When Jane and I planned our road trip to Oregon and California, we scheduled a full day to explore Redwoods National and State Parks. Tuesday, July 4 was that day.
We woke up in our redwood grove campsite, and after we made our respective cups of coffee and tea, we wandered to the rocky beach along the Smith River. The Smith River flows through Jedediah Smith State Park, and it is a beautiful river consisting of crystal clear pools bordered by redwoods and other large evergreen trees. We hiked along the river on three occasions during our stay at Jedediah Smith State Park, and I never saw a single fish rise, nor did I observe an insect except for a handful of midges. I was perplexed over this apparent lack of fish life, so I searched online for fishing information on the Smith River. I discovered that the river has a healthy population of salmon and steelhead during the October to March time frame, but the lower reaches are devoid of resident fish during the rest of the year. One source did suggest that coastal cutthroats exist close to the Pacific Ocean, and resident rainbows inhabit the forks of the Smith farther upstream.
After a light breakfast we gathered our day packs and essential sightseeing gear, and we drove west to Crescent City and then south along US 101 toward Requa. A woman at the Jedediah Smith Visitor Center marked and circled places that we should not miss, and an overlook on the north side of the mouth of the Klamath River was one of them. Unfortunately when we arrived at 9AM, a heavy fog covered the entire area. I took a photo of the fog, and we returned to highway 101 and steered south to the other side of the Klamath.
After we crossed the bridge over the Klamath that was adorned with two golden bears on each end, we exited the highway and completed a loop that took us along a Pacific beach. When we encountered the beach, we progressed a few miles to the radar farmhouse, and we stopped and completed a short hike to a point, where we could see the historical structure. The farmhouse was constructed during World Wa II to house radar equipment to track the movements of Japanese submarines and war ships.
Our next stop was a high overlook on the southern point of the mouth of the Klamath River. A long narrow sand bar extended southwest toward the Pacific, and a dense cluster of sea lions basked near the edge of the water. In a deviation from past practice I was prepared for wildlife viewing, so Jane and I took turns viewing the sea lions through our binoculars. A few brave mammals frolicked in the cold neighboring water, but most the of the sensible animals simply slept on the beach.
We returned to the car and proceeded a short distance to a spot, where we parked and then hiked along a short two lane road that took us to a sacred Yurok area. It appeared to be a place where ceremonies were conducted and salmon were processed. At this location we were along the Klamath River, and we had a lower view of the sea lion colony, that we spotted from high above.
After we finished the Klamath River mouth loop, we returned to US 101 for a very short distance, and then we exited and jumped on the Newton B Drury Parkway. This wide paved secondary road led us south through more redwood groves, and numerous hiking spurs veered off to the east along the way. We were on our Redwoods Parks in one day mode, so we did not pause for additional hikes on this segment of our tour. At the end of the Newton B. Drury Parkway we reached the Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center, and we found an open one hour parking space. We took advantage of this good fortune and devoured our lunches at a nice picnic table just beyond the visitor center.
This area of the Redwoods group of parks was very crowded, so as soon as we finished our lunches, we returned to highway 101, and we once again continued in a southern direction. After a few miles we reached Davison Road, and here we turned right and continued to the Gold Bluffs Beach. The national parks guide book that Jane purchased pointed us to this attraction, and it was well worth the drive. Along the route we stopped at a manned entrance gate to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, and fortunately the tag on our windshield from Jedediah Smith State Park entitled us to continue along Davison Road, where it paralleled the beach. The quality of the road deteriorated rapidly, so Jane and I parked and strolled through some low brush until we stood on Gold Bluffs Beach. Unlike Atlantic beaches there were no buildings or commercial establishments, and it was nice to see the surf and sand in a natural state. Several pretty wildflowers bloomed, and we paused for ten minutes to watch the waves crash and roll on to the packed sand in front of us.
Our last detour from the main coastal highway was a turn on to Bald Hills Road. We maneuvered through several switchbacks, until we found the parking lot for the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. A narrow pedestrian bridge arched over Bald Hills Road and took us from the parking lot to the trailhead for the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. We grabbed a tour guide book from a small kiosk, and we completed the loop trail while stopping at each numbered signpost to read the description from the guide book. The area was similar to the redwood groves that we visited on Monday, but the informative guide book enabled us to learn more about the nuances of the redwood ecosystem.
Our southern most stop was a parking lot off of the Bald Hills Road called Redwood Creek Overlook. From this vantage point we could view a large stream valley covered by evergreens in every direction. A small hill to the west prevented us from seeing the Pacific Ocean.
On our return trip north on highway 101 we spotted a couple Roosevelt elk in a meadow on the right side of the road. We found a safe pullout and walked north along the shoulder a short distance to obtain a clear view above a dense cluster of trees and bushes. We were favorably surprised to discover a herd of twelve Roosevelt elk grazing among the grassy meadow. To this untrained observer the Roosevelt elk looked very similar to the Colorado elk with the major difference being darker hair around the head that continued through the front part of the body.
On the highway between the Klamath River and Crescent City we stopped at a paved parking lot and once again marveled at the crashing surf. This area contained quite a few large rocks, and these obstacles created large breakers fifty yards offshore. The power of the turbulent surging waves and water was impressive.
Bratwursts grilled on the camp stove highlighted Tuesday evening, and after dinner Jane and I completed a long walk to the western end of the campground designated for bikers and hikers. We found a very nice bathhouse, a picnic area and a boat launch for the Smith River. The six hiker/biker campsites each contained a stone fireplace. We were impressed with the accommodations for those touring without the benefit of an automobile.