Florida Man on the Run

Among the Redwoods – Part One

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When I planned this trip along the Pacific Coast, I made sure to add an extra stop in Northern California. One can’t make the whole drive north without seeing the redwoods. I couldn’t make it north without needing to spend a good deal of time among the giants. My final three days in California were truly transformative for me. You can honestly learn your place in the world by walking through the timeless groves of redwoods. Their massive size and age can bring a metric ton of perspective to your life. It certainly brought a good deal of perspective to my own and to what I have set out to do with this blog in the future. Without a doubt the two days I spent with the redwoods were my favorite part of this trip.

North from San Francisco

The longest drive of our trip came the day we left San Francisco. Google said it was just shy of six hours on the road, but the nearly two hours we spent exploring on our way out of town stretched that a good deal. The drive out of town presents you with two options. The fastest option is north along US 101, through Petaluma

Sonoma Coast, California
Looking back at the Sonoma Coast

and past the Sonoma Valley. However, this was a Pacific Coast Highway journey; I elected to continue on California 1 up the coast.

I managed a quick detour south into Muir Beach, but our late start preempted a stop at the Muir Woods Visitor Center. GPS directions are mighty finicky in finding the overlook, but once you get close just keep going and you’re sure to stumble on it. Pressed for time, we pushed onward towards Stinson Beach. Having already well overshot my projected time, we stopped for lunch at the beach to give up a little more. There is a nice picnic area that allows one to walk right out to the beach there and served our purposes perfectly.

I found that the hardest part of this drive was all of the unexpected stops along the way. I had largely overlooked what lay between SF and our overnight at Fort Bragg. Though this area wasn’t the best part of the trip, it certainly deserved more time than I gave it. Constantly I found myself needing to pull over to admire the waves crashing upon the rocks below, especially through Sonoma Coast State Park. With some effort, I forced concentration on driving at the end and towards our stay for the night.

Along the Avenue of the Giants

The following two days of the trip were the best. Intentionally, I had planed shorter drives on these days to maximize our time among the redwoods. I could easily have spent the entire two weeks here among these magnificent beasts. The better part of me wishes I was still sitting under their cool shade now.

Bolling Grove, California
Looking into the heights of Bolling Grove

This day covered the final miles along the Pacific Coast Highway proper. California 1 comes to an end just over 40 miles north of Fort Bragg. It leaves the coast sooner than that and quickly signaled that a new part of the journey was about to begin. Our destination for the day was the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue is what remains of the old US 101. The road winds through and near some of the best groves of redwoods in the world, just asking you to stop and enjoy their beauty.

The Avenue of the Giants provides any number of places to stop for a stroll or a picnic. Many of the groves and trails are right off of the road, though they are not all signed well. Having never seen giant redwoods, our first stop at Lane Grove was a fantastic introduction. The largest trees aren’t here, but the trail still features some big ones. If these end up taking your breath away, then it is going to be a mighty breathless day for you.

Down by the waters of Elk Creek

As you continue down the road you’ll encounter Bolling Grove. Standing right off the road, this is a magnificent stand of trees and perfect for a picnic. While this doesn’t require any hiking, I encourage you to head towards the sounds of water. That is the sound of Elk Creek running just behind the grove. There is a small trail which will allow you to climb right down to the waters edge, which is perfect place to relax.

After our stop, we took a quick “obligatory” tourist detour through Shrine Drive-Thru Tree. Being the off season we were alone there (save the shopkeeper) and got to spend quite a bit of time with the tree. Unlike some drive-thru redwoods, Shrine was naturally hollowed out with only minor help from humans. It is certainly a touristy spot, but being alone there was a nice experience. With no lines to wait in, we were able to actually walk down into the tree as well, including a pretty neat 360 degree shot.

Founder's Grove, California
The Dyerville Giant stretching into the distance

The final two stops we made were among the best redwoods we saw on the journey down the Avenue. We first did the Founder’s Grove, which features the Dyerville Giant. The massive Founder’s Tree marks the beginning of the grove and trail, with its raised platform allowing for one to get a picture next to it. The trail itself was one of the more popular that we hiked that day, accounting for its ease of access and the Dyerville Giant drawing visitors. The Giant is somewhat hard to find among the numerous fallen trees, so take a look at pictures ahead of time in order to suss out which one it is.

Finding Peace Among the Redwoods

Just a short drive from Founder’s Grove is the Rockefeller Forest. It is off the main road of the Avenue of the Giants, but Google Maps has it mapped out well making it easy to reach. This trail was the jewel of the day. Far from the traffic noise of the 101, you can truly find peace here. The afternoon light shown softly through the canopy above. The trail loop is easy to walk, but keep an eye out for side treks. One which we found brought us down to a rocky beach right on the South Fork Eel River. The cool water doesn’t run too fast here which might make for a perfect little spot to cool off in the summer.

Rockefeller Forest, California
The peace found within Rockefeller Forest

The rest of the grove is simply amazing. The forest is almost entirely redwoods, with few other trees to obstruct view. The canopy above allows light to create a magnificent cathedral-like effect as you walk through it. It was here that I had found a new calling. There is a peace and serenity among those ageless trees. There are so many timeless places like this I have yet to see, yet to explore. I began this journey seeking to create a new hobby, to write and give insight to others along the way. After walking among these trees, it is nearly impossible to return to life as before. There is a never ending yearning to return and soon I will.

An Ending and A Beginning

Leaving Rockefeller Forest and the peace of those redwoods was difficult. However, I knew that while that day came to an end it served as a new beginning as well. I had found a new goal to focus on, to drive me forward. Much of this journey was to serve as a spring board into my new hobby and hopeful profession. The time in that forest gave this effort a new meaning and one which I happily look forward to.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all. Make sure you read Among the Readwoods Part Two as well! To catch more of my adventures in real time be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

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