North we go and once again find the coast. At first site of the ocean (around Eureka, CA), the kids were so excited (and it was so beautiful) that we pulled the whole rig over for an ocean play break. Chilly but awesome!
Klamath, CA – right smack dab in the middle of Redwood State and National Parks. State and National? We’d never heard of this kind of park collaboration before so I was concerned our National Parks Pass wouldn’t get us in to the park or that there would be extra day use fees. Turns out that we were not charged a fee (and I didn’t even need to present the pass) though there were fees posted. The Junior Ranger Program was quite similar to the others the kids have done at other national parks except the lack of a present ranger at the visitors’ center prompted the gift shop attendant to leave me in charge of swearing in my rangers when their work was complete. OK. I guess this would have been a bother for the kids had they not done so many previously but they liked completing their activities at home and having the badge to add to their collection right away. I did a little research after the fact to look into this ‘state and national parks’ thing.
The Redwoods comprises such a big area of the coast that the Highway 101 runs right through it. The scenic highway (parallel) takes the traveler west just a bit to drive among the towering redwood trees. It’s really a breathtaking drive all the way up to Crescent City. There are hiking trails at turnouts all along the scenic highway poriton so there really is no need to hit the visitor center unless additional information is required. The park host at the RV park where we stayed gave us a great regional map and a finger-walking map-tour of the highpoints of the area so we were ready! While Chris worked one day, the kids and I went off and found The Farm – Radar Station B-71 tucked in and overgrown overlooking the Pacific. It is two buildings that were built in 1942 to look like an operating farm post-Pearl Harbor and equipped to monitor for Japanese coastal threats. We felt like explorers and detectives and the like as we waded through tall grass to get down to the buildings and peered in the barred windows. It sparked an in-depth conversation and some Google research (on the phone in the car) about WWII, Pearl Harbor, and the bombing of Hiroshima. The historical perspective our kids have is so objective and impartial. It is not based on some agenda-laden history text or a particular teacher’s biases or…. fear. The discussions we have about human behavior and historical happenings are fascinating. When we brought Chris back to check it out, it had been mowed. So it did not seem as laden with ghosts and mystery but it was still cool.
We took a couple of hikes during our week in the Redwoods. The kids immediately commented on how they felt like gnomes in a giant world. (We have a GREAT and heavily read book on gnomes so we’re up on our gnome knowledge.) I couldn’t stop an internal giggle after that. I did, too! Then I read that the woodsy portions of The Lost World: Jurassic Park were filmed there and we imagine dinosaurs ambling, scurrying, and rumbling through the humongous ferns and collossal plants. Then Chris remembered that the Endor scenes of Return of the Jedi were filmed among the redwoods and we were giddy with talk of ewoks. Yes, these trees (and, for that matter, all of the giant plants and thick greenery) evoke a feeling of being small, childlike, vulnerable, inquistive, wild, and adventurous.
We also spent a cloudy day at the beach before being warned by a passerby about sleeper waves. Eek! With all of the signs about being in a ‘tsunami hazard zone’, we didn’t know about these rogue waves. Apparently it’s a pretty regular hazard. Glad we had a lovely rogue-wave-free day before scurrying back to the car and home for dinner!
There are several Roosevelt elk viewing hotspots in the Redwoods as well. Once nearly extinct, preservation practices have helped increase their numbers to over 1,000. We got a great roadside view of a small herd grazing across from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.
The night we arrived at our RV park in Klamath was the first Celtics NBA playoff game. And we arrived to find that in my web surfing of the various local RV parks, I had inadvertently chosen one without cable hookup. Chris was freaking out quietly when we got there (I had prepaid over the phone) but the host hooked us up immediately with a satellite box he had on hand. Sweet. We noticed chickens roaming the park near the office and were given 2 dozen free-range chicken eggs during our week-long stay! I’m really glad we chose Kamp Klamath RV Park after driving around the area. It was convenient to the highway but not right on it like most of the other parks. They were a bit overgrown on the other side and sprucing up for the true beginning of their season (as fulltimers, we’re noticing we’re not always in parks in their on-season). The cafe had burned down last year. The playground was a small backyard type and grown up with grass. But there was plenty to do in the redwoods. The park host was on par with the sweetest, most helpful people we’ve met on the road. That makes all the difference. Sadie and I made him a flourless chocolate cake with some of the eggs.
Lots more photos of our time in northern California on Flickr!