Monday, June 4, 2012

Redwood National and State Parks

Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited Northern California's Redwood National and State Parks, home of the tallest trees in the world!

Route to the redwoods.
We have arrived!
This network of parks contains a number of impressive old-growth Coastal Redwood groves, many documented to be up to 2,000 years old. These can be enjoyed while driving through the park but the best experience requires hiking amongst the trees.

Coastal Redwoods, the tallest trees in the world!
Laure hugging a big friend in Stout Grove.
At night, we camped at one of the parks' many campgrounds and did two of our favorite things: built a campfire and cooked on it!

Laure summoning fire.
Porterhouse cooked to perfection!
Although the old growth trees get all the fame, a must-do hike is the Fern Canyon - where its walls are beautifully covered by various species of ferns. Water streams down the canyon walls to join a creek that runs down the canyon to the nearby beach.

Fern canyon.
A breath taking easy hike.
Different fern species compete for water. 
On another trail to view a waterfall, we crossed through a prairie where we spotted many Roosevelt elk grazing.

These elk look friendly.
We were amazed to see elk at such a short distance, yet we were slightly annoyed that they were on our trail (didn't they see the trail sign!?). The right thing for us to have done would have been to turn around and head back without disturbing the elk during what we later discovered was their mating season. Instead we did the wrong thing, which was to make noises and wait until they moved out of our way.

Get off the trail, stupid elk!
This worked for a while until we encountered a particular elk that did not want to cooperate. At first, he moved up a nearby hill as if he acknowledged us. As we started walking down the trail, he began urinating, which seemed a bit odd. After another moment, the elk charged us! We screamed like hell while bringing up our hiking poles and got out of there pretty damn fast.

OMG, run!
On the way back we avoided all elk by leaving the trail and cutting through thick bushes with another couple of hikers that were also charged by elk.

Up the bushes we go.
No stupid elks here!
After the scary encounter, we became more conservative about approaching wild animals. We used the car a lot more.

Try to charge us now, angry elk!
Mandatory car-in-tree photo.
The park highlighted several scenic drives. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the California coast. This will never get old.

California coast.
Where we can safely view grey whales.
On our way home we took the old 101 highway and drove down the Avenue of the Giants. It's a 31 mile long scenic drive through a well preserved Redwood forest. The road offers a few spots where you can get up close and personal with nature.

Even fallen trees dwarfed us.