I knew about the fog but I didn’t really KNOW about the fog. Being an English person I pride myself and my nation on our national past time of talking about the weather. In England the weather is generally damp and Heathrow grey with a splattering of sunshine at odd times of the year that excites the nation into a skin baring frenzy. Occasionally we have fog too, but nothing beats the fog I witnessed over the 4 days spent at Harris Beach State Park. You always knew it was on it’s way even when the sky was a bold and cloudless blue.
And when it came it was just splendid, rearranging the view before your eyes, erasing some of the green rocky islands and creating a blinding whiteness and movement in the sky that was just dazzling, swirling around the handful of people brave enough to be in the water and making the crashing waves rising up the beach appear to be coming out of the void.
And then 20 minutes later the huge rocks jutting out the misty landscape start to re-appear again sometimes slowly and sometimes fast. These small islands are home of all sorts of life including harbor seals who hang out on the rocks placing bets on how long it will take the fog to hurry away to the next beach. There are other beachs too, drive about 4 miles up the road there are some really deserted beaches full of driftwood where you can roam to your hearts desire jumping from one beach to the next.
Harris Beach View
The campground here is great too. We just about squeezed in with a booking on July 4th so it was max’ed out, but the sites were all roomy with hot showers and even an iceman delivering ice each evening. There are also lots of trails, albeit short to keep you entertained and the hard packed sand on the beach proved a great running track.
The Oregon coast is a place that I shall come back too as I know I have just tasted a little of the wildness that is on offer and no doubt coming back at different times of the year would bring an altogether different experience.
How to Get There
2 miles north of Brookings of highway 101
Where to Stay
You can’t beat Harris Beach Campground
The Avenue of the Giants off Highway 101 in Humboldt State Park is a ride not to miss if you can. These tall, gnarly trees look beautiful from every angle whether standing or lying on the forest floor, roots on display to the world in a fantastic twisty show of earth, ferns and organic matter. The road trails through the most stunning forest of redwoods you are ever likely to see along the side of the Eel River. You will see open alluvial plains and meadows but it still a road so there is the hum of traffic .
Rockefeller Forest is the largest remaining old growth redwood forest in the world which is less than 17,000 acres with one of my top runs of my trip along the Bull Creek Flats South trail straight from the Albee Campground about a 11 mile round trip through a mesmerizing landscape of chunky trees that will hopefully outlive all of us. The bumpy, narrow Mattole Road leading to the campground follows the flat through five miles of old growth and is one of the world’s best redwood drives. The largest trees in the park are found here; of the world’s ten tallest trees, three are on Bull Creek Flats, although their exact location is a secret.
Not only so you get to see some of the tallest in the world but you are also very close to the “Lost Coast”.
The Lost Coast was one of few areas along the California coast that the highways people thought they ought to leave alone and not build a road through it, subsequently it is a wild piece of coastline with a few access roads and lots of hiking trials. The most famous is the Lost Coast Coastal Trail which is about 64 miles with camping and water along the way. Unfortunately the amount of wild fires in the area made this a less than desirable hike for us! You don’t have to hike all of this and can break it down into smaller hikes of course. There are also mountain biking trails which are due to be ready by autumn 2008 too.
How to get there
This is 45 miles south of Eureka and 20 miles north of Garberville off of Highway 101.
Where to Stay
We loved No.33 in Albee Campground. This campground is much more remote than the others in the park and has tonnes of trails straight from the campground. This site looks out across a meadow which has a little apple orchard in it – a favourite of the local black bears in late season.
The senses are confused. The day is very warm and the sky is overcast with a storm coming through. You start driving down the road and the land is shimmering white.
But it is not just the whiteness that throws you, it is the texture and the way the sand sits on the sides of the road. It looks like snow but a quick wind down of the windows and you know you are not in the snows of Canada. You are in the largest Gypsum sand dunes in the world in the Tularosa basin in New Mexico. With the winds blowing we had the joy of being on the dunes with not a soul around and new sculptures forming under our feet. The winds were blowing all evidence of human activity off the pristine skin of the dune. The parking area which has lots of neatly arranged shelters in the middle of the dunes looked very apocalyptic with the just the sand blowing hard in a deserted landscape that used to have humans roaming the land. No, it is not that I have an over active imagination this area is right beside the White Sands Missile Range, home of the Trinity Site which on July 16, 1945 tested the first atomic bomb. In fact you can even visit the site on bi-annual open days if you really feel the need.
White Sands Detail
The sands are majestic and looked different each day we visited. There are plants and animals that adapt to living here with some of the bushes clinging on for dear life and the sands continually move beneath their roots.
Nearby is the town of Alamogordo which does have the New Mexico Museum of Space History where you can delight in the marvels of man in space but if that doesn’t take your fancy then you can go burn some Harry Potter books which is also a favourite pasttime of Chirst Community Church. Go see the White Sands and then move swiftly on…
How to get there
U.S. Highway 70, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Alamogordo and 52 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Alamogordo Roadrunner Campground which was friendly but the usual RV Ghetto setup which after travelling for a year send shivers down my spine.
Trees hold a supernatural quality for me and the sequoia’s did nothing for my childish daydreams of magic forests carpeted in ferns and inhabited by goblins. In the case of the sequoia’s the goblins do not have to be very small as some of the trees are as big as my old flat in England (but that’s not saying much). This is really two national parks joined together by some national forest so sometimes it gets confusing as to what area you are in. This park hosts Mt. Whitney which at14,496.811 feet is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states however, you cannot really see the mountain from the entrance to the park on the west side. You can see it and access it from 0.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine which has the great Diaz Lake Campground with about 200 sites including space for large RV’s down by the riverside. It’s cheap at $10 a night and looks out at the eastside of the NP. However, we were more interested in camping in the park and discovered that getting to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP by vehicle was a little tricky as there are no roads running though the park. If you are in the east side of the mountains then you have to drive around the park to get into the westerly entrance. But getting there is worth it to see what little remains of these majestic groves of Sequoia trees and access to Kings Canyon.
The largest tree (in terms of volume) in the world is General Sherman which is located in this park and is a site to behold, but it is hard to really get the scale of these giants of the forest as you stand there staring up into the sky at them. I can’t help but feel sadness too that we have hacked down so much of our old growth forests although there is still alot of campaigning with Campaign for Old Growth amongst others.
Due to the relative remoteness of the park it is easy to get away from the few people that are there who are mostly looking at the more famous trees on short hikes or driving through the park.
View into Kings Canyon
A beautiful trail for hiking or running is the Ridge trail, this was one of our top runs as it gently undulates up and down on single track and some forestry road. Another stunning trail which you can get on direct from the Azalea Campground which was our favourite camping spot, is the Sunset Meadow trail but be ready for alot of downhill and then uphill.
How to get there
Nearest airport is Fresno
To enter Sequoia Park: From highways 65 or 99, go east on Highway 198 to the park entrance.
To enter Kings Canyon National Park:From Highway 99, go east on Highway 180 to the park entrance.
The main park road, the Generals Highway, connects these two entrances.