Sunday, July 30th, 2023, 0630-1700
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground to Elk Creek hiker biker camp
12 miles, Gain 1400′, Loss 1000′, elevation 700′
The beach campground was really quite nice, despite the smell of urine around my site. I’ll take quiet over anything else. The night before, some kids invited everyone in the campground to play capture the flag on the beach…with glowsticks. It sounded like fun and I almost joined in, but was too tired once it got dark…hiker midnight. I thought I might hear them playing the game, but the surf drowned out all other noises.
While packing, I was reminded of another reason I don’t like camping on the beach: centipedes! I can stare down aggressive dogs and 900 lb bull elk, but these little insects send me screaming in terror. They are the only thing I have a phobia of, thanks to my mom traumatizing me with them as a child. To my great displeasure, I found a tiny one inside my tent and then another crawling on my tent outside. They were so small that I was able to brush them away, but still not pleasant. For some reason, I see centipedes a lot when camping on or near the beach.
I packed and hung out at the beach for an hour, since I had service there. There was no rush, today was just a tourist day. My coast trek was officially finished. There was one more section of coast trail before Orick, then it was all beach walking beyond that. Buck30 and Steady had gone another 1.5 days as far as Patricks Point, mentioning some issues with the high tide. There were unfavorable tides this week, with the high being smack in the middle of the day and the late afternoon low tide being pretty high as well. I felt like I’d gotten my fill of beach walking anyway. It made sense to divert inland for day hiking more of the forest trails around Prarie Creek. I could have also headed back to Crescent City, but I didn’t want to hit town on a Sunday. Hotel prices would still be jacked up to weekend rates and nothing would be open.
I said a tentative goodbye to the ocean and resumed my hike on the Miner’s Ridge Trail to Elk Prairie Campground, repeating 2 miles. I didn’t mind since they were so scenic, through the giant trees. I checked in at the campground. No one else was at the Hiker Biker area, which was at the very south end, pretty far removed from the rest of the campground…I liked it that way. I dropped my pack behind some bushes, boxed my food bag, and set off for some day hiking. Perhaps my body knew this was just filler because I felt pretty terrible. I had a migraine that I couldn’t shake and my energy was very low. I almost turned back to take the afternoon off in my tent.
I preserved and started to feel better as I moved. I followed the West Ridge Trail to the Zigzag Trail #1, about 3 miles. This was my favorite trail in this area. It flowed along a narrow ridge, reminiscent of some of the ones along the AT. Except that here I was flanked by the awe-inspiring redwoods. There weren’t really views of the valleys or surrounding mountains through the behemoth trees, but I could see the trees well from all angles, so that was cool. I connected to the Karl Knapp Trail on the return. This area had an ample supply of loop trail options for day hiking. Based on what I saw, I’d definitely recommend making the campground home base for a few days to explore. One is surely to get their fill of redwoods in this single park. The trail paralleled the scenic byway and led to Big Tree, a massive specimen that was thought to be 1500 years old! A zoo of tourists were around it, so it wasn’t inclined to linger. Rather, I liked walking the quiet trails, seeing the forest as a whole.
I returned to my campsite, hoping some bikers had arrived so I could yogi food from them. I was still alone, so I found the camp host to inquire if anyone had left extra food behind in the bear boxes. He was so kind, he gave me one of his personal frozen meals…some noodles with veggies. I mixed it in my tiny pot with tuna…delish! I ended up being the only hiker biker at the campsite all day, so feeling the need to socialize a little, I went to the 8 pm ranger discussion. It was ok, mostly geared towards kids. Still a nice nightcap on my Redwoods side adventure.
Monday, July 31st, 2023
Zero, Prarie Creek to Crescent City via car hitch
I guess technically this was a zero, even though I hiked about a mile to get to 101. I was up early, so there was almost no traffic around the campground. There was a bus going north, but not until noon. That was my backup plan if I couldn’t get a hitch. Wisely, I walked from the scenic byway to the highway to better my chances. I didn’t realize that 101 was more of a freeway in this section, so the on-ramp had a sign saying ‘no pedestrians.” Oops. I ignored it and posted up right before the exit. I didn’t like my chances but wouldn’t you know it, the second car to come by pulled over for me. I had my umbrella out with my “hiker to town” written on it and the driver said that’s what got her attention. Kat was a sweet young college girl tripping around to visit friends for the summer. She was a pleasure to talk to all the way to town and hopefully I inspired her to get outside near her college town in Montana.
She dropped me off at my new favorite place, Grocery Outlet, just as it was opening at 8 am. I never expected to get back to town so early and was excited at the prospects of getting lots done. First goal was to secure a hotel room for a long-overdue cleansing of everything, most importantly my clothes. The Motel 6 gave me a veterans discount but I couldn’t check in until 3 pm. Meanwhile, I picked up a package at the post office, got my extra stuff back from Sarah, went to the library, and most exciting of all, got a hair cut! I felt so bad for the stylist, wondering if she noticed my smell or was appalled by my dirty hair. If so, she was good at hiding it.
I also went to both grocery stores several times, buying most everything I needed for the beginning leg of the Bigfoot Trail…120 miles between towns. Two former AT hikers, Troll and Anchor, walked past me as I was repackaging food outside the Safeway, muttering to each other,”that looks like a thru-hiker!” They came back to chat and we had a laugh about the universal look of hikertrash. What gave me away? My ratty clothes, pack, repackaging station, or the fact that I was mainlining a powder drink packet as they walked by? All of that.
Finally I was able to take a proper shower at the hotel and wash all my gear. It took me so long that I hadn’t even gotten around to washing my clothes when Sarah called about going out. She was such a sweetheart, offering to bring me some of her clothes so I’d have something to wear while doing my laundry. She also drove me to the laundromat. I dumped my toxic stuff in a machine, making a note of the significant odor, and left it to wash while we had beers. Everyone seemed to be monitoring their laundry to avoid theft. I couldn’t imagine who might want my tattered collection and if they needed it that badly, they could have it.
It took a long time just to get seated at the brewery, so by the time the beers arrived, the laundromat was about to close. We chugged, got my wet clothes, then went to an Irish pub for another round plus nachos. Sarah offered to take me back to her place to dry my clothes while we hung out some more. I met her house mates and it was really nice just to do some normal socializing. It was really unexpected to make a friend so quickly in a strange city, but Sarah is just one of those people that warms up a room instantly. I was very grateful to have met her and we seemed to really click well. Crescent City ended up being a great place for a layover and just the reset I needed for the next phase of my Pacific Coast Bigfoot Crest Rim Trail