowed in the floods of 1955 and 1964. Only the original visitor center remains.
The fairly short walk over to the center from our campsite did inform us of one development that would affect our stay, my back was acting up and any thoughts of hiking more than a short distance became pretty remote. As the Visitor Center was closed due to Covid-19, we walked the nature trail stopping at each of the designated spots, less informed than we could have been absent a brochure describing the various points of interest.
But just being in the midst of these tall giants is reward enough as we continued on the trail, marveling at some of the oddities (large burls, separate trees that had sprouted from the side of one of the giants, etc.) and finishing up, returned to camp. Our one task of the day was to get ice at Piercy, just south of the park and essentially a grouping of gas station and restaurant supporting the Grandfather Tree tourist attraction.
We took care of the ice and feeling the need for lunch parked in front of the One Log House, a combination cafe, gift shop, tourist attraction (somehow we missed seeing the log house which was right near the highway), and cannabis dispensary. We entered the café/gift shop and after checking out the menu, went for a ham and cheese panini for e and a wrap now lost in the shrouds of memory for Joanna. A treat would have been an expresso milkshake we initially ordered but didn’t get as they were out of ice cream. The food was reasonably priced though and if not gourmet chow, a decent repast for the time and place.
Back in camp, after much discussion, we decided to alter our plans; originally we were to spend three nights camping and one night at a Travelodge in Eureka but my back and non-existent opportunities to bike were going to limit our range of activities at the campground and so, after checking availability we reserved another night in Eureka and forfeited the fee for one night of camping.
This would turn out for the best as it afforded us a more time in Eureka, a town we’d really only passed through many times. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in camp and the next morning made ready for what would be a long day in the car as it would take over four hours of driving to cover just 125 miles.
Before leaving the park, we drove over to see the Dawn Redwoods Grove located not far from the Eel River and a group campsite of the same name. This species of redwood was once one of the most widespread in the Northern Hemisphere (during the Tertiary period, approximately 66 million to 2.6 million years ago). Once thought to be extinct, in 1944 a Chinese forester found an enormous Dawn Redwood in the Sichuan province of China and four years later, a small group from America traveled to south-central China and found a few thousand of the trees growing in lowland canyons.
Dawn redwoods’ colorful leaves are one trait that separates it from its family members. The only living species in its genus, it is a deciduous tree rather than an evergreen. It is also the smallest of the three redwoods: dawn redwoods are typically between 50 and 60 feet tall but can grow taller than 160 feet with a trunk about 7 feet in diameter. It is considered a fast-growing tree and is often planted as an ornamental.
Back in the car, we drove up the seven miles up to Garberville in order to start out drive out to Shelter Cove. Our last visit here was in 2016/17 when we spent two nights just north of town so that we could drive up the Redwood Highway for a fantastic day amongst the redwoods ( https://3jmann.com/2017/01/31/west-coast-holiday-2016-avenue-of-the-giants-part-one/ and https://3jmann.com/2017/02/05/west-coast-holiday-2016-avenue-of-the-giants-part-two). We’d enjoyed a fine meal at Cecil’s New Orleans Bistro then but were not able to return during this visit.
This time we stopped for coffee and a snack, first trying a bakery that had limited choices and instead opting for the Ray’s Food Place next door, a local market offering coffee from an urn and decent pastry from their in-house bakery. We picked up more ice as well and then sat in the car to enjoy our treat, eating in the vehicle now having become a norm, something we were loath to do pre-Covid. Snack completed, we commenced our adventure, a long but memorable day.
Grandfather Tree: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/55653
One Log House: https://www.oneloghouse.com/about