Post Vaccination Vacation: Mai Tai Tom’s Oregon Trail TaleCHAPTER EIGHT: CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME (WITH SOME PROBLEMS)
Day Nine: Bad Planning, To Tip Or Not To Tip, A Lucky Break, Missed It By That Much, I Got You Babe, Roadside Americana, SkyTrail, Dead Zone, Where Is Everybody?, Oh They’re Here, Land Of Dinosaurs, Trinidad Without Tobago, Eureka We Found It … Again & Back To Our “House.”
Kim had been warned by his cousin to expect long delays just south of Crescent City because of a landslide that had partially closed the road. I don’t know whether it was the Bourbontinis or the euphoria of singing ABBA songs, but we didn’t fully appreciate this warning the night before, even though the situation had all the earmarks of us facing our Waterloo. According to the cousin, we could expect three hour delays.
On our final Oregon coast morning, Tracy and I awoke early, and I decided to gas up before crossing into California at the Union 76 station across the street. Not only did the guy pump our gas, but he also cleaned the windshield. Now, my conundrum. Should I tip? So I asked, and his reply was classic, “We don’t ask for them, but we do accept them.” He got one.
Tracy and I called Kim and Mary to tell them we were leaving at 7:45, and that we’d meet them in line at the construction area. What we didn’t know, thanks to our lack of planning, was that construction would not start until 9 a.m. Kim, believing Crescent City was a lot further down the coast and figured we would be stuck no matter when we arrived there. A year stuck at home must have shrunk all our brains.
To further complicate matters, Tracy and I, still oblivious that time was of the essence drove down the coast to a scenic viewpoint for a couple of photos.
As we approached Crescent City, a sign blinked, “Construction will start at 9 a.m.. Expect long delays.”
“Shoot (not my exact expletive), we still might make it.” I quickly launched the Subaru into warp speed. I swore I heard Tracy yell to me, “Make it so!”
We called Mary, and they were about ten minutes behind us. The problem: they didn’t gas up in Gold Beach early and needed to stop in Crescent City for petrol.
As we passed through Crescent City, the clock was running down. Although the speed limit had become just a suggestion to us, a pick-up passed us at the speed of light, apparently knowing what the consequences of arriving after 9 a.m. held in store. The construction sign loomed ahead, and all we could do was hope.
As we navigated the final turn, our hopes were seemingly dashed. It was 9:02., and ahead we saw an idling pick-up that happened to be first in line. Despair!Then, a minute later, much to our surprise the construction crew waved both the pick-up and our car through the maze of equipment, complete with an escort leading the way. We figured they didn’t have everything quite ready, or perhaps they saw me banging my head against the steering wheel.
In any event, we made it through, and shortly thereafter we arrived at our first “mysterious” stop of the day.
Turning into the parking lot, there stood a big guy with an axe and a blue ox. We knew we had arrived at the Trees Of Mystery. There was no cell service here, so we had no idea if Kim and Mary had been as fortunate as us. We waited for a bit, but when five minutes passed with no cars heading south, we figured the worst (more on our unfortunate traveling companions later).
As we took pictures of the nearly 50-foot tall Paul Bunyan and the anatomically correct, 35-foot tall Babe, occasionally a voice would blast from the big guy regaling passersby with stories about Paul and Babe. The voice occasionally spoke directly to unsuspecting people in the parking lot. The kids nearby were mesmerized.The Paul Bunyan sculpture weighs 30,000 pounds. In the winter of 2007, storms knocked Babe’s head off, but it was repaired in time for the summer season. Although the drizzly weather was a bit annoying, this guy told me to just grin and bear it.Then I met someone who said he would take my dollar and turn it into a penny. He reminded me of my stock broker.But we had stopped here to see some mysterious trees in the Redwoods, so we entered, hoping we might see Kim and Mary shortly.
We first walked through the MaryLee Thompson-Smith Commemorative Garden. On June 7, 1946, Marylee and husband Ray, along with Ray’s parents, purchased Wonderland Park (that became Trees of Mystery).MaryLee Thompson was very much interested in Native American history. These dugout canoes were built out of a split redwood.As many of you know, I’m a nut for squirrels … even fake ones.
The Kingdom of Trees Trail is “dedicated to the mystery and awe” of walking through a Coastal Redwood Forest.The ‘Upside Down Tree’ has two root structures. One tree is horizontal and the other tree is vertical, yet they grow together. I nearly ended up horizontal myself.
Meanwhile, Tracy reminisced with an old boyfriend. I think she was enamored with his big feet.Next up is one of “nature’s mysteries,” a Redwood Burl. It seems no one knows how or why these things grow. Burl Tree snapped during a windstorm about five years ago.The trail continued upward, and it was pleasant to see some greenery after all the drought-stricken spots we had seen in the state.Shortly we came upon an Elephant Tree. Of course, once you see an Elephant Tree, it will be hard not to remember it. An Elephant Tree, as you might expect, has a large trunk.Lo and behold, we also saw the second Octopus Tree of our trip.
Three’s not company on this 3 In 1 Tree.In the distance Tracy spied what she had wanted to do ever since reading about Trees of Mystery … climbing up and walking on The Redwood Canopy Trail.
The Redwood Canopy Trail has eight viewing platforms and nine suspension bridges situated between 50 to 100 feet above the ground.
With my incredible lack of balance, Tracy felt it would be prudent for me to stay on Terra Firma and take a couple of photos of her traversing the canopy. Up she went.
She admitted that navigating the Redwood Canopy Trail, with it sway on every step, was a little unsettling at first.
However, in a matter of minutes she was flitting between trees just like Tarzan, albeit without swinging from a rope. She was able to take some interesting shots along the way as she deftly defied gravity.
Back down on earth, we encountered the Forest Experience Trail.
Along this route are also signs providing interesting facts about the forest.
A site for weddings and Easter services is the aptly named Cathedral Tree. (photo courtesy Trees of Mystery)The Brotherhood Tree is more than 2,000 years old and nearly a football field in height. Thanks to my friend the Internet, here’s what it looks like when not shrouded in thick fog.
Then we hit the Sky Trail Gondola.
This approximately eight minute trip takes you up to Ted’s Ridge. The brochure states, “At Ted’s Ridge you will find a large observation deck offering spectacular views of the Klamath back country to the east and stunning views over Hidden Beach and the Pacific Ocean to the west.” Alas, the fog made any of those views impossible, so Tracy, as she always does, found some colorful flowers to photograph.Back on earth we stopped by the Candelabra Tree. No Liberace music was playing, however.Saving the best for last, we started our stroll through The Trail of Tall Tales, which takes one through about 50 chainsaw sculptures and carvings extolling the exploits of big Paul and his forest buddies.Here is just a sampling leading off with Baby Paul and friends unknown.
It must take a lot of talent to make these carvings.
Couldn’t get out of here without a photo of Super Duper Snuper. Really!
Soon we had a close shave with this sculpture.
We watched out for giant mosquitos, and I think I saw this guy in the bushes on the side of the road driving up.
The “World’s Fastest Waiter” awaited plus a wood sculpture made by a seasoned veteran who was certainly worth his salt.
We finished up with Paul’s Girlfriend, Mama Bear and Flapjack …
… plus a shout out to Tracy.Yes, these trees are old!Finally, adjacent to the gift shop is the End Of The Trail Museum, displaying collections from various Indian tribes.
It’s full of colorful Native American clothing, paintings, baskets and other artifacts.
Outside, near the parking lot entrance, is Ambrose Grumkey’s 1938 version of ‘The End Of The Trail,’ a “redwood carving from that original era depicting a tired Indian brave slumping on his horse.”
Coincidentally, at about the same time we exited the museum, Kim and Mary were exiting their own private hell of being stuck for more than two hours on Highway 101 waiting to go through the construction area. There were only a few cars ahead of them, meaning they had barely missed getting through. With no cell service, we had no idea where they were.
We thought maybe we’d meet up with them at our next appointed destination. Located less than an hour south of Trees of Mystery lies Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, a place Steven Spielberg describes as “an unforgettable natural wonder.” So much so, he chose Fern Canyon as a location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.