TRAVEL THERE: JEDEDIAH SMITH REDWOODS STATE PARK
Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This past summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today we’ll dip down into California and visit the Redwood Forest.
Visiting the Redwoods
When most folks think about the Redwood forests, driving a car through a tree trunk comes to mind. That’s not where we were. The Redwood forests wander all over Northern California and there’s a whole series of national and state parks protecting the trees and inviting visitors to enjoy them.
Visiting the Redwoods was not the purpose of our trip. Remember, we were visiting Oregon – but when you’re in Grant’s Pass and you want to get to the beach, you sort of have to go through a corner of California to get there and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is in that corner. I can’t tell you how glad I was. I’d always wanted to see the trees, but when we lived in California, we never got north of San Francisco.
US Route 199 takes you from Grant’s Pass to Highway 101, the famous Coast Highway. You can actually stay on 199 and drive through the park, which I’m sure would allow you to view many beautiful trees, but that’s not what we did. As I clicked through the NPS website, I discovered Howland Hill Road, an unpaved road that provided access to Stout Memorial Grove. I knew immediately, that was my route.
I was a little worried about getting to it though. We planned to enter the park from the backside and my research said I’d want to find the Hiouchi location of the Jedediah Smith Visitor Center to get the latest driving and hiking updates, because some sites suggested Howland Hill Road was one way in the wrong direction during parts of the year. But the Hiouchi location had the illusive address of Highway 199 and nothing more. It also appeared, from the maps, that the Hiouchi Visitor Center was beyond Howland Hill Road. Try as I might, I couldn’t nail down the exact details. It was sort of like trying to find out if the north entrance to Crater Lake would be open.
Luckily, the travel gods were with us that morning and as we neared the park we happened upon a ranger station. It wasn’t the Hiouchi Information Center sponsored by the State of California, but a National Park System station with all the information my heart desired. Howland Road did exit off 199 before the Hiouchi Information Center, but even though it was only one lane, the dirt toad allowed for two way traffic.
Traveling along 199, you are inside Smith River National Recreation Area, surrounded by thick forest. Signs along the way promise hiking trails, boat launches and picnic areas, so you’re already at a remove from every day living. When you turn left onto Howland Hill road, it’s like entering Middle Earth and the Ents are there to greet you.
The ooooh and aaaah factor was through the roof of the car as we drove along the narrow red dirt track. We met a few cars along the way, but for most of our trek, it was just us and God’s creation – and what a creation! We caught ourselves whispering, as if we were in a cathedral, and I guess we were – but not one built by man; one God Himself erected.
While still getting acclimated to the environment, we spotted a sign for the Stout Memorial Grove parking lot. I could try to explain the wonder we felt as we roamed afoot among the ancient giants, but words would fall short of the hush and the glory. Instead, I’ll just share some more of Bill’s marvelous photographs. Among the trees we found a man photographing with the same kind of camera Ansel Adams used. All Bill had was our Nikon D-3100, but he did a pretty good job, didn’t he?
Oh – and you SHOULD go see the Redwood forests, if you hadn’t already caught that drift.
After the Stout Memorial Grove, we continued on Howland Road to the edge of the park and reality slapped us in the face – a run down area of light industrial and retail buildings that didn’t even qualify as a commercial development. We found a Taco Bell and headed north to the Beaches. I can’t wait to tell you about those, but you’ll have to wait until next week to read about them.