Sunday, May 12, 2013

Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Johnson Trail Camp

Eel River
 I drove up to Humboldt Redwoods State Park on Saturday with the goal of testing out my new ULA Catalyst backpack. Let me just say, I love it! The packed worked and felt great. I'm very excited to go hiking again. It also felt great to be on a trail once again.
 The plan was to go on a short 7 mile hike to Johnson Trail Camp and spend the night there. I left my vehicle around 2:00 and began hiking. The trail was a real treat. At first, I hiked through a short section of big redwoods along the flats, a place I explored several months ago. Soon, the trail started it's ascent. I would spend the rest of the afternoon walking uphill.
 Of course I got distracted by some big trees. At the last minute, I decided to bring the measuring tape along.  I was glad I did. I quickly measured some of the biggest Douglas Firs I have seen to date.
Douglas Fir
 The trail was excellent, despite the uphill climb. There were plenty of switchbacks and the climb was gradual. The forest was awesome. It was the first time I've experienced several miles of pristine old growth forest, with no sign of man's intervention other than the trail itself. The mixture of Douglas Fir, redwood and madrone created a feast for the eyes.
 The vegetation was extremely thick off trail. I can't imagine how anyone got through it in the old days. They must of had machetes. The Douglas Fir's I measured were all visible from the trail. I just didn't have the time, or the energy to do much exploring. It was very hard to move around off trail.
Smaller redwoods in higher elevation. This tree still had some girth.
 The redwoods are smaller on the drier hillsides. However, it was neat to observe how much taller and larger they grew near springs or creeks coming down the mountainside. They must simply gorge themselves on water when they have the chance. The forest also had a different smell in the higher elevation.
Douglas Fir: cbh 21 feet, 7 in.
 I thought a lot about the CDT while hiking. I was glad to re-implement old hiking systems: ie retrieving and treating water, checking maps, listening to my body. I'm looking forward to simplifying my life once again. I barely noticed my pack, although my feet were getting sore by the end of the day.
Douglas Fir: cbh 27 feet
 It took a bit longer than I thought it would to reach Johnson Trail Camp. I guess that's because I was looking at trees. At one point, I thought I must have missed it, or taken a wrong turn. I finally reached the camp around 6:00 or so. It didn't take me long to decide that I wasn't going to camp there. It had a creepy feel, with a couple of dilapidated shacks. Some of the redwoods nearby had been cut down, and it was swarming with mosquitoes. There were so many peaceful, and inviting spots on the way up, so I decided to turn around and hike back to one that really called me.
Douglas Fir 30 feet, 5 in.
 By the time I reached the spot it was about 7:00. Mosquitoes weren't much better here, but the place was really tranquil. Thankfully the mosquitoes weren't at all aggressive. They were more of a nuisance flying around my face. I cooked a quick dinner, and it wasn't long before the forest started to become dark. I decided to cowboy camp, I didn't bother setting up my tarp. I spent the next half hour with my usual anxieties. As I laid on my back, staring up into the canopy, I imagined branches crushing me in my sleep, or getting mauled by a mountain lion. Not a healthy way to drift off to sleep. The drone of mosquitoes in my ear eventually lulled me to unconsciousness.
Doing a backwoods jig at Johnson Trail Camp
 I slept decent, despite the bad thoughts. When I woke up in the morning, I had an experience that I think will  last a lifetime. I've mentioned before that the whistle of the varied thrush is one of my favorite sounds in the redwoods. Usually I hear about one or two at a time. Well this morning, I awoke to a chorus of whistles, coming from several birds in the grove. They whistled for about an hour or so, until the sun came up, and then suddenly stopped around the time the sun's rays lit up the canopy and the mosquitoes came back out. It was a great way to start the morning.
Campsite for the night
 It didn't take long to refill my water bottles, eat breakfast and hit the trail. I was back to my car in no time. Before heading home, I decided to stop by one of my favorite spots in HRSP and visit the Stratosphere Giant.  That is one beast of a tree.
 Overall, it was a successful trip. I do need to continue to walk as much as possible to stay in shape before beginning the CDT. I'm feeling good right now, and hope to ride the positive momentum all the way to Chief Mountain in mid June...

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