Northern California part 2: Big Waves & Even Bigger Trees

As we continued north from Patricks Point State Park the rocky coast continued but the trees began to get bigger as we made our way to the Mill Creek Campground in the Del Norte Redwood State Park. We loved this campground too and they have some really cool spots for tent campers. With the Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, and Jedidiah Redwood State park on our list we started with the Tall Trees Trail in the National Park. 

We saw some pretty tall redwoods down by Santa Cruz but these were not only tall but wide! Ive never seen anything like it, which makes sense since they are some of the tallest trees on Earth. For once in his life I think 6’9 Richard felt small. Like kids we hiked the trail “oooo” ing and “awww” ing at each tree that seemed bigger than the one before. Trees so big that they had to be cut in half or have tunnels cut through them to allow people to pass. I think the most fascinating thing about these trees, besides their size, is that they were here long before you and I and they will continue to be here when we are gone. They are living things and they have so much soul and history with every ring they develop.

Our next stop: Prairie Creek. At prairie Creek we went and saw the 1500 year old “Big Tree” which measures 286 feet tall with a circumference of 74.5 feet. Im not going to lie, it was a pretty impressive tree. Prairie Creek is full of loops that you can stroll down admiring the gentle giants. Its so calm and peaceful walking through the trees yet there is a distinct sound to the forest. The leaves in the wind, the trees so subtly swaying. Its a pretty magical place. Not only did we love seeing the trees in Prairie Creek, but there are black berry bushes everywhere and you are allowed to pick and take up to a pound with you. That being said, we have been eating fresh blackberries every morning for breakfast ever since.

Right near the parks is the town of Crescent City. Its a pretty cute little town and the one day we had sun we ate fish and chips on the pier. We heard rumors of there being sea otters but sadly we found none. We did spot a ton of harbor seals and sea lions though, hanging by the main pier. You can also make fires on the beach and while we wanted to do that one night we were usually pooped from hiking to head to town. Plus our little trailer is actually super comfy and cozy. I don’t know if its from the activity or the bed but we have been sleeping better than we did at home!

We decided to drive through Jedidiah on our way out of town and thats where we made our first mistake. Warning: Do not go through Jedidiah with a travel trailer. We thought we could make it, we really did. It was just 4 miles and there were no signs warning against trailers, not even in the guide. The road was bumpy, but Red had been on some bumpy terrain before. We had one opportunity to turn around and we stupidly didn’t take it. Once we got too far to take advantage of the turn out, a passing car stopped and let us know we would never make it and there was no where to turn around ahead of us (of course). Apparently a tree had fallen against another tree and while most cars could still drive underneath, we were too big to fit. Basically we were screwed. After many failed attempts to back up to the turn out Richard gave up and decided to attempt to jackknife the trailer in the middle of the road. I wish I could tell you exactly what happen but my eyes were closed and I was out of the car at this point. All I know is that when I opened my eyes we had a busted tail light, a puncture in the front of our trailer and a fern attached to the front grill. But, we were turned around. With that we knew we had out stayed our welcome in the Redwoods and headed to Oregon.

Mill Creek Campground, Del Norte Redwood SP | Crescent City, CA | $35/night
Wildlife spotted: Elk, Chipmunks, Harbor Seals, Sea Lion, Coastal Birds

Exploring the Detour: Santa Cruz & the Redwoods

With a full week that was suppose to be spent at Yosemite cancelled due to forest fires, we had to find a plan B. Once we left Yosemite we started driving west towards the coast to get out of the smoke and ash. I (Whitney) had done a girls glamping trip in Big Sur for my bachelorette party the year before, so I called the campground we stayed at but they were full. Everyone was full. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with Yosemite plans ruined and forced to retreat to the coast. So I started making calls. After about 15 calls and mini melt down, wouldn’t you know it we finally found an opening at Smithwoods RV park near Santa Cruz. 

Neither of us get to worked up about having to change our plans, we are actually pretty easy going, but we still like to have a plan and be in control of the situation. When Yosemite didn’t work out, the places in Big Sur were full, and we were forced to stay somewhere with “RV park” in the title we were discouraged. So, when we finally got to Smithwoods the fact that it was the cutest little place among the redwoods and we got one of the best spots ( I should also add the staff was so nice and helpful) we couldn’t help but laugh. The push and pull with wanting to control a situation is a constant theme in our lives. However, most often than not, when we surrender control, things end up working out better than we could have ever planned.

Walking distance from Henry Cowell State Park, we spent the next few days hiking in the mystifying redwoods and relaxing at our little piece of home nestled in the biggest trees we had ever seen. We liked Smithwoods so much that we extended our reservations and canceled our next stop at Mount Diablo. Richard had to fly home for work for a few days and my sister, Kelly, was going to come and replace him, so we wanted to share this little gem we discovered with her too. We had to move around to a few different spots to ensure our stay but the staff was super helpful in getting us into open or cancelled reservation spots and for us it was well worth it.

As expected, Kelly loved it too. With cool mornings and sunny afternoons we relaxed in the park pool following explorations in the Redwoods. As a film lover, she especially loved seeing sites where scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo were filmed. One day we rode a 100 year old steam engine down to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. While aboard the impeccably preserved train they informed us this was how the Vanderbilt’s and high society of old went camping. Now Ive been to a few boardwalks but this place was the real deal. Shops, rides, games, food booths and the beach! What else do you need? Oh and a wharf with a posse of sea lions putting on a show to boot! While in Santa Cruz, my film loving sister also got to witness the house that Bates Motel was inspired by. Now part of a retirement home, oddly enough. A day trip to Davenport also made our itinerary. Strong winds, crisp air and some of the most amazing ocean views. This was also the first day Rosie got to see the ocean. She had to stay on her leash but finally got to feel the sand between her little doggy toes.

When I exchanged my sister for my husband at the San Francisco airport, Richard and I spent our last day down at Moss Landing. Both being suckers for adorable marine mammals we went there to see the otters, and they did not disappoint. 500 pictures and about 2,000 “awwws” we were in heaven. We watched the cuddly creatures bathe themselves and play with one another. Seals we also an unexpected surprised and we couldn’t help but think they resembled a very lazy Rosie.

Im sure Yosemite would have been jaw dropping but our week was definitely not wasted. I think sometimes we focus so much on visiting National Parks to check off that invisible box in our heads, that we forget how many amazing little hidden gems and unexpected attractions there are along the way.

Smithwoods RV Park | Felton, CA | $55/night
wildlife spotted: otters, seals, coastal birds, sea lions, chipmunks