October 31, 2006
I’m up and riding out of Rio Dell at dawn. There’s a brief, quiet pass through Scotia, a small community living off of a huge lumber mill. The small town fades into the woods. I ride amid fog and early morning clouds that appear to be dissipating.
Turning off of Route 101, I enter The Avenue of the Giants – a scenic road through the most fantastic stretch of Redwoods in Northern California. This is pure, silent, huge forest. What light there is has very little chance of reaching me far below the canopy of giant trees. There are few tourists on this autumn Tuesday, and I have the whole road to myself. It makes for excellent riding. The Adventure Cycling Association describes it like this:
Cycling into a dense grove of redwoods is comparable to entering a hushed, natural cathedral. A bird’s song dies somewhere in the acoustical sponge of bark between the canopy a hundred feet above and the forest floor. The occasional shaft of sunlight is strained to reach the ferns and mosses of the forest floor. Such a place demands one’s attention and quiet.
Sounds about right to me.
I enter the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Rockefeller Forest, described as “one of the largest remaining tracts of contiguous uncut redwoods.” There’s the occasional bench and roadside memorial plaque dedicated to folks who I suppose fought for protection of the forest, along with quotes from notable Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and John Steinbeck.
To the west there’s a 70-mile loop road through what is called The Lost Coast – isolated, mature forest – with practically no civilization. I didn’t take this alternate because it’s ridden with potholes and ridiculously hilly – with something like 8,500 feet of elevation gain – but I follow the south end ten miles in just to get a taste for it, and turn around and go back. It ends up being mostly a waste of time, since I’m finding similar isolation on the main Avenue of the Giants.
In Weott they have a tree that you can drive a car through, on a road that’s about as wide as a driveway. It’s mostly dead and hollowed out, but still pretty neat. I rather preferred the trees I saw with more life to them, where at the base I could step into a narrow, cave-like archway – literally inside a healthy redwood – with soft brown needles under my feet.
Eventually the tallest shady Redwoods give way to bright variety of trees, dropping leaves on what’s become a crisp blue fall day, providing a most excellent contrast. I resurface along the Eel River into scattered open sunlight. The vivid, constantly flowing colors make this stretch about as good as it gets.
Late afternoon finds me riding into Garberville, which strikes me as a surreal little place today – the main street is over run with an astounding ratio of bums and hippies. What’s going here? A sandal-sarong-knitted-carpet-shirt fashion show? A ‘How many marijuana joints can you conceal in your dreadlocks’ competition? Nearby Rainbow Gathering?
Later I’d hear from somebody who heard from somebody that San Francisco had rented buses and shipped a portion of its vagrant tramp population to Garberville. Could this possibly be true? Urban deportation? That tale strikes me as a little odd… I’m sure most of these folks speak English as a first language… and are legal U.S. citizens…
I locate the local library, and it’s closed, of course. I’m referred to a café that apparently ‘serves a killer cup of organic coffee.’ The computers there aren’t very good, so I don’t accomplish anything except for getting a little caffeinated.
Leaving the café, Halloween trick or treat is in full swing, with folks in costume up and down the street, intermingled with the genuine hippie gypsies. I’m tempted to stay for the night and absorb this strange atmosphere, but there’s remaining daylight on this pristine evening, so I move along.
The remaining riding is serene and laid back through standard forest and river valley. An interesting note is passing by a specialty Bigfoot store, but it’s closed. I imagine the contents and owner/operator being just like the guy from Harry and the Hendersons.
At dusk I reach Richardson Grove State Park, where I pitch my tent at the base of some huge redwoods. After dark I cook up some Beef Ramen with Vienna Sausages in this mostly vacant, out of season campground. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.