Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Avenue of the Giants and Shelter Cove, Humbolt County, California

Today we set out to experience more redwoods by exploring the Avenue of the Giants scenic drive. Driving south on Hwy 101, we started on the Avenue of the Giants south of the town of Scotia. This drive is a 31 mile alternate portion of the original Hwy 101 which parallels the new highway. This drive takes you through beautiful redwood forests providing great accessibility without having to do any hiking. There are many pullout locations that provide information plaques and very short easy walks into the forest. One such place is the Founders Grove Nature trail. This is a nice level and easy accessible half mile interpreted trail that can be enjoyed by all. The trail not only provides views of giant redwood trees, but also winds around several fallen trees so you get an up close perspective on how really large the trees are and how large their roots need to be. It should be noted that you don't have to drive the entire route because entrances and exits to/from Hwy 101 are provided at several places. In this area, we noticed that the redwoods were mostly single trunked trees ,whereas the trees in the more northern Redwoods National and State Parks had multiple trees growing together. Also in this area, these giant trees had branches that cover the length of the trunk making the forest more dense so you aren't able to see as far into the forest like in the northern parks. This area is further inland so maybe this plays a role in the differences of these forests. In general, we liked the variety of the forest in the northern parks and found the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway more spectacular and offered more hiking for all skill levels than the Avenue of the Giants. But if you are coming only as far north as the Avenue of the Giants area, then definitely take the drive.

We continued the Avenue of the Giants south until it ended back at Hwy 101 just a little south Phillipsville. A quick drive south on Hwy 101 and we took the Briceland-Thorne road heading west to the coastal town of Shelter Cove. This is a small windy and very steep at times road, so the 23 mile length will take you 40 plus minutes. If you like this kind of a driving challenge then this is the route for you. Driving this road in a car or truck was fine, but I personally would not want to negotiate the curves and hills with an RV, however there is an RV park at Shelter Cove, so obviously other people don't seem to mind. The town of Shelter Cove sits on a ledge that extends out into the Pacific Ocean so there are great views everywhere. Shelter Cove is made of a smattering of houses of no real interest with no restaurants to speak of and no town center or old main street. This was disappointing for we were hoping for that quaint little coastal town. The "town" does have the Point Gorda Lighthouse which was somewhat interesting to visit and is open during the summer season. Just past the lighthouse on the rocky beach below, we found many seals and Double-crested Cormorants (large sea birds) sunning themselves on the rocks. This and the spectacular ocean views redeemed our visit to Shelter Cove. Before we left, we drove to and hiked down to Black Sand Beach. As the name indicates, the sand on the beach is actually made up of small polished black pebbles. This made walking somewhat of a challenge but was great to see and experience. This is the only beach in the area for most of the coastline is very rugged and rocky.

In sum, would we visit Eureka again? No. We'd drive through and stop of the Samoa Cookhouse (see yesterday's post) for a meal, but then continue to another destination.

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