Back in February, Colby surprised us with a hotel reservation in Northern California, with plans to visit the giant Redwoods in Northern California. I was so impressed with him planning this trip and was looking forward to a weekend away. I however wasn't super excited to have a long road trip with two littles, but in the end, the kids did great!
We headed out Saturday morning, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, and drove up the 101 for a while, stopping once for a bathroom break and to stretch our legs. Even the rest stop was pretty. Hudson and Hallie enjoyed climbing the rocks and exploring here. Little did they know, this rest stop was not actually our destination! Ha! We arrived at the Avenue of the Giants visitors center at 4:55, and they closed at 5. It gave us just enough time to get tips from a volunteer on 3 possible hike to see some great things and get the wiggles out. We opted out of the nature trail at the center, and went up to do two circle loops. The first took us in Founders' Grove and past the Dryerville Giant, the worlds previous tallest tree, which is now fallen and on the ground. This turned out to be a favorite, as Hudson, much to my disapproval, got on top of the tree at a low spot, then ran the length of it down to the giant roots. Colby ran after him, and reported that he would've been comfortable driving a 4-wheeler on it, it was so big. Seeing them up there really put the monstrous size of this tree into perspective. Hudson had no fear and was constantly climbing up fallen root balls or trees, only scared when we would tell him to jump out 6 inches into Colby's arms. Apparently he didn't realize trapezing across fallen trees was more dangerous.
We headed next to the Rockefeller forrest just across the way and did about a mile loop there. We diverted off the trail and down to the river where were spent some time trowing rocks. Hudson and Hallie LOVED it, and definitely left kicking and screaming because they wanted more. It was so serene and quiet, with only the noise of splashing and clanking rocks, and the quiet rush of the river. The sun was close to setting, but in the trees it felt like dusk. it was a remarkable setting. We finished the loop and couldn't quit talking about how tall the trees were and how surprised we were by the loads of ferns covering the ground. We read that part of star wars was filmed here, the scene with the wookies, and it made complete sense. We got to the car around 7:30, fed the kids sandwiches and headed up the road to our Hotel, still just over an hour away. After a stop at Walmart for twizzlers and shower supplies (I forgot mine!) we checked into our hotel and got the kids in bed. Hudson had napped and Hallie hadn't (why this is how it always happens in the car is beyond me!), but with a 9 pm bedtime, they both went down pretty easily. Colby ran across the street to Carl's Jr. and we laughed as we tucked away into the tiny bathroom to eat our gourmet dinner at 10pm.
The next day we grabbed a hotel breakfast and headed up the road 30 minutes to the Redwood National Forest. We stopped for tip at the visitors center, grabbed sandwiched for Colby and I at a small town convenience shop/deli, then headed off to adventure. Out first trail was the Lady Bird loop trail, 1.5 miles. We planned to put Hallie in the jogging stroller, but she was determined to walk, and we couldn't fight her hard enough to keep her in the stroller. 100 feet in, we turned back and switched out the stroller for our Ergo carrier, just in case. We stopped on the backside of the loop for a small picnic lunch on a bench looking out into what seemed to be an endless forest of ferns and redwoods. We could hear birds chirping and saw an occasional hiker pass-by. We continued on our way, convincing Hallie to be carried, which proved later to be an excellent decision as she fell asleep for her first nap of the trip. Hudson had some drama, as Colby misunderstood my request and threw Hudson's walking stick into the trees. I had told Colby to watch Hudson so he wouldn't slip as I was focused on Hallie, and he thought I said take Hudson's stick as he just hit Hallie. Hudson was being so good, and the toss of his "perfect" walking stick did him in. We spent the next while searching for a good replacement stick, and a passerby finally handed him the perfect one. Crisis ceased. Phew. Hiking with Toddlers. Well hudson was now borderline awnery, and continued with his clever string of reasons he needed to be carried. He was "dizzy" and had a "sore through that we couldn't see because it was way down in his tummy" and lastly, "very very tired feet." Colby caved and carried Hudson and Hudson promised to carry us when we were tired.
With tired feet and tired kids, we opted to skip fern canyon and drive a scenic stretch of road up toward the Klamuth river and coastline. We stopped for a .1 mile walk to "Big Tree" and while it was massive, it didn't compare to the large trees we've seen by us. We are realizing the redwood forest is known for tall trees, and its easier to see size with width over height, and we have really wide trees down in the bay area. Anyway, it was still fun to see. Hudson fell asleep on our drive...Hallie did not, so we took turns getting out at the Bluff overlook. As colby said, we took our redwood journey all the way to the coast. Dude rocks dotted the shoreline up against the cliff and rolling hills down to the shore. I never tire of seeing coastline and the variety of it. This one was a favorite.
When in the redwoods, everyone need to have a trip to a drive-thru tree. It's the iconic part of the journey there. We paid our $5 and drove to the Klamuth Drive-thru tree. We got our money's worth driving through twice, once for a family photo (one I will treasure for years), and once to take a video of the drive through. it was about a ten minute wait each time, so not a big deal. We woke Hudson up for the drive, he looked at the tree, said he saw it and went back to sleep. Uh-oh. Entering the teenage years of not being impressed. Luckily he woke back up and had a blast hanging out the sunroof on the drive through. Our final stop was at the corkscrew tree, then we headed back into Arcata for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The food was good, and we all needed a little break. Hallie was not into eating though, and instead drank a full glass of chocolate milk and attempted to climb over our booth all evening. We were all happy to see our beds that night and slept well.
We got our things ready so we could head out first thing in the morning, back up North 1 hour to hit Fern Canyon. I questioned the plan, but come morning and then definitely upon arrival, new it was a great idea. We arrived just 30 minutes after the state park opened, so didn't have much company with us. Fern canyon is just as it sounds, a steep canyon with a stream running through, covered from top to bottom with several variety's of fern. Hudson as in heaven, as we continuously crossed small plank bridges and trees back and forth across the stream through the canyon. He was brave, wandering ahead on his own when we would stop to gaze, and hardly cautious of the suspended logs to cross. Hudson was obedient, staying out of the water for the first 90% of the journey, but it's like it suddenly clicked that he could PLAY in all this water we were crossing, and while we stopped for Colby to snap a photo of Hallie and me, Hudson walked right into the water, and he was unstoppable. Nome reason for those bridges, he just forged the stream. And he was in heaven. Knowing we were so close to the end and that there were clean clothes and shoes in the car, we let him adventure away. He later told us this was his favorite part. We didn't get back on the road until noon, and were an hour and a half further north than our hotel, but the extra drive time was well worth it for our 2 hours in the canyon. Up there in our list of favorites.
The drive home seemed to drag on, but we made it home by 9, with stops for cherry stand purchases, bathroom breaks and dinner. We concluded our journey with a drive across the San Rafael-Richmond bridge, a bridge we had never been on. It on the North end of the bay and is the second longest bridge over the bay. It was double decker, which was pretty neat, a first for us.
All in all, our weekend was perfect. Camping would have been fun, but a cheap hotel stay was better for us this trip. Colby did great with the planning, and I think I did great in the prep and packing. We had just what we needed, including a last minute digging out of Hudsons old shoes, which were perfect for Hallie. Her ballet flat and sandals just wouldn't have cut it. Another win was packing food for the weekend. Not knowing what amenities would be available to us, we packed all kinds of snack and lunch food: bread, pb and honey, and they really made the trip much easier. No matter when we were, we could stop and make lunch. once discovering there were no food stops where we were during the day, this was a pivotal decision.
While I don't think we will return to the area anytime soon (8 hour drive!) we are so glad we got this California bucket list item check off.