Friday, June 12, 2009

Giants and the Lost Coast

Driving the motorhome on the Redwood Highway.
Nanc & Jim size up this BIG log.
The roots of the fallen Dyerville Giant.
Looking up at the 345 foot Founders Tree.
The tallest tree is the Grandfather Tree which is "only" 245 feet tall.
Inside the One Log House.
The Shrine Drive Thru Tree.
Seals at Shelter Cove.
Dead starfish on Black Beach.
Black Beach with the mountains meeting the Pacific under low clouds.
Cape Mendocino Lighthouse

We spent three days at Richardson Grove Campground near Garberville, California where we traveled to the Avenue of the Giants and the Lost Coast. The avenue is the original Redwood Highway right through these massive trees where many are so close to the road they have damage where vehicles have hit them. While it is impossible to put the redwoods size into perspective, a 250 foot tree is looked down upon by many that soar to over 350 feet and up to the record of 380. Trees 200 feet higher then Niagara Falls are common. Another way to try to understand the size of these trees is when the first narrow gauge railroads where used to move the trees, each train could only carry one tree. The oldest of these worlds tallest trees are over 2000 years ago. They are so tall they pass through three climate zones so the needles at the top are different from the ones at the bottom. It is hard to imagine that the redwood seeds are smaller than a grain of rice but new trees can also sprout from the fallen trees and burls. The trees are so massive that there is more biomass here per acre than in the Amazon rain forest. We stopped at a few of the local attractions like the Grandfather Tree, the One Log House and of course a drive through tree. We enjoyed walking in the groves among both standing and fallen giants. The 360 foot Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991 gives you an up close look at the length of the trees. The roots of these giants are very shallow so when one tree falls others nearby often follow. This creates open space for young trees to receive sunlight and grow and opens the forest floor to other vegetation. We were in awe as we walked and drove among these giants and thankful that these few groves, that have been preserved by several state and national redwoods parks, which is less than 10% of the old growth trees, have been saved for future generations to behold and enjoy.

I really have a thing about looking at the map and finding roads that just end and than driving them to see what is there. The drive to Shelter Cove on the Lost Coast is such a drive. (Though there is a forty mile dirt road you can take to drive out.) When the Pacific Coast Highway was built the engineers decided at this portion of the coast it was not possible to construct a road. After travelling it we have to agree. The last twenty miles to the coast did not have a single stretch of straight road and the last three miles was a down hill that "dropped" over 2000 feet. Surprisingly, there is an RV park and we talked to the camp host who had driven his 36 foot motorhome over that road. He said they do occasionally get a 40 footer but there is no way we would ever take our home there. Shelter Cove is a development of vacation and retirement homes with a couple motels complete with a golf course and air strip (there was not a single plane on the ground) that seems like it never met its potential. The whole place was shrouded in fog and low clouds hugging the tops of the forested hills which we drove through as we made our decent. We did take a long stroll on the beautiful black sand beach that had warning signs about how dangerous it was to swim. Winter storms here wash out so much sand that huge rocks on the beach that are now twenty feet high grow to 40 feet above the beach. There were seals feeding in the surf and lounging on the off shore rocks. One spot on the beach was littered with mussel shells and many dead starfish. The high hills came right down to the beach and the part of the Pacific Coast Hiking Trail which goes along the beach here has signs warning that many areas are not passable at high tide. In the sheltered cove there was a boat launch ramp but there were only a couple of boats out in the ocean. The Cape Mendocino lighthouse was moved in 1999 to Shelter Cove from its original location at California's Western most point. This lighthouse is only 43 feet tall but was sitting on the hillside 422 feet above the ocean making it one of the highest in the US. It was in disrepair and in danger of falling into the water when it was moved to its new home. This drive to the edge of the continent is well worth the effort and we felt we got a glimpse of an area that not many have experienced.


Carol B said...

Jim, your legacy lives on at WPS as I use your beautiful pictures in class. I sometimes share your descriptions, too.
We are so glad you and Nanc are enjoying your new lifestyle.

MarkandRenita said...

Wow, great pics! The one log house kind of looks like the inside of an airstream!
There are times I wish we had a smaller trailer for some of those roads you are talking about. Clear skies.