Saturday, September 25, 2010

North Coast Trip

We finally got away for a little bit of vacation last week. The first real time away we’ve had since our short Yosemite trip last February. We had planned a road trip to Oregon last June which we wound up having to cancel, so I’ve been harboring a bad case of cabin fever ever since. We had planned to spend time at Castle Crags on the way up, and were going to return along the north coast, stopping at the redwood parks. I am still kicking myself for not going through with it anyway, but dedicated employee that I am, we cancelled. That time frame should have placed us at Crater Lake during the snow melt, in the redwood country during the rhododendron, trillium, and clintonia blooms, and we would have been headed home before the tourist season kicked in. But instead, we took this week for a post Labor Day north coast camping trip, and we may do another winter trip of some type.

During the late summer / early fall season, you cannot reserve a campsite at most of the California state parks. The campsites are first come, first served. At Prairie Creek the larger loop of sites is closed, but the remaining campsites are usually turning over quickly, and we did not expect to have trouble finding a suitable site. This season is much quieter, and that’s much nicer than during the summer when all the campsites are usually full. We would not have the opportunity to see the spring blooms, but it’s more likely that you can spot wildlife when there are fewer people and less noise. We would also enjoy the trails virtually all to ourselves. It’s very damp and chilly up there during this season, and there are always threats of rain, so being prepared for the worst is smart. Mornings and evenings are mostly foggy, which means the lighting is lousy for photography. You get radiation fog from the meadows, and marine overcast and fog from the ocean. The evening radation fog made for great evening moon-gazing though. We had a couple of nights with full moon, and I took some walks along Elk Prairie to enjoy the interplay of moonlight through the drifting fog and the high treetops to the east after our campfire had begun to die down.

We had monitored the weather reports in the days leading up to our departure. There was predicted light rain on the Sunday we left, and a 30 percent chance on Thursday. The Sunday rain did happen. We had light rain and drizzle part of the way up which actually turned out to be good. By the time we arrived, the campground had almost completely cleared out with people leaving early, so we were able to pick out almost any site we wanted. We chose a nice secluded site right on the banks of Prairie Creek, so we had serenading waters the whole time. It was a little wet, but we were able to deal with it. The Thursday rain did not happen. It threatened on Wednesday, but never rained, and the last couple of days we had were the best weather, even though the clearer evenings were colder. The conditions were nothing we couldn’t handle, so we savored it all.

On the drive up we stopped at Richardson Grove State Park for a road break and to eat some lunch. We did not hike any trails, but they offer a free one hour pass. We admired the redwoods around the visitor’s center just off the highway before hitting the road again. We picked up cheap firewood and filled up gas in Arcadia and headed to the north coast. I stopped along the highway along Big Lagoon after spotting some elk grazing the wetlands there. I took a few pictures of the elk, and also noticed lots of waterfowl on the coastal side of the highway. I spotted a great blue heron, some snowy egrets, and lots of mallards and other species I did not know. After enjoying the wildlife for a spell, we hit the road again and arrived at Prairie Creek with enough time to for a quick little walk. We hiked part of the Skunk Cabbage section of the Coastal Trail before returning to our selected site to set up camp and settle in for the night.

We had an absolutely great time and I will do write ups of our hiking as time permits. We had studied maps and trail ratings, and selected what we thought were the best hikes in Redwood State and National Park, Prairie Creek, Del Norte, and Jedediah Smith State Parks. The time flew by, and we are back home now, tired, but wishing we could be going back soon.

Click here to see photos from the first day

1 comment:

chrisbear said...

It's a magical place really. The moment I left on my trip up there earlier this year I missed it.

Golds Bluff Beach is THE place to camp in Prairie Creek by the way.