Ep. 313: California's Redwood Coast | RV travel camping kayaking hiking
Hey friends, welcome back to Grand Adventure! I'm your host Marc Guido, and we are on Northern California's beautiful Redwood Coast! This is of course home to Redwood National and State Parks, but there's a whole lot more to see here than just giant trees. We're going to do some hiking along the shoreline. We'll do some kayaking. We'll check out some historical features, and even have an unplanned encounter with a black bear that quite frankly, was more than a little uncomfortable. So stay tuned! Most folks visit the Redwood Coast to see the giant coastal redwood trees, the tallest trees on Earth. They grow as high as 300 feet and some are estimated to be over 1,500 years old.
Following extensive logging that nearly deforested this area in the 19th century, remaining old growth groves are now preserved as Redwood National and State Parks. We were last here five years ago to film our early episode 53, which we'll link to right here on the screen. While we spent most of our 2018 visit touring the parks, this time we wanted to see other things this area has to offer -- and we found plenty! We're staying this time at Golden Bear RV Park, right along the Klamath River a mile from where it empties into the Pacific. Nineteen waterfront full-hookup sites like ours cost $65 per night in season, and $55 for the other 32 sites.
Good Sam and Passport America discounts are available, as are weekly and monthly rates. Many guests are seasonal fishermen, who we found to be friendly, helpful and sociable even with transient visitors like us. Floating docks provide easy access to the Klamath River.
This is a beautiful stretch of northern California coastline, with many recreational opportunities to enjoy. Some 30 minutes north of our campground, Crescent City -- the only incorporated town within Del Norte County -- is home to a large commercial fishing fleet. Large jetties protect both the city and its harbor from its susceptibility to tsunamis, which destroyed much of the town following the Alaskan earthquakes of 1964. We had hoped to find sea lions and harbor seals here in Crescent City Harbor, but we only spotted a few at a considerable distance. The multiple units of Redwood National & State Parks provide extensive opportunities to go take a hike. Not all, however, are focused on the parks' namesake trees.
I'm going to strike out today alone on a trail leading to the aptly named Hidden Beach at low tide, in search of sea life trapped in tidal pools. I would have loved to have brought Zoe along, but like most National Parks dogs are not allowed on trails here, so Zoe is staying back at camp with Patricia. Well-worn driftwood lines much of the shoreline in this area. The humid environment along the Redwood Coast means that moss grows on all sides of the trees around here, not just the north side. The brush, too, is impenetrably thick.
In summer, on most days the onshore flow also leads to what's known as a marine layer, which envelops these hillsides in low clouds and fog until early afternoon each day. I've arrived at Hidden Beach. The beauty of Hidden Beach is accentuated today by the fact that I'm entirely alone here.
I've only passed two groups of two hikers each heading the other way, and there's no one else at the beach for my entire time here. Let's head off to these tidal pools at the south end of the beach in search of sea life. I've found snails, anemones, colorful barnacles and more. See if you can spot the well-camouflaged shrimp. It's hard to believe that the trail I followed to get here is actually buried beneath that wall of green above the beach.
As enjoyable as my visit to Hidden Beach has been, it's time to return to the truck. When we come back following a quick ad break, we'll enjoy another unique hike through famed Fern Canyon, one of the filming locations for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. We'll also explore a uniquely disguised World War II radar installation, do some kayaking along the Klamath River, and have an unnerving encounter with a couple of black bears, so stay tuned! We've been joined in Klamath by our Salt Lake City friends Dale and Pat, who are accompanying me today on a trip to Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach. Both are located within the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park unit of Redwood National & State Parks. Fern Canyon is named for the extensive ferns growing on its 50-foot walls, through which runs Home Creek.
Fern Canyon is recognized as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. The prehistoric ambience here was used as a filming location for not only the Jurassic Park franchise, but also BBC's Walking with Dinosaurs and the IMAX film Dinosaurs Alive! The short one-mile loop trail heads straight up the creek in the floor of the canyon before climbing its walls and returning to the trailhead through the surrounding forest. Tiny Home Creek is the last place I expected to spot fish, but we spied this tiny guy only about an inch long keeping pace with the current.
This was a busy place during our earlier visit five years ago. The parks, however, have since instituted a limited parking permit system during the warmer months that has made visiting Fern Canyon a much more pleasant experience. Immediately adjacent to Fern Canyon is the delightfully natural Gold Bluffs Beach. The beach was named for gold found here in the 1850s.
Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach are reached via Davison Road, a narrow, twisting, dusty seven-mile dirt and gravel road on which RVs over 24 feet and trailers are justifiably prohibited. A National Parks Pass covers the parking fee, otherwise $12. Tent campers, truck campers and Class B camper vans may enjoy a park campground right at Gold Bluffs Beach. On our way back to camp, we're going to detour along the Coastal Loop, a short scenic drive located immediately across the Klamath River from our campground. From the air, or even from here on the road this apparent farmhouse and barn alongside the Coastal Loop are not what they seem.
The concrete block walls are an indicator of these buildings' true purpose. This was the Klamath River Radar Station B-71, a rare, surviving World War II early-warning radar station. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese submarines shelled several facilities along the U.S. West Coast, and a Japanese submarine-launched aircraft dropped incendiary bombs on Oregon forests roughly 40 miles north of the Klamath River.
This radar station was built in late 1942 and early 1943 to protect the northern California coast. The dormers are fake. If you peer through the glass you'll see that there's nothing in there but the roof shingles. The disguised farmhouse was the power station, while the "barn" housed the facility's operations. They even integrated a fake hay hoist into the barn's roof visible from the air or the road.
Buried in the brush surrounding the structures were three .50 caliber machine guns on anti-aircraft mounts, which protected the station. While exploring the station, we heard some rustling in the brush. We've found ouselves in a bit of a predicament.
So I don't think we walked more than 50 yards to get down here to check out these radar buildings and now we are separated from our truck trying to get back by a mother black bear and her young cub. The cub has gone up a tree right alongside the trail, and the sow is guarding that tree, growling and snarling at us to stay away. The brush is far too thick to exit this area and return to our truck any other way. After waiting for 15 tense minutes or so, Mom allowed her cub to climb down out of the tree, and the two sauntered down the trail towards us before disappearing into the brush. Well that was exciting! It's always fun to go on a 100-yard walk and have a bear cut you off from the trail. It was unbelievable! With her cub up the tree and not gonna let us go past.
That stuff is so thick, there's no other way back to the road. Nope, it was come back that way and wait for her to get the cub down. And he came down and, and we gave her time. Apparently she was happy and let us not die. I was disappointed by the few sea lions and harbor seals we found in Crescent City, but we've stumbled upon the mother lode at the sand bar lining the mouth of the Klamath River. When we come back following another quick ad break to pay the bills, we'll bring you along kayaking on the Klamath River, so stay tuned! With our campsite right on the Klamath River, it's hard to resist the pull of the water.
But there's a decent current, so we've driven five and a half miles upstream to Klamath Glen, where Dale, Pat and I are putting in the water for an enjoyable paddle back to the campground. The entire Klamath area is part of the Yurok Nation, the ancestral homelands of the largest native reservation in California. The Klamath River is loaded with Pacific salmon and steelhead, and the Yurok are permitted to continue their traditional fishing methods using gill nets. Dale and Pat also bought the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak that we picked up for ourselves this past spring, and reviewed in Grand Adventure Episode 309. We'll put a link to that episode right here on the screen if you'd like to learn more about this capable inflatable, although Dale needs to pay a bit more attention to the pump's pressure gauge to achieve adequate inflation next time.
<groan> Thank you. So we truly hope that you've enjoyed visiting the Redwood Coast of Northern California with us! If you liked this episode, please be sure to give us a big "thumbs up" down below! And while you're down below that's where you'll find the comments section, where we love to hear from you after each Grand Adventure which we air every Wednesday evening. So if you're not yet a Grand Adventurer yourself, now is the perfect time for you to go smash that little "subscribe" button right down there in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, and ring that notification bell to be sure that you never miss a Grand Adventure. Coming up next week we're going to be working our way further north along the coast to a marina right along the Oregon shoreline. We'd be truly honored if you shared the channel with your friends, family, and on social media.
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