Summer 2019 Rambles – Northern California

We stayed home this year and decided to make a couple local trips, here in the good ol’ U.S of A. We had a great time! After our cross-country drive, we took two short trips to places about as different as could be, and loved both of them. Both were breathtakingly beautiful in completely different ways.

Our first trip was in late-August. We spent a couple days in the Redwoods of northern California and at Ft. Bragg, farther south but still in northern California. The second ramble was to northeastern Oregon, where we visited the 37,000 acre Zumwalt Prairie, one of a few remaining areas of Northwest Prairie Grass. First, the Redwoods.

Northern California Redwoods

Me and the Redwoods go way back. When I was growing up just south of San Francisco, my family camped in the Redwoods many times. I remember enjoying the camping, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it because I was in the Redwoods; more that I was camping, getting dirty, falling in creeks and rivers and having some fun. Then Laurie and I spent a few days in the Redwoods on our honeymoon, some mumble-mumble-mumble years ago. When Derek and Craig were young and we were still camping, we came here for a few days. It was then that I began to really appreciate how beautiful these groves were.

In 2014, we met our friends Mary and Gilles in Napa and drove up to the Redwoods. On that trip these trees just bowled me over. I said then that walking into groves of Redwoods is like stepping inside a Gothic cathedral in France: columns stretching upward almost out of sight, near-silence, even when there are people in the grove, beautiful sights no matter where you look. When we left the redwoods that trip, we vowed to return soon. Only took us five years…

We stayed in Crescent City, which is the northernmost city on the California coast, just 15-20 miles from the Oregon border. Crescent City is not going to be our favorite town in the world, but we found a nice seafood restaurant – more like a seafood hut -, an excellent brewpub and a fine walk along the ocean, so we were fine.

The tallest of the Redwoods is named Hyperion, a couple inches short of 380 feet tall. Many of the Redwoods reach more than 300 ft into the sky. Can’t see Hyperion, though, nor half a dozen trees over 350 feet discovered in the last 25 years; to keep tourists from mobbing them and trampling the forest, their locations are secret.

But you can see many of these giants, gathered together in groves that will take your breath away (and put a crick in your neck from looking up). Many trees we did see are around 300 ft tall.

Stout Grove. This grove is unusual in that because it is near a river that floods every few years and carries away all the brush on the forest floor, trees here are visible from the very bottom way up until they disappear in the forest ceiling. Other groves have lots of underbrush that hides the tree bottoms.

This is a big tree, but far from the biggest we saw. It has a diameter of maybe 15 ft; we saw trees with diameters approaching 25 ft.

I can write about these trees, and I can talk about them, but really, you have to go see them if you want to know how beautiful they are. We’re looking forward to returning and spending more time among them.

Ft. Bragg

After the Redwoods we drove down the coast to Ft. Bragg. Ft. Bragg is an interesting old place, and we had found what looked like a good place to stay. In fact, it was a great place to stay. Almost every room has a view of the ocean, with nothing but sand and grass between the hotel and the surf. We ponied up a little extra for a room on the top (of two) floors for a little better view. It had a balcony and a big door opening out onto it; we never closed that door while were there, so we could listen to the surf all night long. Nice place, for sure.

View from our room’s balcony. Pretty nice, eh?

We arrived in Ft. Bragg on a beautiful day in late August. When we commented on the day to the fellow who checked us in, he agreed and added, “Hottest day of the year today: 73°.” Whoo, a scorcher!

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