July 29, 2010.

After a quick foot soak in the very cold river, I packed up and made the non-interesting drive into Northern California. I stopped at the Madrona Day Use Area on Rt. 199 where I accessed yet another river, this one lined with blackberry bushes. About a handful were ripe enough to eat, which was good enough for me.

But my goal for the day was a visit to the Redwood Forest. I arrived at the Stout Grove trailhead a little before noon. The parking area at this popular hike, in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, was already full. I sneaked my little car into a small space on the side of the pavement and walked to the trail. During this 0.5 mile loop I saw lots of people, enormous trees, ferns, and tiny flowers. The redwood bark formed unusual patterns, making every tree a unique discovery. The tree cuts on the sides of the trail and fallen trees helped me grasp the scale a little bit easier. The last time I visited the redwoods I thought, “Big trees. Wow. I get it…who cares?” But for some reason, now the trees seemed much more impressive. Small sprouts branching low on the tree gave a clue as to what the redwood leaves look like. Most of them are so far up the tree that I bet the average person would not be able to ID a redwood’s leaves (myself included)!

The ground was fabulously soft, making the walk rather pleasant. Also, it was cold here; I had a thermal shirt on and others were in heavy coats. I was loving it.

When I returned to my car, I found the lot was overrun with cars parked in every imaginable configuration, plus the entire road back to the South Fork Road had cars parked on either side of it. Nasty. I was glad that I arrived when I did, otherwise I would have missed out on this amazing little hike.

Wanting to give my knee a rest, I made only two more stops: lunch and campsite. I had a cold bowl of so-so chili at the Hiouchi Cafe, then continued to Winchuck Road to look for a tent spot. I drove towards Ludlum House until I noticed fire rings and cleared spots on the right side of the road. An RV occupied one and I claimed the next one. I had a picnic table, lots of flat ground, and river access. The cool, beautiful river lay past a short, steep, and barely-accessible trail. I had to drop my crutches at one point and slide down on my good foot to get past the worst spot. But it was worth it to enjoy another bath and foot soak in the water.

My friends, the mosquitoes, were back in moderate quantity. I decided to make a fire so I could stay and enjoy the outdoors all evening. I dived back into my book, cooked dinner, and rested my legs.

The photo set from the entire trip is on Picasa.

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