Arches National Park

Double Arch - Arches National Park - Utah   Double Arch

We’ve visited Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, twice and found it fascinating. Both our visits occurred in March and, even though it was chilly, that seems preferable to summer heat in the Utah desert. We thoroughly enjoyed many short hikes and the amazing scenery.

Park Avenue  Courthouse Towers

Park Avenue                                                   Courthouse Towers

Arches National Park is a park that can be enjoyed from a vehicle or explored more thoroughly on foot and can accommodate whatever length of time a person has for a visit. If you have only a day, one can drive the park road, stop at the various waysides, take photos and, in general, be awestruck. Of course more time is better and, unless you are going into the backcountry or are an overly enthusiastic hiker, two days works pretty well.

South Arch   Partition Arch

Turret Arch                                                     Partition Arch

Arches have a life cycle. Beginning as a small hole in a cliff or narrow rock fin, the opening is enlarged by weathering and rockfall. Then arises the question: When is an arch an arch and not a window or just a hole? Over decades, it has been debated as to how large an opening must be in order to be considered an arch and also whether an opening high in the face of a fin is a window while one closer to the ground is an arch. In addition to vertical arches formed in the walls of fins, there are also horizontal arches which are pothole arches, formed where rainwater has run and pooled. Sometimes the deepening of the pothole will result in joining an alcove below and form a horizontal arch. Arches National Park recognizes an arch as an opening that measures at least three feet in any one direction. In the park, there are over 2000 arches.

Skyline Arch   Skyline Arch

The arches are primarily the result of shaping by water, frost, and the release of tensions in the rock itself. Sedimentary Entrada Sandstone is the primary rock which has eroded into arches and other fantastic shapes in the park. Entrada Sandstone is composed of three members – Dewey Bridge member, a muddy sandstone; Slick Rock member, a fine-grained sandstone; and Moab member, a white layer of sandstone that caps the Slick Rock. From various combinations of these three members, the arches are carved.

Landscape Arch   Landscape Arch

Spanning 306 feet, Landscape Arch is one of the longest natural arches in the world. 92 feet above the ground and only 12 feet thick at its center, it continues to enlarge. In 1991, a 60-foot-long slab of rock fell from its underside and rockfalls from 1991 to 1995 estimated to total 268 tons of rock, led the park service to close the trail underneath the arch.  Seems like a good idea to stay out from under it.

Windows   Broken Arch

North and South Windows                             Broken Arch

On our hikes to view various arches, we discovered that at least one of the arches on our map – Wall Arch – no longer existed. A huge pile of rubble marked where it had fallen. Fortunately no one was in the vicinity when it crashed to the ground below. Even though, the rock formations seem timeless, they are actually constantly changing, usually slowly but sometimes very dramatically.

Delicate arch 2  Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is perhaps the best-known arch in the park. This freestanding arch perches at the edge of a slickrock bowl and is the iconic symbol of Arches National Park.

Balanced Rock   Ham Rock

Balanced Rock                                                                   Ham Rock

In the park, in addition to the 2000 plus arches, a variety of unusual shaped and fancifully named rocks catch the attention. Balanced Rock, Ham Rock, the Three Gossips, Courthouse Towers, Sheep Rock and Park Avenue beg a photo.

The Three Gossips  Sheep Rock

The Three Gossips                                      Sheep Rock

A very short hike off the highway, where Courthouse Wash joins the Colorado River, is a rock art site. This panel displays evidence of people’s passage for hundreds of years both in pictographs and petroglyphs. It is thought that Archaic Indians first painted the long, tapered figures and later, ancestral Puebloans or Utes added bright white circular forms that resemble shields. Petroglyphs by Utes appear elsewhere on the wall and adjacent boulder. Vandalized in 1980, cleaning and restoration by the National Park Service revealed older pictographs beneath the white shields.

Courthouse Panel 2  Courthouse Wash Panel

Over two thousand namesake arches, petrified sand dunes, impressive rock formations, ancient rock art and the beauty of the Utah desert combine to make Arches National Park a real treasure.

Arches - Delicate Arch in the snow (2)  Delicate Arch in Snow

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Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix

In January, Tom and I traveled to the Phoenix, Arizona, area to visit family. Snow on the Mogollan Rim made it feel as if we had made a wrong turn somewhere and inadvertently headed north instead of south but as we dropped into the “Valley of the Sun” it became apparent that wasn’t the case.

Mogollan Rim2  Mogollan Rim

Snow, sunshine, saguaros and palm trees, all in the same day. During our visit, we had a great time and thought the weather was incredibly nice but those who live there were not very happy with the low night-time temperatures and cool days. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Palm trees

A rather-hidden gem in Phoenix is the Japanese Friendship Garden. This garden is a direct result of the sister-city relationship between Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. Himeji became a Phoenix Sister City in November 1976 and is one of ten Phoenix Sister Cities around the globe. This global network is anchored in formal city-to-city agreements which translate into long-term relationships. Phoenix and Himeji participate in business, governmental, cultural and educational exchanges to promote international goodwill and understanding.

Japanese Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden is the shared cultural vision of the cities of Phoenix and Himeji. The devoted and friendly relationship between the cities is reflected in the name chosen by its creators: Ro Ho En.

鷺 RO: Japanese word for Heron, a bird symbol of Himeji Castle, White Heron Castle, Shirasagijo stands watching over Himeji

鳳 HO: Japanese word for the Phoenix bird

園 EN: Japanese word for garden

The garden was designed to be viewed from within, a style known as “hide and reveal” as visitors discover new visual composition as they proceed along the path. The garden is divided into four main sections symbolic of the major types of terrain found in Japan: low-lying grasslands, forested mountains, stone beaches and woodlands.

Japanese Garden3   Japanese Garden14

Himeji Mayor, Matsuji Totani proposed the garden in 1987 to cement the bonds of friendship between Japan and the United States and particularly between the peoples of Himeji and Phoenix.  The Himeji Gardening and Construction Contractors Association was formed for the specific purpose of designing and constructing the Garden. Many visits ensued to select the site, investigate soil and climactic conditions, determine suitable plantings, select rock, and oversee construction details. The teahouse and surrounding tea garden were completed in November 1996, the 20th anniversary of the Sister City relationship.

Intended for strolling through slowly and simply enjoying nature, the Garden has an overlying sense of calm and peace. Each of the decorative and physical features of the Garden is symbolic. The various features work in harmony with each other.

Japanese Garden6

The Kasuga-Doro is ten feet tall. Kasuga stone lanterns are the style of lantern most frequently used in Japanese gardens, originating at the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, Japan’s ninth century capital.

Japanese Garden2

The Koi Pond holds 50,000 gallons of water in a closed recirculating system and is home to approximately 500 koi and a large number of western mosquito fish.

Japanese Garden12

The waterfall is a highlight of the garden bringing to mind a natural mountain waterfall surrounded by boulders. Cascading from a height of fourteen feet, it divides into two falls.

Japanese Garden15

Yukimi-Doro is the style of stone lantern placed near the water’s edge to appear floating above the surface of the water.

Japanese Garden11        Japanese Garden7

The thirteen levels of Tasoutou are representative of a pagoda. Such stone towers are traditionally placed in a garden for artistic effect.

Japanese Garden9

Crossing the curved bridge (Taiko Bashi), you reach the Middle Island (Nakajima) which represents a mythical place inhabited by cranes and tortoises, associated with long life and prosperity.

Japanese Garden13

As beautiful as the Japanese Friendship Garden was in winter, it’s easy to imagine how incredible it would be with spring blossoms.

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Spain: Granada and the Alhambra


The final portion of our trip in Spain proved to be quite eventful.

Prior to leaving on the trip to Spain, we had purchased tickets to visit the Alhambra in Granada. As we had tickets for morning and we were in Ronda the night before, we had to leave at a time that seemed like the middle of the night and was pitch dark. So we packed up our rental car and set off. According to the map it was a bit over 110 miles so we should arrive easily. For some reason, we hadn’t realized there were mountains to cross nor did we know that the road was under construction. So in the dark, we came to a detour sign which pointed us off onto an unpaved road heading up a mountain.  For a very long time, there were no additional signs indicating we were on the right track. However, there were not many other options so we kept going and thinking it would soon get better. Eventually daylight arrived and we got onto a paved road again. Of course, by this time, we were well behind our planned arrival time in Granada.

The next obstacle arose when we entered Granada and got completely lost. We planned to park the car at the hotel and take public transport to the Alhambra but had absolutely no idea where we were in the city and hence no idea where our hotel was or how to get there. We spotted two police officers on a corner. I pulled over to the curb, Patty jumped out of the car and, using “caveman” Spanish, asked them to show her on our map where we were. Soon we were off again and with little difficulty found our hotel, even though it was literally hidden in a very narrow alley. Fortunately it did have an underground garage where we could leave the car.



By the time, we arrived at the Alhambra, we were told we had missed our allotted time to visit the Palace. We did not realize that we were scheduled for a specific half hour since our ticket said morning. We then had to buy another ticket which was not until late in the afternoon and discovered that we would also need another general afternoon ticket. The original ticket had implied that once you were admitted, you could stay as long as you liked but this was not really the case.  We discovered later that we were not the only ones who had to buy two sets of tickets and even witnessed a fist fight between a very irate British man and a security guard. The ambiguity of the ticketing process combined with the intractable attitude of the security personnel produced a number of unhappy tourists.

Finally, with both morning and afternoon tickets in hand (and a bit of grumbling about their system) we entered.


The Alhambra is truly amazing and its history is fascinating. The Alhambra was both a palace and a fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada. On a rocky hill, the imposing reddish walls and parapets conceal from the outside world the delicate beauty contained within. The Moorish portion of the Alhambra includes the Alcazaba, or citadel, which is the oldest part.

Granada22  Granada24

The complex of Nasrid palaces was built primarily between 1238 and 1358 during the reigns of Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, and his successors.


The Generalife was constructed in the early 14th century as a summer palace centered on courtyards and surrounded by orchards and gardens. It was designed to give the Granadine kings a place of relaxation and reprieve from the business and intrigue of the palaces.



After the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1492, much of the interior of the palace was vandalized. Charles V, who ruled in Spain as Charles I (1516-56) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style and destroyed part of the Alhambra to build an Italianate palace in 1526.


Some of the towers were blown up by the French during the War of Independence in 1812 and in 1821 an earthquake further damaged the structure.Restoration of the building was begun in 1828 and continued through the 20th century.

There is a tremendous feeling of calm and serenity as you walk through the various gardens and courtyards.  The decorative work is so intricate it creates a sense of wonder. The gardens invite one to sit, relax and enjoy.

Granada16  Granada5

We spent time wandering the Alcazabar, the Generalife and other areas of the Alhambra and found ourselves still having time to kill before we could finally enter the Nasrid Palaces. Leaving Ronda well before sun-up, driving in the dark on a detour through the countryside, getting lost in Granada, having to purchase duplicate tickets and walking for hours in the Alhambra finally took its toll. Patty simply had to have a rest while we waited our tour time. (This was good for many laughs later and only added to the overall ridiculousness of the events of the day.)


The palaces are beautiful and awe-inspiring. All in all, we felt the tour was well worth the wait and general frustration.





The setting on the hill overlooking the old city of Granada emanated an air of being surrounded by history and the mystery of the lives of the kings and their followers.


We spent our evening in Granada exploring and found an excellent place to have dinner. The next day we turned in the rental car and headed to the rail station for the train trip back to Madrid. Our adventures in Spain were nearly over – for this time.

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Spain: Ronda

Southern Spain

Continuing our Spanish adventure, Patty and I had decided to drive from Seville to Granada with a stopover in Ronda on the way. The drive across southern Spain was magnificent. Stopping in a small town for a coffee on the way, we somehow managed to get lost enough in the narrow, twisting streets that we were unable to find our way back out of town. We located a friendly police officer who was most helpful and we were soon once again on our way.

City Gate Ronda  Old City Gate

Arriving in Ronda, even though it was pouring rain, we were completely smitten by the city which is divided by a very deep gorge (100 meters or approximately 328 feet). The Guadalevin River divides the city in two and has carved out the steep deep El Tajo canyon above which the city perches.  Somewhat like an eagle’s aerie, the city balances high above the gorge and affords stunning, far-ranging views over the surrounding countryside.  The defensive value in ancient times is apparent.

Ronda  Ronda3

Three bridges, Puente Romano (“Roman Bridge”, also known as the Puente San Miguel), Puente Viejo (“Old Bridge, also known as the Puente Arabe or “Arab Bridge”) and Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”), span the canyon. The term “nuevo” is a matter of perspective, as the building of this bridge commenced in 1751 and took until 1793 to complete. The Puente Nuevo is the tallest of the bridges, towering 390 feet above the canyon floor. However, all three are impressive features.

New Bridge   Puente Nuevo

Old Bridge   Puente Viejo

Roman bridge   Puente Romano

The former town hall, which sits next to the Puente Nuevo, is now the Parador de Ronda where we stayed. Spanish paradores are luxury hotel accommodations in castles, palaces, convents, monasteries, fortresses and other historic buildings. The buildings are often part of the heritage of Spain although there are some modern hotels in spectacular locations. The state maintains the buildings, and tries to locate paradores in areas where they are not in competition with the private sector and thus many are in smaller medieval towns and villages. The Parador de Ronda, one of the modern hotels, is magnificent and the service was outstanding.

Ronda2 Across Puente Nuevo

Thankfully for us, the rain stopped, and we ventured out to several shops to purchase wine, cheese and bread. With only rudimentary Spanish and plenty of hand gestures, we were able to accomplish this mission. Off our room we had a rooftop terrace overlooking the gorge and the many houses overhanging the precipice. So this was the perfect place to enjoy the wine and cheese and a beautiful evening.

Patty at Parador  Parador de Ronda

Ronda’s layers of history are fascinating. There are remains of prehistoric settlements around the city, including the rock paintings of Cueva de la Pileta. Due to the rain and hence apparently unsafe footing as well as an uncertain method of obtaining entrance, we were not able to visit the cave. However, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the old city, marveling at the old buildings and visiting interesting little shops. Being steeply located, one does have to be prepared for strain on the legs but all the effort was well worth it.

Ronda street

Ronda was first settled by the early Celts in the 6th century BC but the current Ronda is of Roman origins. Founded as a fortified post in the Second Punic War, Ronda received the title of city at the time of Julius Caesar. Coming from an America where something two hundred years old is considered old, being in a city over two thousand years old provides a whole different perspective.  Throughout its history, Ronda changed hands a number of times as a result of being conquered, reconquered and conquered again over and over, hence layers of overlapping cultures.

Arab Baths Ronda   Arab Baths

The Plaza de Toros is located in the city center, only a couple of blocks from the Puente Nuevo. Ronda is considered the birthplace of modern bullfighting. In the 16th century, Phillip II established the Real Maestranza de Caballeria, a training facility for developing horsemanship. Stemming from a need for equestrian prowess in battle, horsemanship was a valued skill. Bulls, willing to charge at the mounted horse were used to train both horses and riders.

Plaza de Toros  Plaza de Toros2

In the 1700s, it became fashionable to face the bull on foot.  In Ronda, Francisco Romero added the sword and cape to the event, and his famous grandson, Pedro, transformed bullfighting into an art and skill, creating the style of bullfighting commonly found today. We visited the bullring, museum, and stables but there was no bullfight at the time we were there. We were quite all right with that.

Bullring Ronda  Bullring

We were in Ronda for two nights and then had to leave very early to drive to Granada and that proved to be another adventure entirely.

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Spain: Madrid and Seville

100_1681   GIralda Tower at night

A friend and I took a trip to Spain a few years ago and had the greatest time. I had been to Spain previously and one of my absolute favorite cities is Seville so that had to be on the itinerary. Then we added places that neither of us had seen and we were off on a grand adventure.

Since we started in different cities, my friend and I met in the Chicago airport for the flight to Madrid. This very nearly did not work as my flight to Chicago was delayed by several hours and I arrived there just in time to make a mad dash to the gate. Patty was standing at the gate begging them to wait just a little longer and not shut the door. Fortunately I made it but I was very glad that we had determined we would take only carry-on bags. There is no way a checked bag would have made the flight!

Madrid  Fountain

In Madrid, after checking in at our hotel, we took a city bus tour to orient ourselves. This gave us a good idea of where we wanted to go and how to get there.  The Plaza Mayor is filled with shops and eating establishments and a great place to people watch. The Prado Museum is one of the finest art museums in the world. The Spanish royal family is responsible for the Prado’s bounty of classical masterpieces. With art collected and commissioned over centuries, Fernando VII opened the collection to the public in 1819 in the same neoclassic building it’s housed in today.

Prado  The Prado

Plaza Mayor    Plaza Mayor2

Plaza Mayor

Taking the train south, we traveled to Seville. Our hotel was located marvelously in the old city with a rooftop bar overlooking the square and cathedral. Once again we did a city bus tour to “get the lay of the land.”

Seville   Street in Seville

During our stay in Seville, we had a particularly wonderful meal al fresco at a restaurant on the cathedral square, wandered the very narrow winding streets, visited the bull ring, and attended a flamenco show. In between, we shopped, feasted on a variety of tapas and simply explored, occasionally getting lost in the maze that is the Barrio de Santa Cruz. This neighborhood of the old medieval city was formerly the Jewish quarter. It’s bordered by Calles Mateas Gago, Santa Maria La Blanca/San Jose, the Jardines de Murillo and the Alcazar. Wandering round the small squares lined with orange trees through the improbably narrow alleys where the houses lean towards each other and admiring the leafy patios of private mansions through their iron gates, we thoroughly enjoyed Seville.

Flamenco   Flamendo2

Built on the site of a former Almohad Mosque, Seville’s cathedral was constructed to demonstrate the city’s power and wealth after the Reconquista. The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. It also boasts the largest altarpiece in the world and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

100_1672   Seville Cathedral detail

The cathedral was completed in just over a century (1402-1506), quite an achievement given its size and Gothic details. The huge interior of the cathedral, with a central nave and four side aisles, is lavishly decorated. The wonderful Moorish minaret, La Giralda, is the only remnant of the original mosque and now functions as the cathedral’s bell tower.

Giralda Tower

It is well worth climbing to the top. There are no steps but instead a seemingly endless ramp, and at the top you have a dazzling view of the Cathedral and of Seville.

Tower view  Tower view 2

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Seville but it was soon time to move on. So, of course, we headed for the train station to pick up a rental car.


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Nicodemus National Historic Site


I recently visited Nicodemus which is a small town on the northwestern Kansas prairie. It’s off the beaten path on Highway 24, several miles north of I-70 without direct access from the interstate. The Nicodemus National Historic Site represents the only remaining all-black town established at the end of reconstruction and is symbolic of the pioneer spirit of those who settled there. I have friends whose family was among those first settlers so Nicodemus was especially interesting for me.

IMG_8103   IMG_8104

The result of land speculation and a desire for profit, Nicodemus is the oldest of more than two dozen towns established and promoted for a predominantly black population. Nicodemus was established during 1877 by the Nicodemus Town Company, with six black and one white incorporator. Their specific strategy was to recruit from the Upper South blacks of some means who were financially able to buy town lots and willing to move to the Midwest. The location on the north bank of the South Solomon River provided residents with fresh water and the few trees in the area which grew along the stream bank.

The first emigrants to arrive in Nicodemus had to feel somewhat disappointed and overwhelmed. Most came from areas with plentiful timber and here on the plains of Kansas the scarcity of trees forced them to live in sod dugout houses and use sunflowers, willows and buffalo chips for fuel. When viewed in larger terms, regardless of racial make-up, Nicodemus is representative of many farming communities established throughout the plains of Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma in the late 1800’s. Dissatisfaction at home, desire for a better life, and exaggerated tales of economic opportunity attracted people to the sparsely populated western plains.

IMG_8094    IMG_8098

During 1878, 600 people resided in Nicodemus Township, most of them in the town. Two years later, only 316 persons occupied the township and the vast majority of those lived on farms. By 1884 Nicodemus’ population had declined to less than 50, with 239 in the township. A second boom occurred through promotion in attempting to gain a railroad. By 1887, Nicodemus had grown to 200, had four dry goods stores, at least three grocery stores, three drug stores, two millinery shops, one bank, four hotels, two livery stables, two newspapers, two blacksmith shops, two barbers, one shoe shop, two agricultural implement stores, one land company, and a two-story school building.

IMG_8100   First Baptist Church

The growth, evolution and decline of Nicodemus mirror that of many other rural communities. Architecturally the usual progression occurred from sod buildings to wooden and cut limestone structures during the more prosperous periods. Transportation for goods and products was highly important. Counting on the coming of a railroad, it was very nearly a death knell for the town when, late in 1888, it was bypassed. Businesses and residents moved to nearby communities where the railroad was built. Unlike many other small plains communities bypassed by the railroad, Nicodemus tenuously held on. In 2010, according to the census, 59 people resided in the township.


The determination of early settlers helped Nicodemus survive through drought and economic disaster. The dedication of its residents, both past and present, and their commitment to the concept of “community” have kept Nicodemus from disappearing into total obscurity. First held in 1878 and every year since, Nicodemus has held an annual three-day Homecoming Celebration each summer. Families and friends come from all over to renew ties and affirm their heritage. I hope to someday attend Homecoming Celebration in Nicodemus with my friends.

IMG_8101   Nicodemus School

In 1976 the original 161-acre townsite was listed as a National Historic Landmark. Since becoming the Nicodemus National Historic Site in 1996, the residents and the park service have begun working together to preserve five remaining historic structures: St. Francis Hotel (1881), African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (1885), First Baptist Church (1907), Nicodemus School District No. 1 building (1918) and Nicodemus Township Hall (1939).

The Township Hall currently houses the National Park Service Visitor Center.IMG_8093   IMG_8096

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Redwood National Park

Redwoods Northern California offers a completely different California than does Southern California. The northern part of the state is generally sparsely populated and more wilderness. Our first trip to California this year was to the desert south, our second to the mountainous north.

Trees5           Trees2

Redwood in northwestern California is an unusual national park in several ways. One of the most obvious is that it is Redwood National and State Parks, encompassing Redwood National Park and three California parks: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Spread out in different locations primarily along the coast, it was rather hard to figure out if we were actually in the national park or not, especially when the first ranger we encountered at the visitor center emphatically told us this is a “state” park so we didn’t need our National Park pass for admission. However, they did have the national park passport book stamp available. Another ranger later strongly suggested the Avenue of the Giants as a must-see and it turned out that it is south of the park proper. Usually the boundaries of national parks are a lot more apparent.

Tree roots   Foothills Trail

Our first day, we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. The one-mile loop trail winds through old-growth redwood forest and includes the 1968 dedication site of Redwood National Park. The establishment of a national park was proposed in 1879 and the first major effort began when the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded in 1918. It took fifty years and the destruction of approximately 85% of the virgin redwood acreage before the movement gained adequate support to come to fruition.

Spiral tree        Treetops

The sheer height of these trees is mind-boggling. You look up and up and up and still higher. Researchers have discovered trees over 370 feet tall and there may be taller trees in remote areas of the park. The title of world‘s tallest tree has changed more than a dozen times since 1990.

Often confused, there are three types of “redwoods.” The trees in Redwood National Park are Coast Redwood and are the tallest trees. The Giant Sequoias which are found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada are the largest of all trees by mass. The third redwood – the Dawn Redwood – was considered extinct until 1944 when a Chinese forester discovered a grove of large trees in central China. The Dawn Redwood is much smaller, being limited in height to 140 feet and, unlike the other redwoods, is deciduous. The Coast Redwood and the Sequoia have somewhat similar cones but differ in propagation with the sequoia reproducing only by seeds and the coast redwood reproducing by seeds and also by sprouting from dormant buds called burls.

Friends    Friends from Oregon joined us and we made our way to our lodging in Trinidad which had a view of the ocean from our decks. Great friends, great view, great wine, not-so-great Nebraska football game all added up to a fun evening.


The Avenue of the Giants has been called the finest forest drive in the world. Surrounded by the titan trees with pullouts and places to take short hikes in the numerous groves, it continued to impress. The majesty of these trees and the peace of the forest prevailed.

Trees2   Foothills Trail

In planning this portion of the trip, Patty and I had decided that when we reached the south end of the Avenue of the Giants, we would take a different way back north. It looked like a perfectly reasonable route on the map we had. Little did we know that this was “The Wildcat” – 30 miles of twists, turns, dips, and rises. The Wildcat had its beginning well over a century ago as a trail across the coastal hills, peaks and valleys between Ferndale and the Bear and Mattole valleys. In the 1880’s it became a road for stagecoaches and wagons. At this point, I was driving, Patty was navigating and the guys were in the back seat wondering (out loud) where in the world we were and why we were on basically a trail, which was at one time mostly paved and mostly two lanes wide. Who knew there were several mountains, more curves than a roller coaster, and wild beaches on that innocuous-looking road? I think Steve had it about right when he said it reminded him of an “I Love Lucy” episode.

Trees    Seashore2

October is rutting season for the Roosevelt elk which make the parks their home. We saw several bulls with their harems. Roosevelt elk are a major conservation success story. Hunted nearly to extinction by North Coast settlers, there were only a few hundred animals left when conservation efforts began. Now the elk number in the thousands and they are being reintroduced to many areas of their original range.

Bull elk     Bull elk and harem                                         Elk2

A number of hikes originate near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. The meadows nearby provide prime elk habitat and we were warned one trail was closed because of an extremely aggressive bull elk.  The Foothills Trail and Prairie Creek Trail took us past the “Big Tree” and curved back along the creek. As on most of our hikes, we were very nearly alone on the trail.

Tom and Marlene at Big Tree    Tom on trail

The effect of drought the past couple of years was apparent when we visited Fern Canyon. The high walls of this narrow canyon are covered with ferns. Not as verdant as I’m sure it would be in wet years, it was still an interesting hike from Gold Bluffs Beach.

Fern Canyon       Fern

Redwood National and State Parks may be a little hard to truly figure out, but it is certainly awe-inspiring.

Nurse Log


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