My first stop today, after leaving Ed and Elsie's place just north of Crescent City, was Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (the previous night, I'd run in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, a different state park unit co-managed by the NPS). Prairie Creek was 90 minutes further south along the coast. I was running in another redwood forest because I wanted to see how they differed, if at all, in different locations. I also wanted to give running in the forests in daylight a shot.
But I had plenty to marvel at even before I got to Prairie Creek. From Crescent City, I took US 101, which in this part of the state is called the Redwood Highway. Very quickly, it took me out to the coast and to my first view of the Pacific Ocean on this trip. I immediately decided to stop.
As I continued driving, I made additional stops to take in the views of the coast. I also got to sea level and beneath the fog/clouds.
After about 90 minutes of driving, I'd made it to Prairie Creek. I spoke to a park ranger about possible easy trails. I'd been feeling a little tired from my double-run day yesterday (summitting Mount Scott in Crater Lake and running the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith), and wanted something relatively easy. The ranger suggested the eponymous Prairie Creek Trail, with the Western Ridge Trail as a higher-altitude add-on. I wasn't about to disagree.
Running in redwood forests is a soothing experience. You just feel very secure amidst these tall, wise, and powerful trees. Prairie Creek was unique because it had some of the tallest redwoods around. Redwoods are all up and down the coast, but the ones in this grove were particularly massive. This is the first extra large redwood I saw.
I made easy progress through the forest. The trail was soft and wide--perfect for an easy recovery day. I loved running between the big trees.
Just to show a sense of the scale, here I am standing in front of one of the massive trees I came across. My arm span doesn't even get close to the width of the tree.
The forest was surprisingly cool on a surprisingly hot day. But it was incredibly humid inside. I began sweating much sooner than I'd expected. As I was running, I kept looking up and cramping my neck a bit. There was just so much to see, and most of it was above eye-level. Heck, the exposed root system of a fallen tree was nearly double my height!
I particularly enjoyed seeing areas of the forest where sunlight shone in to create contrasts of light and dark.
I also continued playing while running between the trees. Here, I'm jumping off a little ledge between two trees.
I made it to the first intersection and proceeded up Zig Zag 1 to the West Ridge. It was a relatively steep ascent off of the forest floor. And I could finally now see the redwoods more at "eye level".
Running the ridgeline was a treat. I was a couple hundred feet above the creek, and it really felt cool to run high up and see redwoods in all directions. Again, the forest was just so impressive to see.
I made it off the trail at 2 p.m. I was starving. Back at the visitor center, I asked a ranger if there was food nearby. She mentioned that the first town I'd come across on the way south had a roadside burger shack that was delicious. I stopped for lunch at the Snack Shack, sat by the roadside, and ate a burger, just like she'd suggested.
I was still 4+ hours away from where I wanted to camp that night. I was basically still half a day behind, and hadn't made up the time. It didn't help that I drove slowly along the coast, stopping every now and then to take in the coast line.
As I continued driving south towards Fort Bragg and Mendocino, the sun finally set. It looked a bit like an atomic bomb blowing up on the horizon.
Given that it was a Saturday night on a weekend with nice weather, I should've planned ahead with lodging. I didn't. I ended up reaching the state park (Van Damme State Park) in which I'd planned to camp only to find out that all the sites had been taken. I frantically scrambled around the area, looking not only for other state park campsites, but also simply any inn, motel, or hotel that had availability. There were no rooms. Finally, at the entrance to one state park, a ranger gave me a sheet with a list of all the private campgrounds in the area. It was already dark, and I still didn't know where I was sleeping (was I about to sleep in my car for the first time?), so I dialed up each place with gusto. I eventually found an RV park that had tent sites available. I was the only tent in the entire campground. Let's just say I felt a bit out of place as a result.
I set up my tent, and then decided I'd head into Fort Bragg for dinner. I'd passed North Coast Brewing on the way down, and figured beers would cool me off after another great day on the trails. It was a delicious meal, and a delicious flight of beers. I returned to my tent, and nodded off almost immediately.
It was another great day on the California coast.