Sunday, October 19, 2008

Road Trip Day 3, October 4: I Remember Redwood Trees

Our day got off to a good start with breakfast in Bandon at the Minute Cafe. I got the giant cinnamon roll I'd been craving and proceeded to slather it with butter (hey, I was on vacation - time to go all out, right?), while Michael enjoyed a plate of corned beef hash, hashbrowns, and a buttermilk biscuit. I took the fall and ate the eggs that came with his meal - incomprehensibly, that boy just doesn't like eggs.

Our ultimate goal for the day was to reach Redwood city, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, where we would spend the next two nights with Michael's godparents. In the meantime, we had a lot of driving to do and some real redwoods to explore. The coast was still shrouded in fog, but I was thrilled to see my first glimpses of the southern Oregon shore and northern California. Having grown up firmly ensconced in the northwest corner of our state, I'd actually never made it to this part of the country before. The 101 offered sweeping views of rugged sea stacks fighting a slowly losing battle with the elements around Cape Sebastian and the gorge-like drive around thickly forested Humbug Mountain offered just a glimpse of this incredible region.

Before long we were at the state border.

"Crap!" I exclaimed. "We have Oregon fruit in car, and I hear they ask if you have fruit when coming into California."

Sure enough, they really do ask if you have fruit. We lied. Actually, what Michael said, upon being asked, "Do you have any fruit?" by the border guard was, "Uh, not really, no." The guard looked momentarily confused but let us pass.

So there we were in California, winding through forests of massive redwoods, snacking on peanut butter pretzels and illegal Oregonian plums. We made a detour in Crescent City to pick up some hickory smoked dry jack cheese at the Rumiano Cheese Company store. We then stopped to say hello to my old childhood hero, Paul Bunyan. As a four-year-old, I was enamored of Paul and his blue ox, Babe. I was also under the mistaken impression that the logger's name was really Tall Bunyan, and when I discovered it was Paul my heart broke a little. Tall was the perfect name for this giant! What kind of a wimpy name was Paul, anyway?

I'm not sure what my four-year-old self would have thought of the enormous talking Paul Bunyan that guards the entrance to the Trees of Mystery. Thrilled, probably. I think this Paul was a bit disappointed that we didn't actually stay and pay the $14 per person entry fee to visit these mysterious trees. Maybe another time, Paul.

Determined to squeeze a short hike in, I scoured the little Best Short Hikes in Redwood National and State Parks book I had borrowed from the library. We chose to visit Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek region of Redwoods State Park.

Perhaps the small lake that covered the road after we turned off the 101 should have been a warning. Turn back, before it's too late! But, inspired by the SUVs and pick-ups ahead of our little Pontiac Vibe, we took the plunge - quite literally - and waded through this small pond of a mud puddle. Oh, what the heck, we're in the land of tall tales, after all! This was a body of water so wide, we had to roll down the windows, grab hold of a passing branch and row ourselves across. And would you believe it, a fish jumped right into Michael's lap! But since he's only a fan of the kind that come battered and fried with tartar sauce on the side, he threw it right back.

After a few miles of winding through pristine redwoods, we reached a pay station for the Fern Canyon area. And although my little guidebook had been published in 2005 and claimed that the day use fee was a measly $2, it had evidently increased to a whopping six bucks! Whopping to us, that is, because we only had $3 in our posession. A thorough search of all pockets, wallets, backpacks, and car crevasses turned up an additional $2.91 in change, as well as a Canadian penny and 4 Croatian kunas. I thought about throwing these last two coins in to make up for our missing nine cents, but thought better of it when I saw that the little envelope stated "no foreign currency". Having already broken California law once that day we were trying to stay on the straight and narrow. "Sorry! This is all we had," I wrote in tiny letters at the bottom of the tiny envelope.

Our trials had only just begun, however. It was at this time that the grey skies decided to let loose and rain. We attempted to drive to the trailhead, but were blocked by another enormous puddle. This time we took the hint from other cars parked on our side of the pond, parked our car, and swam across on our own. After what felt like miles, we made it to the actual trailhead. The rain was pounding down like bowling balls, and this is the reason I took no photos on this hike. By the time we got back we were soaked to the bone through three layers of clothing and mushrooms were already sprouting from our shoulders.

Fern Canyon is gorgeous, though. If you can go on a day when the rain isn't strong enough to send knock over a herd of elk and if you can scrounge up six bucks ahead of time (although by the time you go it may well cost ten), I highly recommend it. The site of a former mining operation, the steep walls that were once scars of the mining industry are now covered with a thick, emerald green carpet of maiden hair ferns. Nearby is a windswept beach and meadows where you can frequently spot elk (we saw a couple of impressive bucks and a doe with her calf).

The rain stopped about the time we got back to the car and forded the lake in our path once more. Soon we were on the road again, winding our way back to 101 and crossing the majestic mud puddle to reach the highway. And although I can't be sure, I think I caught a glimpse of Babe the Blue Ox peering over the tops of the redwoods to see if the rain had really stopped.

If You Go:
For a hearty breakfast in Bandon with great service, go to the Minute Cafe:
145 2nd St.
Bandon, OR 97411

When in Crescent City and in need of some tasty cheese, try the Rumiano Cheese Comapny (unfortunately they don't sell their own cheese pre-sliced for picnicking, and the only bread they had were frozen loaves of La Brea to be baked at home):
511 9th Street
Crescent City, CA 95531

You, too, can visit Paul Bunyan (and even have a conversstion with the big guy) and other sights both tacky and awe-inspiring at the Trees of Mystery:

Find more information about Prairie Creek Redwood State Park online at:

No comments: