Departing Oregon for California, we passed through Pistol River on the 101, where fog funnels up coastal coves and cliffs, whilst the only two radio stations we could find were both bible bashing, one with a strange Australian 12th Man accent. One thing Australia and the UK lack and the US has in abundance is drive-thru coffee stalls. This morning we found the best one yet, if not only for it’s name – ‘Dutch Bros Coffee’. Well you ain’t much if you ain’t Dutch (Matt’s half Dutch and we have some really good Dutch mates too).
Crossing the California border it wasn’t long until we hit majestic Redwood country. Stopping in at the Hiouchi Visitors Center for the low down, we were advised by the extremely helpful girl behind the counter that all of the Redwood State Parks and National Park are actually free to enter, and the National Park has been logged so badly over the years that there aren’t many pockets of virgin Redwood old growth forests left. She then gave us a quick last minute tip that tomorrow there was a free kayaking tour in Jedediah Smith State Park. Tight arse alert! The sun was low and time was against us but we put pedal to the metal, arriving just before they closed and hey presto, two spots left. The tours are run every Saturday and Sunday through summer and book up fast.
Not being allowed to park and sleep in the State Park we were guided to the State Recreational area just outside which allows free camping, and found our way to Craig’s Creek carpark. This place was magic, right on the river, toilet at hand and surrounded by blackberry bushes that made for a delicious addition to breakfast. If staying out this way take heed as you’re in bear country.
Next morning we got suited and booted the kayaker’s way, and jumped on the bus with our guide and group to the launch spot. Taking in the peaceful surroundings whilst paddling down the calm water of the Smith River, the last free flowing river in California, we were not bothered much by the handful of small rapids encountered, though another couple did manage to tackle one backwards (unintentionally). Pulling up to a massive boulder in the middle of the river, the group lazed about eating lunch for an hour or so. The guide, a passionate person, informed us that this 3-4 meter high boulder is engulfed in water during the high water season. Unable to resist the urge, and behind the back of the guide, we soon leapt off into the mild waters below for a proper soaking.
Floating to the final mooring on the banks of the river, the guides lead us through the forest walk of Stout Grove, into a landscape before time. The Redwoods are some of the oldest living things on the planet, and can live for over 1,500 years. Did you know that Redwoods have the ability to clone themselves in the event of injury, thus making it near on impossible to date the actual strain of DNA of an individual plant? The trees living today could theoretically be clones of trees that were alive over 100,000 years ago. Wrap your head around that! This short hike is spectacular and lets you get up close and personal with the humbling giants. When the Redwood forests were first discovered, the logging industry didn’t have the means to fell them as the trees were just too damn big. Eventually the industry caught up and devastation began.
We walked away thankful that generations past had the sense to protect the remaining 5% of these ancient sentinels before they disappeared forever. Giving thanks and saying our goodbyes to the group, we climbed aboard Porkchop and took a drive down the narrow gravel Howland Hill Road, which takes you through a section of forest with trees so big you feel like you’re on the planet Endor.
Emerging from this surreal drive, we hit the road to Eureka (also the name of Australia’s only ‘civil war’) and the Lost Coast Brewery, being left speechless when at 165m above sea level we breached the fog that had surrounded us and were served the most jaw dropping views of the coast ,rising from an endless sea of fog that stretched into the distant horizon, making you feel as though you were standing on the edge of the earth. A moment that we’ll never forget.
Parking up in the brewery’s back lot we took the time to catch up on the blog and to (obviously) taste some of the beers. These guys have got a pretty good selection, including the fruity Tangerine Wheat and Raspberry Brown ales, which we followed up with the refreshing Alleycat Amber Ale. Next morning we awoke to the eerie mist that regularly swallows this coast line, hence the name The Lost Coast.