Since we’d spent the first day of our Redwoods trip getting down there and jetboating around, we needed a hotel for our first night. There aren’t tons of options in the area, but when we found a gloriously tacky looking option called Hotel Trees we knew that had to be the one.
The motel was a single-story, simple but clean. To our disappointment, though, our room was not outlandishly themed in the way we’d expected from their website. Still, we got a nice taste when we wandered into the cafe. Check out that ceiling!
We did go to Trees of Mystery, which was connected to this hotel, the next morning but… well next time we’ll stick with just the hotel or, you know, pass altogether.
For me, the coolest thing we saw there was a redwood that had burned from the inside. From the box next to the tree that started talking when we approached, we learned the tree basically went up in an inferno after being struck by lightning in 1996.
Looking into the remains of this giant, it’s hard not to consider timelines. Redwood trees can live over 1,000 years, sometimes even over 2,000. That means that the big ones like this would have first taken root in Europe’s Middle Ages. It also means that one of these little seedlings sprouting up inside it may yet survive to live over a millenia past any of us.
But it’s hard to get too caught up in the haunting details when a tinny little voice is jabbering at you from a box on the forest floor. How about I just share the photo highlight reel from that morning so you can feel you’ve been there and, you know, carry on.
After a lackluster morning, we were that much more excited to visit Fern Canyon next in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Access to Fern Canyon is not for the faint of heart — most of the drive was unpaved, uneven, and winding. Most notably, though, there were many places where the road narrowed to a single lane for both directions. Throw in some eroding cliff edges, blind curves, and a complete lack of confidence as to how long this road may actually be, and I think you’ll just about have it.
So, the going was slow. But also, worth it.
After winding our way down towards the coast and then following the road to a parking area, we didn’t have to walk far before the sides of the fern-draped canyon rose up around us. Andy tells me that Fern Canyon was in the stegosaurus scene in one of the Jurassic Park movies, if you’re thinking any of this looks sort of familiar.
A creek ran up the middle of the canyon, so I’d definitely recommend some good sandals (I wore my Chacos, and they were great for this). While some places had fairly flat trail or boards laid down to stay dry, continuing further in required scrambling over boulders, ducking under branches and/or wading right into the water. We were glad to be there in August, since we hadn’t expected to be wading through water.
We didn’t find out just how far you could go in the canyon, because we had to get going to be sure we could hike out to our campsite and get settled before dark. So we tromped on back to the car, did our best to clean of our wet and sandy feet, and rejoined our friend, Oh Cripes Ave.
Of course, along the main roads we also had to stop off at a couple spots to wander into these forests of giants. There were tons of these — mini parking areas (more like pulloffs) with small trail signs and nice paths headed into some kind of oversized fairyland.
We didn’t get to go too far, though, because we had (if you can believe it) even bigger trees in our sights for the evening.
Up next, our visit to the Tall Trees Grove and backcountry camping in the Redwoods!