I don’t remember exactly when I first decided I wanted to go to the Redwoods, but like most kids who were lucky enough to grow up in a nerd family this place started out as a fantasy world for me — surely only able to be seen in a galaxy far far away.
I hope you know what I mean when I say that the moment I realized that the forests of Endor were a real place right here on Earth was basically the next best thing to getting my Hogwarts letter. Well, ok, getting my Hogwarts letter would obviously be way more amazing, but let’s not get off topic here.
I came close once to making it there, about 10 years ago, but in the end it was just too far off route. Another time, a friend of mine visited the Redwoods and brought me back a little seedling. I was going to grow a monster-huge tree! But it died. Like, goldfish-style died. I don’t even think it lasted a month. Heads up, guys — a pot inside a house in Colorado isn’t ideal growing conditions for a Redwood tree.
But then we moved to Oregon this year. I had checked on Google maps the same night we decided to move, and it would be just a 5 hour drive. What?? 5 hours of driving from where we lived in Colorado would get you to pretty much flat nothing if you went anywhere other than west, and even then you’d just wind up in Grand Junction. Anyway… I was psyched.
We decided to head there in late August — right around when schools would be starting, but after this last summer’s total eclipse. And I definitely think that helped us to avoid crowds. Plus, it was a beautiful drive getting down there. The Coloradoan in me was so excited to get back in some mountain driving with roller coaster hills and curves.
As we got to closer to the park, though, I started to understand why it felt somewhat overwhelming trying to plan this trip. The borders of the various state parks, and the national park, that make up this hodgepodge collection of land, feel a lot like the borders between the smushed up suburbs I grew up in. You just don’t really know which park/town you’re in sometimes.
We actually thought we’d gotten to the edge of what I’ll just call ‘The Redwoods’ at one point and pulled over excitedly so we could switch drivers. I’d never been there before, and Andy wanted to drive so that I could look around. But we ended up having something like another 40 minutes before we’re pretty sure we crossed into an actual park.
In retrospect, this seems kind of cool (so much less formal than the entry stop we’re used to in national parks) but at the time I just wanted to get there already.
For our first day, we had to take care of some fundamentals. First, we needed a backpacking permit so we could camp in the backcountry. Backcountry camping is free in the Redwoods, so as long as you don’t mind doing your business in the woods it’s basically a no-brainer. But permits are first-come, first-served and sometimes they go like hot cakes.
Our end-of-August timing was gold, though, because by summertime standards the place felt almost empty. We got our permit easily (just required an out-of-the way drive), and then we were off to our weekend kick-off: A jet boat tour.
This was Andy’s birthday request (we were both born in August, so this trip was also kind of a happy-birthday-to-us celebration), and while it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do this on a Redwoods trip I’d now completely recommend it.
On the boat, we were lucky enough to end up in the front seat. We did the zip-around spins that jet boats are known for, and that was super fun, but the highlights were the landscapes…
… and say whhhaaaaat! The wildlife! I guess it might seem obvious that a lot of animals would spend time near a river, but I never expected so many great views of them.
But the highlight for us was the black bear cub just chillin along the hillside as our literal boatload of tourists frantically snapped photos.
So, you know, not a bad way to kick off our Redwoods trip. Be back soon with some uh… actual Redwood trees 😀