Saturday, January 10, 2015

Winter Camping along N. California Coast with Four-Wheel Camper

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This huge Roosevelt  elk trotted past our camp along the Pacific Ocean in the Redwood National Park's Gold Bluffs campground. We saw hundreds of Roosevelt elk in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park area.
We guessed his rack was three- to-four-feet.
PK and I have lived in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon since the early 1970s. Through the decades, we mostly stuck close to home. Limited funds. Two kids. Two jobs. Two-week vacations. You know the no-thrill drill.

No complaints, though, as we had the Wild and Scenic Rogue River at our disposal and all the weekend rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, we could handle. Now that we're retired, we've started the exotic explorations we've always fantasized about, and in the past two years are fortunate to have visited South Africa, Uganda, and Nepal.

But we haven't forgotten where we live, not just Oregon's Rogue Valley, but the State of Jefferson, a collection of rural counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California where folks don't necessarily cotton to the mostly urban dwellers who govern both states. Hence various attempts to form a separate state have been launched, only to fizzle. Statehood probably won't happen, but in the meantime, residents of this mythical state cherish the flora and fauna that define the region. 
Elk hoof prints are large and distinctive, and
surprising to find on the beach.
PK and I hear the local forecasts on NPR each morning, which include most of the State of Jefferson. Lately, our Rogue Valley forecast has been foggy and cold, while the Northern California coast has been sunny and warm, temps in the high 50s being considered comfy. Let's go there, we said on a recent unacceptable morning during which the sun was not expected to penetrate the low-hanging gloom.  We drove a couple hours to reach our destination, but it's still close enough to call "home." And we were reminded once again why we love where we live.

One of the gold bluffs that give the campground its name. 
PK readies kindling for a campfire at our beach camp in the Redwood National Park.
Our Four-Wheel camper is perfect for such places, where large RVs, or trailers of any type, are not allowed due to the four-mile narrow rutted access road. But what a gift! An oceanfront campsite!
An early January sunset as viewed bundled up in our camp chairs. 
White crowned sparrows hung around awaiting crumbs. They didn't get any.  Multiple messages from national and state parks beg visitors to NOT feed the wildlife anything, even crumbs.
The next morning a minor stream crossing was necessary to reach the Fern Canyon trailhead, one of the Redwood National Park's favorite trails. But the car in the background could have navigated it.
Fern Canyon wasn't up to its usual glory as the bedraggled maidenhairs appeared to have suffered from cold. Or maybe they always die and come back. It's winter! What did we expect?
The redwoods, however,  never fail to inspire awe. We explored several trails winding amidst the ancient giants. 
Sore neck time.
Young redwoods cozy up to a much older tree. In time, their trunks may merge.

On the way home, we meandered along the Redwood Highway to Grants Pass, which follows the Smith River for a time. The Smith's delicate turquoise and breathtakingly clarity thrill me every single time since I first saw the river more than 40 years ago. 
Being alone on the beach is not unusual along coastal areas in the State of Jefferson. We'll be back to take advantage before the hoards descend for the summer tourist season. As daily listeners to weather updates for the N. California coast,  we believe summer visitors may not find summer conditions much different from winter. Year-round, temperatures range from high 40s to lower 60s.
However, we DID get lucky. The annual average January rainfall in this area is 11 inches.



When we first graduated from tent camping to the Four-Wheel Camper, we were old, relatively, in our 60s. We about died of happiness. After decades of erecting our faithful Moss tent in wind and rain, crawling out at night to pee, enduring an occasional rock under a sleeping pad, struggling to read with a headlamp, and waking in the dark with no place to go, our new camper was thrilling.