Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day Six: Harris Beach SP (Brookings, OR) to Elk Prairie (near Orick, CA)

After the 105-mile slog on day five we set a more reasonable target for day six: Elk Prairie Campground in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Orick, CA.  This route was “only” about 70 miles so we planned to stop and look around at some of the viewpoints, hiking trails and/or tourist traps.  Somewhere along the way we found a brochure for Trees of Mystery near Klamath, CA.  This seemed like a good place to stop as it was only 20-25 miles from our destination.

Andrew-from-Melbourne joined Vaibhav and I and we set out as a group of three.  Andrew and I settled into a bit of a faster pace, though, and we spent much of the day riding as 2-and-1 and regrouping periodically.  I am proud to report that I won the big State Line sprint into California by using the “ask the other guy a bunch of questions to distract him” tactic.

We sang lots of California-themed songs, most memorably the theme to The OC.  It was especially memorable since none of us knew any of the words other than “Caaaaaliforniaaaaaa!!!”  We knew the melody well enough to make up some of our own verses.

We stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Crescent City, drank horchata and recharged our cell phones.  I like to use the presence/absence of horchata as sort of a litmus test for the authenticity of a Mexican restaurant, although there is probably a regional influence there, too.

There was a pretty good climb out of Crescent City followed by a fun descent.  There was a stop halfway down for road construction, and after the stop I was able to draft some slower-moving cars for most of the way down.

I’ll break with my recent pattern and put the pictures in the *middle* of my narrative today.

2:53pm: after finally recharging my phone at lunch, I was able to resume taking pictures during the ride.  There was a stop for road construction about halfway down the Crescent City descent.  You couldn’t see the ocean because of a thick layer of fog.  It gave you the feeling that you were standing at the edge of the world.

I was able to tuck in behind two slow-moving cars for the second half of the descent.  Rock!


about 3pm: here are some pictures of the beach south of Crescent City, on our way to Klamath.  Andrew from Melbourne snuck in to some of these pictures.  He was riding a green Co-Motion with an internal rear hub, front panniers (but no rear panniers), and a frame that could be taken apart for shipping.  Co-Motion calls this feature “Co-Pilot” but I’ve seen a similar feature on the Ritchey Breakaway frameset.


3:18pm: We took a long touristy stop today to explore some of the Redwoods.  We’d found a brochure somewhere for “Trees of Mystery” in Klamath, and it was exactly what one would expect.  They have a giant Paul Bunyan statue that talks to visitors, especially the kids who repeatedly tell the statue that he is just a statue and ask where the person is hiding.  They also have a giant Babe the Big Blue Ox, complete with certain anatomical features that got a lot of attention from the tourists.

Paul is over 50 ft tall – note the kid standing next to him – and Babe must have been at least 35-40 feet tall.


3:39pm: after paying your $14 to enter the park, one of the first sights you see is this “family tree,” which is allegedly 12 different trees growing off of the branches of a single parent tree.  They say it is the largest such tree in the world.  I’m not sure where one draws the line between being a branch versus being a separate tree.  Do they DNA test the child trees?  Some of this is explained on wikipedia: the trees can reproduce asexually, with multiple new trees springing forth from the fallen branch of an old tree.

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3:46pm: a random look upward in the Redwood forest


3:49pm: the Trees of Mystery people call this their Cathedral Tree and they encourage people to get married there.  Markers in the park implied that at least twenty couples have done so.  The wikipedia article on Sequoias also describes this phenomenon:

Coast Redwoods can also reproduce asexually by layering or sprouting from the root crown, stump, or even fallen branches; if a tree falls over, it will regenerate a row of new trees along the trunk. This is the reason for many trees naturally growing in a straight line. Sprouts originate from dormant or adventitious buds at or under the surface of the bark. The dormant sprouts are stimulated when the main adult stem gets damaged or starts to die. Many sprouts spontaneously erupt and develop around the circumference of the tree trunk. Within a short period after sprouting, each sprout will develop its own root system, with the dominant sprouts forming a ring of trees around the parent root crown or stump. This ring of trees is called a "fairy ring".

We saw similar patterns in other areas outside of Trees of Mystery.


4:10pm: One of the main attractions at Trees of Mystery was their cable car which gives you a birds-eye view of the forest.  Here are some pictures from on the cable car, or from the viewpoint at the top of the route.  You can then either take the cable car back down or can hike down if you “are in good physical condition and have appropriate shoes.”  We had the physical conditioning but cycling shoes aren’t “appropriate.”


4:32pm: The last part of the walking trail takes you through their “hall of tall tales,” or something like that.  They had a bunch of chainsaw carvings, some of which depicted famous characters from American folklore whereas others just seemed a bit arbitrary.  I had to take these pictures of the squirrel for my sister.


5:10pm: The bridge over the Klamath River had these awesome Golden Bears protecting it.  The next two pictures are views of the river from the bridge.


6pm: after Klamath we had another climb and descent on the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway.  This one took us through a bunch of redwoods and it was absolutely fantastic.  We tried to take some pictures while riding the descent.  The scenery and the mood in the forest were amazing.


6:20pm: Near the end of our ride we came upon a landmark that I really wanted to check out.  All of our maps mentioned “Big Tree Walk” and it sounded like a 0.1-mile walk to what must have been a very large tree.  We weren’t disappointed.  There was in fact a very large tree at the end of the walk.  It is hard to capture just how huge this tree was in a photograph. 

Apparently this tree is known as “Big Tree.”  Californians are very creative when it comes to naming things.  We later saw lots of other big this-and-that during the remainder of the trip.

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6:15pm: This interesting-looking tree was growing along the aforementioned 0.1-mile trail to Big Tree.  We couldn’t help taking a picture.  While on the return trip, we passed an older gentleman who had also stopped to photograph this tree.  “Rather remarkable, isn’t it?” he said.  Did he see what we’re seeing?  I think so…


Shortly after Big Tree Walk, the three of us rolled into Elk Prairie Campground.  Andrew and I were feeling a bit more energetic than Vaibhav, so we decided that the two of us would ride into Orick to get dinner while Vaibhav got a fire going.

We arrived in Orick and saw a cafe, a biker bar, a Mexican restaurant and a general store.  We also saw an old theatre that was advertising Cowgirl Mud Wrestling.  Sadly that event didn’t seem to be happening that night. 


We decided to hit the store first, to ensure we’d get our breakfast food & snacks before they closed and so that our Mexican take-out would stay warm.  But when we finished up there, we found that the Mexican resturant had closed while we were buying groceries.  Fail!

We looked across the street and saw the cafe and the biker bar.  The cafe still had their “open” sign lit up … until we crossed the street!  Fail again!

So this left us with two options:

  1. Go back to the grocery store and buy more Dinner Food
  2. Try our luck at the biker bar, Hawg Wild

Here is a picture that we took the next morning.  it doesn’t look quite as intimidating here as I remember, probably because there aren’t two dudes in biker outfits hanging out in front.


We decided to live dangerously and try our luck at Hawg Wild.  In our cycling clothes.

We shuffled in and were pleasantly surprised to find a rather gourmet menu, including elk, bison, boar and local/sustainable beef … plus some gourmet-sounding pizzas.  But the owner warned us that his help didn’t show up for work that day and he was running the place solo, and therefore food would be very slow.  We thought this over for a bit and then decided that the responsible thing would be to head back to the store and back to camp before it got too much later.

I figured it would be polite to thank the guy before heading out, and to say that we needed to get back before dark.  He said, “wait a minute.  I have these chickens that I smoke and vacuum-seal.  I normally charge six bucks each but I’ll give ‘em to you for five.  They’re good cold but you could also heat ‘em up over the fire.  And I’ll throw in some potato salad, too.”

So in the end we had a pretty solid dinner.  We threw the chickens over the fire while we got cleaned up ($0.50 for a five-minute shower in Elk Prairie) and then sat around the fire and ate up.

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