California Trip Day 2: Northern Redwoods

Trip date: Thursday August 5, 2021

Our first day driving through Redwood National Park was disrupted by construction on US Highway 101 due to a massive landslide in February 2021. Nevertheless we were able to get in a couple of hikes.

The drive from Bandon, Oregon to the Benbow Historic Inn is about 270 miles down US Highway 101. Originally we figured we could take the full day and do two or three medium length hikes in the northern redwoods. Thankfully we discovered the night before there had been a major landslide at Last Chance Grade a few miles south of Crescent City, California. During reconstruction, the highway would be closed between 8:00 and Noon; and again from 3:00PM to 6:00PM. During that three hour early afternoon window, cars could go through one direction at a time. Had we stuck to our original plan we would have been stuck in traffic from mid afternoon until past dinner time.

There are no realistic detours so we had to get to the road block no later than 1:00 or risk being stuck until night. That called for a change in plans: we could sneak in a quick hike near Crescent City, then get through the traffic jam and have another hike on the south side. We chose Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – off Highway 199 northeast of Crescent City. We checked into the ranger station and asked where we could find a scenic but quick hike. I didn’t take a note but I think the trail was the Simpson-Reed Trail off Walker Road. The good news is I had GPS turned on my camera so have specific locations.

We crossed a beautiful bridge on the trail.

Simpson-Reed Trail? Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. GPS Coordinates: 41°48’48.3048″ N 124°6’22.374″ W

We were in the redwoods; that means lots of pictures of very tall trees. Here is part of one with Carla for scale. Heck, the burls are taller than she is!

Along the Simpson-Reed Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. GPS: 41°48’48.6864″ N 124°6’25.1532″ W

We took that picture a little after 11:00 AM. We wanted to grab a bite of lunch in Crescent City and get to the road stoppage, so we got back in the car and headed west and south. A little after noon we hit the stoppage. As you can imagine there was a major backup on this main throughway. Each direction was open for 30 minutes. By my calculations we stopped just at the end of a southbound 30 minute right-of-way. Eventually southbound traffic started moving. But dang it! we were stopped just shy of the detour and had to wait another half hour. We were this close to getting through.

Road construction stoppage at Last Chance Grade on US Highway 101.

Happily, we were diverted listening to Stephen Fry reading his book Mythos. It’s a great tale of Greek gods from the earliest Chaos, and through Zeus and Hera. Great stuff and Stephen Fry is a fantastic narrator.

Our son and his family cruised through on the weekend a few days later and suffered only a 10 minute wait.

The landslide was short but absolutely massive; a LOT of the mountain just disappeared down the steep slopes. There were many workers and lots of equipment to fix it all up. I think the rebuild was finished in early September 2021.

Because of our two hour delay we would have to cut short any hike on the southside of the traffic jam if we wanted to get to Benbow Historic Inn for dinner. No worries, we found a quick walk in Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park

It’s almost impossible to capture the majestic height of redwoods; but here is a hint of their grandeur.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park

There are beautiful views a trail level as well.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park

I’m often drawn to the massive burls on the lower parts of the trees.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park

Like ferns? Oh, we’ve got ferns.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park
Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park

I snapped my last picture about 3:00 and we still had over 100 miles to get to our stop for the night. So we put the pedal to the metal and enjoyed the rest of the sights from the car. We’d spend the entire next in the Avenue of the Giants. More on that in my next post.

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