Tuesday, December 23
We skirt around north of San Francisco today, but there is still traffic naturally. This part of the state is highly populated.
I80 is left behind for a smaller highway, and then a smaller road, and then a smaller road – the now infamous Bear Creek Road.
Oh, Bear Creek Road.
Our directions come from the Google Maps app on my smartphone. It’s free and super handy, it can tell me the quickest way mileage wise to get about anywhere in the U.S., but it doesn’t have a setting for the smartest way. To get the most from Google Maps, you need a human who’s familiar enough with the area to point out the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B, particularly when you’re trying to navigate into an out of the way park.
Not knowing the area well enough, we blind turn onto the curvy, narrow, no-shoulder Bear Creek Road, without a sign to warn us of what’s ahead. No “trailers not recommended”, no “steep grades” or “sharp turns.”
The road immediately starts climbing. On the right hand-side is sheer rock face, off the left-hand side is a steep drop. When I say the road is curvy, I mean it might look more like a snarl of yarn when viewed from above. I’ve been towing Cas on small roads for over two years now and I’ve never towed on a road like this before. There are no grade signs along the whole 13 mile stretch, but halfway up Bertha’s engine temperature is already higher than it got towing up out of Death Valley in 100 degree heat. Then suddenly there is a line of stopped cars in front of me.
The culprit is a poor, poor flatbed truck with a piece of construction equipment chained onto it. It’s having a really bad day, getting hung up on the rock face every time it has to clear a sharp right curve. Twice more our caravan of vehicles comes to a complete stop as the edge of the flatbed grinds against the rocks and fails to make the curve. Then all of the vehicles coming the other direction have to back up so it can try to maneuver itself into the oncoming traffic lane to get clear. Finally around another corner the flatbed is pulled onto the shoulder, about half out of our lane. A man in overalls is coming down the steep driveway to meet him – I’m guessing he’s the one who needed the caterpillar, I hope he paid extra for the wear and tear the poor flatbed owner had to endure.
Then our procession starts heading downhill, which is even more terrifying than the trip up. 20 mph curves, and I’m in 2nd gear and still having to pump the brakes the whole way down. Julie starts feeling carsick from the constant jerking motion of the brakes and all of the curves, but doesn’t say anything until afterward because she knows I can’t do anything about it, and my nerves are already on edge trying to keep us from flying off the road.
After an eternity, we arrive in Boulder City. It’s a fun little town I think, but I’m still so jangled from the drive to get there that I don’t pay much attention.
Route 9 out to our destination is still twisty, but not nearly to the same degree. Around us, the air gets thicker, the foliage gets greener, and the trees get taller, much taller. Before long we’ve made it: Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
We have reservations to camp here tonight, and tonight only. Apparently, this is the premier state park for San Francisco residents to head when they need a weekend (or holiday) away, and the whole campground is booked up for Christmas. It’s $35 a night (including entrance fee) and there are no hookups, but darn if it isn’t pretty.
The maximum length for trailers is something like 24 feet, so it’s not a place for big rigs, but there isn’t a single site that doesn’t have a large redwood around it so the view is worth it if you can fit in. RV pads are dirt, not very level, and occasionally hard to maneuver into with all the trees crowding around, but there is a dump station, the bathrooms have running hot water and coin operated showers are available.
Did I mention the trees? When we arrived around 2 pm I could have swore the sun was going down, it was just that dark because the canopy overhead was so thick. I’m not sure if this counts as a rainforest, if it isn’t, it’s the closest I’ve come so far. The ground is perpetually wet, moss grows on all the roofs, and a thick mist obscures the sun when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky coming in.
After setting up, Julie and I take the 0.6 mile Redwood trail, an easy walk through old growth forest near the visitor’s center. It’s hard to get a decent picture given the low light conditions and the sheer size of my subjects, but I try. Darkness falls quickly in the valley, but our morning view tomorrow will be spectacular, towering giants right outside the windows. It may have been a pain getting here for the short amount of time we have, but it was worth it. Our Christmas reservations should prove better on the hiking front.
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