Then I saw a sign for Eureka, about 130 miles away. I drive that many miles in one day for work all the time. Let's head north! I've been wanting to check out the Avenue of the Giants for some time so that became my destination. Suddenly, the day was full of promise.
Some roads have the feeling of heading towards a better place for some reason, and the 101 is no exception for me. While driving north, the landscape begins to change, the elevation seems to increase, and the Redwoods become more abundant.
The 101 has a feeling of travel and adventure. There were many bicyclists heading south on their bike tours. Hitch hikers heading north and south to unknown destinations, and plenty of RV's travelling the country during the summer.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the Avenue of the Giants, but it turned out to be an exceptional experience. When I approached, there was a sign directing motorists to pick up a pamphlet and read a small sign. I was expecting the pamphlet box to be empty due to budget cuts, but it was surprisingly full, and best of all, free.
I had to chuckle about the idea of doing a car tour, since it kind of goes against everything I believe to be true: That exploring on foot is the best way to experience a new place. Thankfully, the tour gave plenty of opportunities to leave the car behind and enter the Redwood groves on foot.
The Avenue of the Giants is a 32 mile stretch of road that parallels the 101, and meanders through Humbolt Redwoods State Park. It was originally built for wagons and stagecoaches in the 1880's.
It was surprisingly warm, and felt almost humid in the forest. Temperatures were probably in the upper 80's. It's too bad trees don't have eyes or ears. I wonder what they would think if they saw the changes occurring around them over the years? I wonder if they sense anything at all? Do they enjoy blowing in the wind, or drinking water from streams, rain and fog? Do they mind when folks leave used toilet paper at their bases? Do they mind the taste of car exhaust? Do they mind being cut and used for wood products? Do they enjoy stretching towards the sun? Do they enjoy visitors sitting amongst them, touching them, talking to them? Do they care at all?
The avenue travels along the gorgeous Eel River. It is a spectacular River from what I could tell from a short visit. There were many folks enjoying a cool dip in the turquoise water, or adrift on rafts. I was quite envious of the rafters, it looked like so much fun.
The Visitor's Center showed an exceptional movie about the Redwoods, and some of the history and politics and passions they have evoked over the years. I was happy to share the viewing experience with other like minded folks. Everyone seemed to express a comment of disgust or a shake of the head when clear cuts were shown. We know and understand that the destruction of these groves are not OK, no matter what the cost.
Efforts from folks like Laura Perrot Mahan and her husband James have allowed for the preservation and protection of this area. There were signs from many donors throughout the park.
There was a sign that described how the Eel River was once a bountiful salmon spawning ground. King salmon once appeared in tremendous numbers, the fish reaching up to 30 pounds and growing up to 58 inches. Today there are very few that remain sadly.
Mattole Road intersects with the Avenue of the Giants, and is described as one of the most beautiful drives in America as it heads west towards the Lost Coast. I'll have to leave that for another day.
The day ended with a nice 2.5 mile hike through the Drury-Chaney Grove near Pepperwood. There were not many folks on the hiking trails, so it was nice to have some silence and solitude amongst the big trees.