We left Seattle bright and early on Sunday morning and hit the road to northern California. We made a quick stop in Portland to get some of our favorite croissants at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, and then continued on into brand new territory. It was our first time through southern Oregon and even though we experience a torrential downpour for an hour or so outside of Portland, once it cleared up we were greeted with gorgeous surroundings.
Crossing into California, we camped overnight in the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. When we arrived we were told our campsite was given away to another group which was disheartening, especially since we booked our site back in January. After driving to our new spot, we realized our sadness was entirely misplaced. All of the campsites were beautiful and surrounded by Redwoods! We took a walk down to the Smith River and threw rocks, one of our favorite pastimes.
Upon waking up the next morning, we had our breakfast and repacked our camping supplies. My original plan for the day was for us to drive straight through the Redwoods and arrive in San Francisco in time for some afternoon sight seeing. That was foolish! We ended up stopping almost every 15 minutes to look at something, whether it was a grove of trees or a vista point.
Three state parks were created between 1923 and 1929 to protect the Redwoods: Prairie Creek, Del Norte and Jedidiah Smith. Redwood National Park was created in 1968 to preserve the trees’ natural coast setting; the boundary encircled all three state parks and a relationship between California Department of Parks and the National Park Service is a cooperative one and you can see rangers in both uniforms around the park.
Coastal Redwoods grow from seeds the size of a tomato seed into giants that can weigh 500 tons and stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. They are impervious to fires and insects with their foot-thick bark. They can live up to 2,000 years and have a base of up to 22 feet in diameter! In the 1800’s these trees are estimated to have covered up to two million acres, but with logging soon saw areas of trees fall. Today, nearly 40,000 acres are protected by the National and State Parks.
Highway 101 will take you all the way through the Redwoods, with plenty of stops along the way. There are a couple of detours in Klamath that are well worth your time should you find yourself here! The Klamath River Overlook is a short drive up the side of a hill and it offers some of the prettiest views of where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. We happened to catch some whales frolicking in the water when we got there! We also stopped to drive the car through a tree. It’s been on Ryan’s bucket list forever, which you can see by the sheer joy on his face.
We drove through the Avenue of the Giants and happened upon a couple of groves of trees where we were the only people there.
Finally, we headed out towards HWY 1 to drive along the California coast.
Our next stops include Yosemite, Death Valley and Coconino (outside Sedona). I’ll be back once we reach Mesa and have access to an Internet connection!