Today was a real gift. I have to drive up to Laytonville once a week for work and it's always a bit tortuous. Redwood country is so close, but so far. Today the gift I received came in the form of a cancellation. I had three hours to kill in Laytonville. I decided to head north instead.
About half an hour later, I arrived at the Frank Bess Smithe Grove. It's a small redwood grove located right along highway 101 next to the mighty Eel River. The area is magical in my opinion. You can feel it in the air. Richardson Grove is just to the north, a bit further is the Avenue of the Giants.
This particular grove can easily be overlooked. It's the first grove of big redwoods a person will encounter when heading north on the 101. It's proximity to highway 101 and its small size makes it less desirable perhaps. It's true, the highway does take away from it's mystique. Car and truck noise is constant. All of the things that one would expect from a highway park can be found here: Soiled underwear tossed in the bushes, used toilet paper behind giant redwoods, graffiti, beer bottles, trash, and the occasional poacher digging up redwood saplings with a shovel.
Even so, the grove was perfect today. An unexpected walk in the redwood forest makes for a great day. There are some decent sized trees growing here as well.
I find it difficult to walk out to the Eel River and not wonder what this place must have been like a few hundred years ago. A paradise is all I can imagine. The urge to give up driving forever entered my mind once again.
I had about 50 minutes to spend walking around before I had to head back to Laytonville to work the rest of the afternoon. The grove felt fragile. I wish it a continued long life...