Saturday, September 17, 2011

California Redwoods Part 2: Big Trees, Elk and Ewoks????

"Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is." - Yoda

On another tip from the woman at the "Tour Thru Tree", we continued south on Highway 101 to take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway to what she called the "Big Trees Wayside". Now, when I hear "wayside" I think of ocean beaches or other water access. There was no water here, just a beautiful trail through the giant redwood trees.

As we arrived and gathered our camera gear for the short hike, I looked at Odessa, age 4, very seriously and said "Watch out for Ewoks!" (If you are a Star Wars fan, you may know the California Redwoods posed as the Forest Moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi.)

Odessa shook, "I am scared of Ewoks!"

"Ewoks are very friendly, unless, of course you are a Sith Lord" I replied.

"I don't want to see an Ewok!!"

Now, I hadn't told her this to put fear into her. I just thought it would be a fun little joke to start the hike. I will tell you, I have never had her be so well-behaved on a hike, anywhere. She held my hand almost the entire time, peering around the huge trees, expecting an Ewok to jump out and surprise her at any moment.

Is there an ewok in here?

Sage, my 10 year old, on the other hand, thought it was quite amusing that her sister was finally afraid of something and took every opportunity she could to mention Ewoks. It was a rare opportunity to torment her little sister that doesn't often present itself.

Eventually, Odessa did get over her fear of Ewoks and both girls enjoyed the hike, marveling at the trees. Some trees had hollows so big they were more like caves than play places.

My girls and I playing in a redwood tree.

We continued south along the parkway. There were several meadows along the road with signs that indicated elk frequent them. We lamented to each other that maybe were were too late in the year and they had moved on (much like the elk that winter near Jewell, Oregon).

Enjoying the drive through the trees, we happened upon one last meadow where a small group of cars had pulled over and people stood alongside the road with cameras in hand. Out in the tall grass, just barely visible in the waning sun, was one lonely bull elk. We pulled over and joined in on the photo opportunity.

The elk was not standing in the greatest of places. The sun was setting behind him, but an opportunity to see such a glorious animal out in the wild should not be missed. We stood there snapping pictures, hoping maybe a few would turn out okay as we was slowly making his way across the meadow.

Suddenly, behind me, I heard what sounded like a tree falling in the forest. I looked back, expecting to see a log tumbling down the hillside, but saw nothing so I returned to the scene before me. That is when my husband called out to me "Honey, look behind you!"

There he was, yet another impressive elk on the other side of the road, having just emerged from the forest. He stood there majestic, with almost no fear of the humans taking his portrait. He made his way across the road, jumped two fences, and joined his comrade out in the tall grass. It turned out we got out elk show after all.

Losing the light, we returned to Highway 101 and turned north for the first time during our trip. Mill Creek Campground, deep in the redwood forest, became our home for the night.

We enjoyed a classic camp dinner of beef stew, followed by a dessert of s'mores next to a roaring campfire. Instead of horror stories, we regaled the girls with tales of Darth Vader, the evil Emperor Palpatine, and the Skywalker kids who defeated them with the help of the Ewoks. (Parts of the story embellished for maximum effect.)

The next morning I was awoken by a very excited Odessa.

"Mommy, I saw one. It smiled at me!!" she exclaimed.

"Saw what?" I replied, groggy before my first cup of coffee.

"An Ewok!! It smiled at me through the window. They sure are friendly."

This was the final morning of our mini vacation and time was passing too quickly. After our morning coffee and breaking down camp, it was time to head towards home. Our route would take up back through Crescent City and onto Highway 199, also known as the Redwood Highway.

The temperature climbed steadily as we left the ocean air of the redwoods and headed inland. As the road traveled next to the Smith River, there were many places to get out of our vehicle and enjoy the river. A quick stop in just one such place found us dipping our feet in the water and enjoying the change in scenery.

We were surrounded by a different type of redwood trees here, madronas. These trees actually shed their bark, showing the bright red wood beneath and are one of my favorites.

Crossing back into Oregon, it felt good to be back "home". Yes, we still had many miles to travel, but California always seems like such a foreign land to me. Seeing the "Welcome to Oregon" sign warmed my heart, as there is no other place in the world I would want to live!!

Plan Your Own Visit:

Redwood Coast Driving Tours

Redwood National and State Parks Campgrounds

Oregon/California Redwood Highway


  1. She is so cute!
    I love that photo of everyone in the tree. Makes me smile like I can't explain. The elk jumping the fence makes me happy, too.
    I have an elk story, actually. I was only 4 but I remember this as clear as day. My family and I were camping in the Grand Tetons. My mom was taking photos with a group of ladies of some elk who had just come down out of the mountains and my dad had run into the ranger station to buy a fishing license. I staying the truck and was happily eating out of a huge green colander of fresh strawberries. I spotted my first elk with a gloriously huge rack just as my dad was coming out of the station and checking the details on his license. Excitedly, I started beeping the horn on the truck to get his attention so he could see it, too. Unfortunately, though, this also garnered the attention of the elk who blamed my dad for the shocking noise and chased him all the way back to the truck. I will never live this down. Haha!

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