I almost slept until 8am! Glory be! B had been up since 6 and when I unzipped my side of the tent he was balancing on a log while reading a book, what a goof. He had already had a coffee so I went ahead and made myself one. Our breakfast was granola, nuts, (Thanks Hanna!) and M&M's. B cleaned up the dishes and I broke down the tent, our usual camp roles when we've camped before, and then we made our way to the Prairie Creek Visitors Center.
We knew that we wanted to hike the Ladybird Johnson Grove loop (1 mile) and also the Tall Trees Grove trail (4 miles). The Tall Trees trail requires a code to get in through the gate, they only allow a certain number of people in per day. Other than that, the rest of our day was open, and we also had no idea where we were going to sleep. As we chatted with the girls about where and what to hike, we got the code for Tall Trees, success! We also asked them about camping. There were two options, one was back country in the woods and one was back country on the beach. The site to the beach was a 4 mile hike one way, but we thought it would be awesome to sleep in the Redwood forest one night and the beach the next, so we went with that one! She had to call and see if there was space, and there were only two more slots after us that were available. Another lucky thing for us! The Redwoods were turning out to be in our favor apparently.
The trail head to the Ladybird Johnson trail was just a short drive away, so we headed there first. It begins crossing a large footbridge over the road below. I'm glad we chose to do a well maintained trail first, because my eyes were gazing up the entire time and I couldn't watch my feet.
I'm going to take a short pause here to say; I wish I could describe to you the feeling of being among the biggest living things in the entire world. Whatever I try to describe after this is just a lousy attempt. It's impossible to tell you what I saw and what I felt. Writing about visiting a city is easy, the buildings, the food, the people watching, it's stuff you've done before.. so it's easy for a reader to understand. But, these forest beasts, their sheer size, the way you can rarely see the tops of them, the 1 foot thick bark, they way they shake you to the core. There's something other worldly about being in the midst of them and it take's words I don't have to tell you about them.
The hike around the Ladybird Grove loop took us to trees that were anywhere from 500-700 years old, and these were considered quite young! Quite a few of them were hollowed out, allowing us to stand inside and feel the massiveness of the tree. You could put your arms out and take a full circle within the tree without touching any of its sides. We then headed towards the Tall Trees Grove trail. This trail was going to take us to some of the oldest Redwoods known to man. I put in the secret code once we got to the metal gate and we continued down a gravel road for 6 miles. With our lunches packed, we descended into the grove. We had lunch at the base of the trail and B, of course, brought a beer along to review. The wind was blowing and you could hear loud and deep creaking from the trees. Not the most comforting sound when you're in a forest surrounded by the biggest trees in the world. We journeyed back up from the trail shortly after lunch, because we had another 4 mile hike ahead of us.
When we got back to the car, we re-organized our backpacking gear and walked to the trail head. The main trail we took was called Miner's Ridge through the forest and directly onto the beach. It's insane to think that we walked next to the biggest trees in the world and ended up at the biggest body of water in the world. I've never been to a beach so close to a forest before. Again, we were in awe walking through the woods. Even though we had spent the whole day hiking around the Redwoods, we still were amazed at every turn. I think we said, 'That tree is BIG' or 'Look how huge that guy is!' at least 7,913 times today.
Arriving around dinner time, we set up camp on the sand and started to cook our meals. I had peanut noodles and B had basil rice with chicken. The beach was pretty windy at the time, so I hurried through my meal and crawled into the tent to read for a bit before sunset. As the sun started to fall, the wind died down. Everyone from the camp site started making their way towards the sand to marvel at the evening colors in the sky. Once sun set, I got myself ready for bed, knowing that the 4:30am wake up call was only a short bit away.