We have made it to Northern California! Camping close to the spectacular giant redwoods is a special experience. We have enjoyed learning all about these amazing trees, and hiking underneath them. Here is our video showing the highlights of our first week in California, in Klamath and at the Giant Redwoods RV Park in the Avenue of the Giants. It starts a bit abruptly, because we were in a gondola and feeling a bit nervous!
Traveling to California
We left Humbug Mountain State Park on a sunny Sunday morning, intent on getting to California. After five days of mainly rain, we were feeling very snowbird-ish – desperate to get to the sun! We left three days early to take advantage of a rare sunny day. We are starting to find travel days easier, but only if it is not raining, and we don’t take on too arduous a trip.
The first part of the trip was through the usual winding Oregon 101 roads, but soon we got to California. There, all vehicles have to stop at a state border crossing. As border crossings go, it was very informal. There was a friendly woman who asked us if we were carrying any fruit. We had only oranges with us, and had kept them handy in the truck, so we would not have to get out and open up the trailer. We showed them to the woman, who was happy to see that they were in fact Californian orangs, so we were merely bringing them back home!
After that, the roads improved markedly. The 101 in Northern California moves inland, and is much flatter, with single lanes being the exception, not the norm.
We drove through Crescent City, which we knew was the closest city to our destination park. Then came the only difficult part of this trip – a 12-mile mountain pass, which included a long, slow haul uphill, severe curves with a recommended speed of 25, and then a long, slow downhill with some precipitous drops evident. All of that was not helped by a major road works operation at the top. Emerging from all that, we were just a few miles from the easy entrance to our next RV Park. The map on the left shows our trip from Humbug to Mystic Forest RV Park, which was 91 miles.
Mystic Forest RV Park, Klamath
The Mystic Forest RV Park is simply a patch of land alongside the 101. It offers basic facilities, and has a little trail that we used to walk the dogs. It was a good enough place to base ourselves for a few days while we explored the area.
Crescent City, Northern California
Every time we needed to shop, we headed back over the mountain pass to Crescent City. Although there is no Walmart or Fred Meyer, it does have a reasonable selection of shops, including a Safeway.
For us, the best thing about Crescent City was the Chart Room Restaurant on the harbor, where we enjoyed the views (lighthouses and sea lions), and the very good seafood. There are several other recommended restaurants in Crescent City, but we did not try them.
One day while we were in Crescent City, there was a significant earthquake in Alaska. This caused a lot of worry among the citizens we met in a Version store, as they had memories of their entire harbor being devasted by an earthquake-induced tsunami. They talked about every single boat in the harbor being lost. We got a bit worried too, as we were parked at sea level. Fortunately, there was no tsunami that day.
Trees of Mystery Park in Klamath, Northern California
The best part of staying in Klamath was, of course, the trees. As you can see from the video, we had a very special experience at the Trees of Mystery Park in Klamath. The park celebrates and nurtures spectacular trees, many of them thousands of years old. It also showcases redwood sculptures that celebrate the mythical life of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox, Babe. You can’t miss it on the 101, thanks to the gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe.
You explore the park by following an interpretative trail, an easy hike of about half a mile. Signposts teach you about the trees, and then at about the halfway point, you get to take a wonderful gondola ride, soaring above the giant redwoods, right to the top of the park. There, you disembark and view the park from a viewing platform.
There is also a much more difficult trail, with a warning that it is only for advanced hikers. You need to alert the office if you plan to do that one. We elected not to do it, as we are not advanced hikers.
Along the easy trail there are numerous statues, as well as sound recordings about Paul Bunyan’s mythical life.
At the end of the trail is a gift shop and also the End of the Trail Museum, featuring First Nations artifacts. This is one of the finest private museum collections in the world, and is well worth spending some time in.
Redwoods are amazing trees. They are fire-resistant as they have no resin and no pitch, and because they hold a great deal of water. We saw trees that had been completed burnt out on the inside, while the bark remained intact and the neighboring trees did not catch fire. Redwood trees are used for building because they are impervious to insects and disease. They live for thousands of years, and grow to heights of 300 feet and more. The most interesting thing we learned about them is that they have shallow roots. They stay upright by holding each other up with their roots. We really felt there was a lesson for us in that.
Giant Redwoods RV Park, Myers Flat, Avenue of the Giants
After leaving Klamath, we traveled another 118 miles to overnight at the very pleasant Giant Redwoods RV Park, situated right in the Avenue of the Giants – which is a scenic road that runs through an amazing redwood forest. Here is a map of that route:
After that trip, we have traveled a total of 810 miles (1,303 km) from home. Here is a map of our route so far, from close to Vancouver, Canada, down the Oregon coast and into California.
We highly recommend making a stop in this area (Avenue of the Giants), even in November. There are other RV parks in this area. We chose this one because it had the facilities we needed. It was an expensive night, but all the parks in this area are expensive. Also, the opportunities for shopping and dining in this area are extremely limited. If you have any special dietary requirements, you are advised to take them with you.
From the Giant Redwoods RV Park, we were close to the Avenue of the Giants’ visitors center, where there are a couple of hikes that take you right under the trees along interpretive trails. We enjoyed doing one of those hikes. The trees are simply awe-inspiring. While it is an amazing experience to drive along the Avenue of the Giants, it is even more amazing to walk among them. We did not try to go to the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat. This is one of several trees that tourists can drive through, for a fee. This one offers the experience of driving through a tunnel created by a naturally angled opening in the trunk. Apparently it is a tight fit, so – as our truck is 22 feet long and more than 7 feet high – we decided not to chance it!
We overnighted to cut up the trip to our next destination, Calistoga, which is at the northern end of the Napa Valley. Where, of course, we want to spend at least a week to visit the wineries and do some wine tasting!
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