The entire night before I had the, kid waiting for Christmas morning, feeling. Basically I laid there in my Motel 6 penthouse suite, waiting for morning to come. Two things were keeping me awake. The first one was knowing that the coming days ride would take me to the giant redwoods of northern California, the tourist attraction that I wanted to see the most. The second one was a combination of three Monster Energy drinks that I engulfed while busting out the previous days 500 mile ride from San Diego. Don’t drink these things at 7pm folks unless you plan to have a night out with the vampires. That morning I woke both, fatigued and stoked, for one of the most epic days of riding on the trip so far.
My journey would take me from Santa Rosa Ca. to California route 1, right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, through Fort Bragg and into the redwood region of Humbolt County. I left that morning right after 10am and made my way due east through some beautiful wine country outside of Santa Rosa toward Jenner Ca. This little ride to the coast gave me my first taste of redwood forests. I began to realize how dense and dark these forest really are. Even the trees with rather thin diameters are really tall. Eventually the Pacific oceans rugged coastline burst onto the scene and my quick taste of the redwood forests took a break for the majority of the day. The portion of California route 1 that I took would take me from Jenner to Legget Ca., roughly 150 miles. As soon as I saw the coast I stopped. At that point the Russian river was emptying into the mighty Pacific and the waves were so aggressive that they seemed to push the fresh water back upstream. Almost rejecting it. At this little junction, sea lions rested on a sand bar, seemingly oblivious to the 20 foot tall waves that pounded the rocky shore nearby. I wasn’t oblivious to any of it though. These were the tallest waves that I’ve seen and the coastline was rugged, jagged, and perfect. A foggy, wet paradise. The next five miles were spent stopping every five seconds to snap pics. Eventually I had to force myself to just get on with it. I set a goal of making it to Fort Bragg before I allowed myself to stop for pics again. I broke this rule once or twice due to the unreal scenery, but made some decent progress. In Fort Bragg I stopped for a burger at Jennys Giant Burgers. This gave my aching back a break and let me fuel up for the next 100 miles.
Forty miles later route 1 took a hard right and left the Pacific Coast for the dense forest. Again, like earlier in the day, I was surrounded by tall redwoods, but not massive ones. The road twisted and turned through the mountain for 22 miles until the tiny village of Leggett stopped me in my tracks. Actually a sign saying “Drive thru redwood 1/4 mile away” stopped me. How could I resist? I veered off of my intended route to seek out this tree. That quarter-mile was one of the most exciting of my life. The redwoods around me got taller and much thicker at the base. Then after a $3 fee there it was! The biggest tree of my life. It was called the Chandelier tree and had a massive square hole hollowed out right at the base. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The top was out of sight, but the first 280 feet or so was clearly visible. It was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Fascination overwhelmed me. “How could something like this exist?” I thought. Well I don’t have an explanation, but I do have a great appreciation for the chance to see it. That one tree was worth every mile that I trekked to get to it. My stay at the tree was bitter-sweet though. I had to make tracks or else I’d be traveling this remote area at night with no idea where to go.
The goal was Humbolt Redwoods State Park, 45 miles north. The sun was setting quick with the help of the mountains and giant trees and I didn’t look forward to setting up camp in the dark again, but that is exactly what happened. I made it to Myers Flat Ca., pulled off of freeway 101 and looked for the campground. With no luck the first time, I went back to town to get the directions. It turns out that if I would have ridden a bit further I would’ve found the campground. When I finally made it to my destination, it was pitch black with giant wooden silhouettes surrounding me. I set up my tent, crawled in, and looked forward to day break and another chance to see these giants.