Hiking: 7.6 mi / 584 ft. climbing
Home: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park hiker/biker campsite
The night in the tent felt especially cold, and coming out in the morning and seeing 36 degrees on my thermometer explained why. For our entire 68 hours at Jedediah Smith, the temperature would never exceed 53 degrees (and finding sun amongst these master shade-makers is nearly impossible), so this sure was a test of our ability to endure stretches of non-warmth. Once we remembered to wear our extra layers even at midday (Rett with her full-length travel skirt standing in for the lap-blanket she’d been craving, me with 5 layers on top), we got almost, comfortable? Being able to ride a mile up the road to haul back firewood for our second and third nights helped a lot too.
Another way to stay warm is to get moving, so we would make another attempt to reach Stout Grove, half a mile away, but on the other side of the Smith River. Rett had self-diagnosed her hip pain as a piraformis issue, and while we could have done a ride to the grove over a road bridge 5 miles upstream, we decided that staying completely off the bike for another 24 hours would maximize the chance of the inflammation dying down. So instead we went for the 8-mile hike-around that I’d scouted out via a downstream road bridge.
Only to find that after a 3/4 mile walk along the road to the Hiouchi Trailhead, both the Hiouchi trail was closed (due to a downed tree), and even if we could pass that, the Mill Creek trail needed to connect from Hiouchi to Stout Grove was closed for trail construction work. Stout Grove really didn’t want us to visit!
We figured we were already out, and a short hike through some redwood forest would be better than no hike at all. And it was a very nice hike, until we got to a giant fallen redwood definitely blocking the trail. At which point, we, uh, obviously turned around. So that means we definitely didn’t run into a Park ranger just as we emerged awkwardly into Mill Creek Grove from a closed trail. But if we had, I bet that ranger would have studiously ignored us, partly because she would have been awkwardly emerging into Mill Creek Grove from behind a redwood where she had just urinated.
And then we definitely didn’t stop for lunch in that open and stately Mill Creek Grove, waiting for the sounds of construction workers to die down. And no way that Rett (c’mon, Rett?!) would have gathered up the courage to lead us tiptoeing past the workers’ backpacks and construction materials, down to the beach, across the still-there seasonal footbridge over Mill Creek, and back up into the elusive Stout Grove.
But I bet if we had been able to do all of that, we probably would have done the half-mile loop of Stout Grove twice, once in the hushed shadows, and once in the magical filtered sunlight that only exists in old-growth forests. Got to get our money’s worth after all that (theoretical) effort, you know.
But no, instead, we just turned around way back by that that fallen redwood, not even coming close to completing our quest to see the grove so old that the giant redwoods stand alone with a nearly-artificial purity; perhaps because they have amassed the power to exclude almost all other species from their domain. Including us….?
Other things we definitely did not do this night (back in the hiker-biker/day-use area that is isolated from the rest of the campground and completely empty after dark except for us): wash dishes in the semi-heated private bathroom while getting ready for bed and charging our phones (and leaving the clean bathroom as clean as we found it), and, strip down to zero layers around the campfire at 42 degrees that brought enough local warmth to allow such behavior. Nope, maybe some other travelers would resort to such questionable behaviors if living in these cold tall trees for three days, but not us!