Magnificent Morning, Nondescript Night

✍️ 🕑 • Series: Califorests & Shoregon • Tags: redwoodstsunami advisoryconservationhiking and campingState/Provincial ParksPacific OceanCalifornia • Places: Sue-meg State park Vista Point Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Foreground: plant. Background: shapeless mist. More at 11!
Foreground: plant. Background: shapeless mist. More at 11!

The date was January 15th, 2020.

For me it was a day of mislaid ambition and surprises.

The first surprise was a tsunami advisory...

 


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A Few Sidenotes

Now that I have you on the edge of your seat with that opening, let me bring in a few important pieces of information.

First off, I'd like to mention that I spent as little time planning this trip as my friends and readers would expect. And thus, I have to give a huge, huge shout out to Dave Baselt. His Redwood Hikes website is an absolutely fantastic source of information, and I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in visiting the Redwoods give it a nice perusal.

It gave Sue-Meg Campground 3 stars, though for a January campsite, I'm sure it deserves more.


My second sidebar is that the tsunami advisory described in this post was the result of the largest volcanic eruption in the 21st century, an event that destroyed a lot of homes and infrastructure in Tonga. Drinking water was contaminated by ash, and reconstruction costs were estimated to be nearly a fifth of the country's GDP. The country's single undersea internet cable is still being repaired months later.

So, it is not something to be taken lightly.

-- I've struggled to find and verify information about charitable organizations, so that readers can donate to ongoing relief efforts. Most international actors in Tonga are based out of Australia/New Zealand, and donating to those organizations could involve a change in currency, and a lack of tax-deductible status in the United States. That said, Global Citizen has a list of giving campaigns that seem reputable.


Misty Morning

I awoke early, and hoped to catch a nice glimpse of the sunrise. But everything was covered in thick, impenetrable fog. (Worse still, I accidentally lost my spare pair of glasses in my haste to try to catch some good views.)

I walked around Patrick's Point, but it was a little pointless given the fog...


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I left the campground and the state park, munching a breakfast of pretzels.


Magnificent Morning

As I drove south on US-101, I was treated to stunning overlooks, and the sunrise reflecting through the mist. I couldn't safely snap any pics while driving full tilt, but it was easily among the most beautiful mornings I had ever seen.

I pulled off at a "Vista Point" outside Eureka, California.


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The parking lot was packed! Everyone was hoping to catch a nice glimpse of the tsunami. Everyone seemed underwhelmed and disappointed that 100 ft tall waves didn't start hitting the cliff side on cue at 8:00 AM when the tsunami advisory said to be wary.


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I walked around, took some pictures, and watched some unleashed dogs fight with one another.


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People seemed to be disappointed that devestating waves didn't start on cue. They were sad not to see a disaster hit California.

As the day went on, it became increasingly clear that water levels were higher than normal, but no danger had hit the West Coast of the United States. Only people who ignored or missed the news and went out surfing and swimming needed to be rescued by lifeguards.

Property damage was minimal, certainly compared to where the tsunami originated.

And that is something to be thankful for, not disappointed by!


Humbolt Bay Wildlife Preserve

After the overlook, I briefly stopped at the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Preserve, to stretch my legs and kill a little time. (I was set to reach the Visitor's Center, where I wanted to ask about backpacking before it opened.)

It may have been a nice spot for birding if the atmospheric conditions were clearer.

An egret preening, with a reflection in the pond. Much crying and gnashing of photo editing sliders was needed to have this level of... reasonably natural contrast, to compensate for the fog
An egret preening, with a reflection in the pond. Much crying and gnashing of photo editing sliders was needed to have this level of... reasonably natural contrast, to compensate for the fog open_in_full   info  map

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I also grabbed a solid cup of drip coffee in Eureka, CA.


Humbolt Redwoods State Park

And after that, I got to my real destination for the day: Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

The Avenue of the Giants, which runs through the park, is famous for a reason, but it's also pretty depressing that there's a road running right between all those gorgeous trees...
The Avenue of the Giants, which runs through the park, is famous for a reason, but it's also pretty depressing that there's a road running right between all those gorgeous trees... open_in_full   info

This one of the few places you could theoretically do some overnight hiking around the redwoods. (Any others? Closed due to fire!) I wanted to do an overnight hike, especially seeing as I hadn't done one for nearly fourteen months.

Campsites needed to be officially reserved, though, through the state park. And though I had tried calling their office earlier, no one answered.

The visitors center had an excellent map of the area, and a friendly park agent working there, but no one who had any idea about the campsite permit system. Apparently, the campground head was in charge, and was also AWOL.

I resisted buying a banana slug plushie, and foolishly passed up all the pretty postcards, walked over to the campground, and stuck a few dollars and a slip of paper in a wooden box, reserving myself a campsite.

I chose the Whiskey Flat Trail Camp, thanks to this ringing endorsement from David Baselt:

"Whiskey Flat is the most scenic of Humboldt Redwoods’ backcountry camps. If you’re looking for a backpacking camp in the redwoods, and you don’t want a lot of people around, this might be the place."

Of course, I had no way of knowing whether it was already reserved or not.

Bureaucratic exercises done, I spent a little while exploring the park before I started my overnight.

 

Founders Grove / Mend Plaque

I did a quick loop around the Founder’s Grove and the Mend Plaque Trail.

Trail Information
Name Mend Plaque Loop
Type loop
Location Humboldt Redwoods State Park
State CA
Country USA
Miles 0.5
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!

You might be wondering, who the founders are and why they have a grove.

No, they aren't Odo's people from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The titular Mend Plaque
The titular Mend Plaque open_in_full   info

It's batshit crazy to me that within the last hundred years old growth redwoods were being logged and destroyed. It's in opposition to this that the Save the Red Woods League was founded, initially purchasing land to preserve it from logging efforts.

The organization is still active today, trying to ensure that more of these beauts get preserved in the future.

This patchwork history of logging and conservation that leads to the Redwoods being in the shape they're in today: they are absolutely gorgeous, but they are not well-preserved n a contiguous area, they are crisscrossed with highways and roads, and patches of other things.


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It is worth noting though, that a couple of the "founders" of Save the Red Woods had a thing or two in common with the ones from Deep Space Nine. By which, I mean an unhealthy fixation on racial supremacy.

Quoth new signage from 2019:

Madison Grant and Henry Fairfeald Osborn were leaders and fundraisers for redwoods conservation. Unfortunately, they were also involved in a racist social and political movement (eugenics) that promoted the biological superiority of a "white race" over other groups. Save the Redwoods League and California State Parks are mindful of the fact that early conservationists equated saving big trees with preserving white supremacy. Though we value their conservation efforts, we fully reject their racist ideology. Today all visitors are welcome to experience these majestic redwoods.


Baxter to Whiskey Flat Overnight Hike


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And, after that, I eventually got my ish together and hiked to Whiskey Flat.

Most of the bridges for the trails were out during the winter time, so I opted to walk from the closed Baxter Environmental Camp, up the Baxter Trail to Grieg Road.

Trail Information
Name Baxter Trail and Grieg Road to Whiskey Flat
Type out-and-back
Location Humboldt Redwoods State Park
State CA
Country USA
Miles 5
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!

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Please tell me this is a type of mushroom, and not someone's weathered chewing gum...
Please tell me this is a type of mushroom, and not someone's weathered chewing gum... open_in_full   info
The way the light hits the fern before you make an uphill turn, that's this boooooring hiiiike 🎵
The way the light hits the fern before you make an uphill turn, that's this boooooring hiiiike 🎵 open_in_full   info
For sure, these are mushrooms, tho
For sure, these are mushrooms, tho open_in_full   info  map

It's a boring, but pleasant enough uphill backpack excursion through accidentally closed trail, with little in the way of views or old growth trees. It's flat enough terrain that it would have been very pleasant for a cyclist, and indeed, the cyclists seemed to be having a much better time than me.


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Perhaps I should have paid more heed to the part of the page David Baselt wrote:

The main drawback of Whiskey Flat is that there isn't really a lot to see or do in the area, other than hike up to Grasshopper Mountain.


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But, on the other hand, the campsite was indeed splendid, and I did get to wake up to this view:


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And then I got to carry my tent and sleeping bag back down five miles of monotonous forest roads and ceaseless switchbacks.

Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull.

What was I thinking?


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Thanks for reading!

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