Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Redwood National Park

Lazy Day, Lazy Day, Lazy Day for you and me.
Carl relaxing on a piece of old logging equipment
Davison Road, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Redwood National and State Parks
Taken 5/14/07

Blue Sky, sunshine, what a day to take a walk in the park.
Ice cream, daydream till the sky becomes a blanket of stars.
What a day for pick-in' daisies and lots of red balloons.
And what a day for hold in' hands and being with you.

Music by George Fischoff-Lyrics by Tony Powers, copyright 1967
Recorded by Spanky and Our Gang

Redwood National Park, in the northwestern corner of California, has a lot more than just redwood trees. Awe-inspiring, scenic, and extremely photogenic, it’s no wonder that George Lucas chose to film the Planet of the Ewoks in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, one of the components of Redwood National and State Parks. Steven Spielberg also choose the area for forest scenes in E.T.

Redwood National Park was first established in October, 1968 and is the only jointly administered National and State Park System in the United States. Three California State Parks, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods make up the “state” component of the Redwood National and State Parks. The park has certainly been the setting for a great deal of my photographic work, and Montana friends will remember how I used to say that my mother lived on the planet of the Ewoks.

Monday morning, May 14th, I picked up my friend Carl and we set out for a day of photography and geocache hunting, with most of the day spent in Redwood National Park. Within minutes of leaving Carl’s home, we were driving between the tall trees of Jedediah Smith, and once south of Crescent City, we cut across the western edge of Del Norte Coast Redwoods. After a quick geocache find on the banks of the Klamath River, we continued on through Prairie Creek Redwoods, stopping to photograph one of the herds of Roosevelt Elk that roam freely through the park. It’s always such fun to be walking on the beach at Gold Bluffs and come face to face with an elk.

After adding another geocache to our found list, we hiked up the Trillium Falls Trail, through towering trees and vibrant green foliage, to find it almost impossible to photograph the waterfall. The canopy is so heavy that little light gets through, even when you set your camera at a high ISO. (The things you can do with digital cameras. With a film camera, the ISO is a component of the film you are using. With a digital camera these days, you can set the ISO at 100 for this shot, then immediately change to ISO 400 for the next. My Nikon D80 allows me to choose a variety of ISO settings from 100 to 1600. There are even ways to get the rating up to 3200. But even at 1600, I wasn’t able to get a clear shot of the falls. Looking downstream, however, I was able to grab this shot.

Just downstream from Trillium Falls, about ½ mile from the trailhead
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks
Taken May 14th, 2007

Another shot from the Trillium Falls trail appears in my Eyefetch portfolio at http://www.eyefetch.com/image.aspx?ID=339499.

Just down the road a piece is the town of Orick, California. Orick used to be a logging and fishing community, but neither industry survives today. Instead, as you drive through town on US 101 you are tempted by shop after shop selling bears carved out of redwood logs. Should you pass through town, as we did, at lunch time, you have your choice of several eateries. I’ve lunched happily at The Palm Café which is a typical small-town American restaurant—the kind where you don’t even need a menu because if you grew up in the United States, you know exactly what’s going to be there—burgers, cheese burgers, patty melts, tuna melts, etc. It’s also one of those places where everybody in the place knows everybody else, except for you, of course. That’s why they all watch you, listen to what you order, and make sure you eat it all up. The pies at the Palm are worth stopping for. I understand that they’re being baked by the same woman who has baked them for the past thirty, fifty, hell, maybe the last hundred years. However long she’s been baking, she knows her stuff. It's worth stopping for pie even if it’s not lunchtime.

Across the street from the Palm is La Hacienda. Now you might wonder about stopping in at a Mexican place in a town that quite frankly looks like it has seen better days—and those better days were a long time ago. If you pass up La Hacienda, however, you’d be missing a treat. Owner and chef Erik Torres comes from near Guadalajara and is an accomplished cook. He takes great pride in his establishment, and if he’s not in the kitchen cooking, he’s out cleaning tables, or chatting with the customers. As Carl and I walked in, we choose a booth at the back and found ourselves walking toward two men who were obviously “family.” Well, my gaydar was saying so, and quite emphatically. I’m sure I have met one of the two men, but I have no idea where. One of the men had a dish in front of him that I hadn’t seen in my previous visits to the restaurant, so of course I had to ask him what he was eating. He smiled and told me that he had ordered a “molcajete” and indeed, the dish he was eating from was the typical Mexican mortar. Gourmetsleuth.com will sell you one if you want, or you can just see what the instrument looks like by going to their website: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/pDetail.asp?p=90

When our waitress approached, I tried the old “I’ll have what he’s having,” but alas, she didn’t pick up his dish and plop it down in front of me. Actually, as Carl had told me he wanted the same dish just before he left for the immaculate men’s room, I ordered two, which surprised the waitress. She thought we’d share, I guess. Explaining that we were headed up into the Bald Hills Section of Redwood National Park, and would be doing some hiking, she understood that we’d need stamina, and nothing like good food to help there. By the way, should you stop in at La Hacienda, don’t expect to find “molcajete” on the menu. It was a special, but Erik assures us that it will become a regular item. If you order it, just tell them that the crazy guy from Crescent City told you about it.

Oh, I suppose you want to know what food was in the molcajete. It was a nicely seasoned stew of grilled meat strips like you’d get with fajitas, shrimp and avocado slices. Carl and I added salsa cruda and fresh lime to the stew, getting these condiments from the self-serve build-your-own salsa bar. All the salsas are made fresh in the restaurant, and you can mix them to get just the right amount of heat for your own palate. The basic salsa cruda is wonderful as is, but I tend to add a bit of the spicier stuff to mine. I don’t know what came over me—the sight of two other gay men in the restaurant, or just abject hunger after hiking to the falls—but I neglected to capture the molcajete with my Nikon. Sorry ‘bout that.

Refreshed in mind and body, Carl and I grabbed another geocache right there in beautiful downtown Orick, then headed up toward the Bald Hills. This section of Redwood National Park is a more recent addition to the park, and is made up of federal land and lands the National Park Service has purchased that were not originally part of a California State Park. Lady Bird Johnson Grove is probably the most popular area in this section, being closest to US 101 at about five miles off the highway. Inn-California has some great pics of the grove on their website. Just click on the link above.

Beyond Lady Bird Johnson Grove, you come to the trailhead for the Tall Trees Trail. Again, click on the link to get to some wonderful pictures of these magnificent trees. Unfortunately, none of these pictures are mine. I do apologize. Carl and I, much as we love the redwoods, were not in search of tall trees. No, I had been told that there were truly awesome displays of lupine in full bloom up on the Bald Hills. Mind you, I’d been eye to eye with lupine growing down by the Smith River, but I’d never been in the Bald Hills, so it seemed like a perfect excuse for an outing. I’d also been promised that the road was paved all the way from Orick to Hoopa, but as we passed the sign indicating that we still had twenty-six miles to go before we reached Weitchpec, the pavement ended. At that point we were twelve miles from Orick, but no turning back. We were on a quest to find the awesome lupine display.

The tall trees kept us shaded, and also kept us from spotting any lupine, and we were about to question whether the lupine were as much a lie as the pavement when we broke free of the trees. No lupine, but wonderful meadows and great vistas looking over the Coastal Mountains. Parking the Saab as far from the center of the road as possible, Carl and I got out and started shooting. The great thing about camera shots is that they don’t make nearly the noise that a rifle, or even a pistol shot makes. The recoil is significantly less as well. I speak from personal experience. Looking ahead we caught sight of our road playing hide and seek as it ran up the hillside buffeted by fields of purple. Another shot of this same scene, taken further along the road, is on Eyefetch under the title “Where’s Roger Moore?” If you misspent your youth the way I did mine, you may recall the Monty Python routine comparing Roger Moore to Robin Hood, only Mr. Moore (Sir Roger these days, I guess), was stealing lupine from the rich.

Soon every lupine in the land will be in his mighty hand!
Taken in the Bald Hills Section, Redwood National Park

On and on we drove, finding patch after wonderful patch of lupine. Stopping near the Historic Lyons Ranch section of the park, we looked back and saw, for the first time, just how extensive the lupine growth was. The perfume from the blossoms was intoxicating, and we drove with the top down, inhaling deeply and trying to stay relatively sober.

Paying little attention to the time, we continued on, past the park’s eastern boundary, and back into forest land. Not redwoods, though. They require certain conditions that are only found close to the northern California coast. We were now driving through vegetation that reminded us of the central California Sierra foothills. The road kept climbing, with no end in sight, and we eventually decided that as much fun as Weitchpec promised, we had best turn back.

Returning through the lupine-scented Bald Hills, we descended some twenty miles or more until we reached US 101 again, turning north at that point toward home. Logging in two more geocaches in Klamath, including one for Captain Courageous*, we ended up back at Steve and Carl’s home where Carl made Pisco Sours while I fell asleep on the couch and Steve continued spreading mulch around the new azaleas and rhododendrons the guys had purchased at Flora Pacifica. (I had meant to write about our day at Brookings' Azalea Park and Flora Pacifica. I did put up a shot of a Montana Planter on Eyefetch. They guys went back with a truck this time.) It was a great day on the road. We added five out of five geocaches to our list of caches found, and we had yet another wonderful day in Redwood National (and State) Parks.

Yes, all that purple stuff is lupine, and not a redwood in sight.
Taken in the Historic Lyons Ranch Section, Redwood National Park

There are two other photos from this trip on Eyefetch, here and here.

*Captain Courageous was a steer caught in the 1964 Klamath River flood. He floated all the way out to sea, and then continued floating up the coast, ending up in Crescent City's harbor. Apparently not-at-all phased by his sea-going adventure, he lived for another nineteen years, finally expiring in 1983. There is a plaque explaining all this along side the old highway in the town of Klamath.

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