Spring break 2013, the story of a close group of friends and their adventures in the Redwood National Park…
March 22nd, 10 A.M. Time of departure is upon us. Graham is at the wheel and Slug is standing guard in “shotgun.” The middle seat of the minivan that we like to call “Ol’ Bessie” was taken out to make space for the luggage, so Bruce, Jon and I climb over the mountain of miscellaneous items into the backseat. One stop at 7-11 for a cheap breakfast fix and we are on the way to Redwood National Park to live amongst the giants for four days.
Like I said, giants:
We arrive Friday afternoon at the ranger station in “BEAUTFUL Crescent City” (this reference is an inside joke that was developed during our time in/around “beautiful” Crescent City) to get our camping and fire permits. Ranger Mike helps us make an itinerary. Here is how it pans out: 40 miles, four days. Yippee! Friday night we camp at Craig’s Beach, a campground on the Smith River consisting of a mere two campsites. After we set up camp about twenty feet from the aqua-green colored river it is time to make a fire. Bruce is the engineer of the flame while the others gather wood. As the flames rip and roar the big dipper lingers above the tree line. We spend the night drinking Keystone Light, roasting brawts, sharing stories and fostering our friendships around the flame.
I wake up Saturday morning to find my face literally two inches from Jon’s. Because we have 8 adventurers (Bruce, Graham, Jon, Slug, KJ, Michael J., Michael Park and myself) and only seven sleeping spots (3 two-person tents and 1 one-person tent) Bruce, Jon and I all squeeze into Bruce’s tent. The result; four nights in close quarters. Good thing we aren’t strangers.
From the left, Bruce, Jon and I.
Anyhow, we wake up and make the 5-mile trek through the beach, creek and switchbacks that lead us to DeMartin, the campground that we call home for the second night. After a grueling uphill climb we are all happy to reach our destination.
Awesome defined by a camper; when there is no one else at the campground and in turn the camper has free reign on which site to choose. Awesome achieved. Spent the afternoon climbing the trees in the nearby grove and playing catch with the Frisbee. We played like little kids on this afternoon.
Saturday night was spent the same way as Friday night, except we ran out of beer and instead took the edge off with a bit of Burnett’s Vodka. Thanks and no thanks, Michael Park.
Woke up Sunday feeling rested (we set up tent on a flat surface instead of a slant as we did on Friday) and ready to conquer our first big hike. We each scarfed our individual servings of oatmeal and shoved off. Today we walk 12 miles on the gorgeous coastal trail. Destination is Nickel Creek campground. One foot after the other my friends.
Twelve miles Ranger Mike! ? Did you not get the notion that the majority of us are out of shape college students who work out via intramurals, who don’t own hiking boots and who didn’t bring the proper apparel to protect us from the chafing that occurs on the inner thighs after hiking 12 miles up, down, over and around this massive forest? Apparently not.
Upon arriving at the campground we immediately shed pack and get horizontal. The campground at Nickel Creek is 200 yards from the beach and the creek that feeds into the ocean runs right past our site. Tonight, Nickel Creek is inhabited by a rowdy group of fifteen college students from Central Wyoming Community College, all of whom are outdoor education majors. In turn, there is only one site left; right next the outhouse. It seems as if they have chosen wisely. Fires billowed smoke, the ukulele rang song and the voices lingered throughout the night. They wanted us to join the party, but we knew that come sunrise we have another tough hike. Tonight we are in bed an hour or so after the sun disappears beyond the horizon.
On Sunday morning we are huddled around the map trying to figure out which route we want to take from Nickel Creek to Little Bald Hills. Ranger Mike told us to stay away from one trail but nobody really knows why… and it makes the hike a bit shorter. Oh, the options. After some debate we decide to listen to Ranger Mike, who hasn’t led us astray thus far- but there is still a debate; should we walk the trail or walk through BEAUTIFUL Crescent City for the first half of the hike? We decide that walking on cement for the first eights miles could freshen things up a bit. Out of the bush and onto the pavement we go. All the while a massive blister is birthing on the underside Michael Johnson’s right foot.
Before we leave Nickel Creek and depart on the 16- miler, a stretch is deemed necessary.
The last half of the hike is much harder, but after a thirty-minute lunch break consisting of PB & J’s and summer sausage sandwiches with pepper jack cheese we are feeling properly prepped to conquer the monster that ends with a 3.5-mile hike in which we ascend 2,000 feet. We rest at the base of the final 3.5-mile stretch to catch our breath and mentally prepare for what is ahead. Bruce, Jon, Slug and I take off but before we know it Slug and I are panting and Bruce and Jon have disappeared around the bend.
Slug and I are sweating like dogs as we make the ascent- don’t look ahead, just stare at the ground and follow your feet, this is our recipe for success. After hiking for what feels like forever we hear a cry of celebration up ahead- it must be Jon and Bruce, we are close!! Finally we have made it. Little Bald Hills is a beautiful campground, situated on an open, rectangular field. If the trees were hair, and the open field was the scalp of a ginormous giant, this would literally be a little bald hill. There is a father and daughter camping at a site about 100 yards away, on the other side of the field. To do list: set up camp, purify water at the creek, make fire and eat what is left of our food. I never knew that dehydrated food is actually quite scrumptious.
The last hike! We leave Little Bald Hills in the morning feeling extra motivated as we are on the home stretch. The remaining six miles is all flat/downhill. Easy peasy, plus, we are high in elevation and have a great view of the forest and the Smith River that runs through it. A perfect home stretch indeed.
Graham, Slug, Jon, Bruce, Michael Park and myself reach the highway ahead of the others (remember that MJ has a meteoric blister) and Graham heads up the road about a mile to where he parked his car. Mission accomplished. A meal of large proportions is in order.
Once back in Crescent City we are on a search for something wholesome and tasty, so naturally we land on Pizza Hut. While Jon, Graham, Slug, Bruce and I split three large pizzas MJ, Michael and KJ head to McDonalds to get a juicy Big Mac, or two. We each had seven pieces.
Some people like go on lavish cruises and spend their money on expensive alcohol during the Spring Break of their senior year. It is kind of the thing to do these days I suppose. Sounds fun, but we decided to go off the grid, embrace the outdoors and drink cheap. This is exactly what we all wanted out of our breaks and we did it with the perfect group of guys.
I encourage all to get outside and dive into the beauty of the great outdoors, and if you can, do it with your friends. I promise you won’t regret it.
Grand total of the trip; ninety-four dollars.
(Slug, MJ, Michael Park, Bruce, myself, Graham, Jon, KJ)
Photos courtesy of KJ Neish.