Redwoods in the forest

Lost in the Redwoods for an hour !

Copyright 2012 by Mario Vaden

In April 2012, I was exploring in the Coast Redwood forest with Michael Taylor and Thomas Hahn, and our first stop together was Del Norte Redwoods State Park. The previous day, Thomas (from Germany) and I went a full mile into the heart of Jedediah Smith and back out without a hitch (had GPS too). But the following day with Michael became something to remember for a while.

We parked along Highway 101 between Crescent City and the Damnation Creek trailhead. From there, we bushwhacked east down a valley to look for tall Douglas fir: and maybe some western hemlock. We all went down the center of the valley, the very middle of it wit mostly low vegetation (blue line). That just under a 1/4 mile. Taylor and Hahn crossed the brook north, maybe 100 feet, to see the canopy top better (short green line). I had gone up the slope south to see other Douglas fir tops, and to photograph them from a bird's eye view (first yellow line). This was about 1/2 hour altogether, and we were ready to head back. Taylor and Hahn went back the same way we came in (long green line) and I planned go parallel to them, up above, hoping to follow a ridge.

The only flaw in that plan, was 3 flaws. There was no continuous ridge, the understory vegetation was far overhead blocking the view, and I had no GPS unit or compass on me.

Lost in the Redwood Forest

Probably what has me scratching my head more than anything, is how I crossed the valley we entered the area with, without realizing my perpendicular crossing. I don't know the exact return path, but the yellow arrows are an estimation of my return.

Basically, I knew my location in a broad sense. I was in Del Norte Redwoods State Park and was within 1/8 to 1/4 mile of Highway 199. I could hear the traffic and knew it would work for navigation. But the sound can also work against navigation too. Initially, I listened to all the traffic noise while walking through plants, and sometimes listening while down in low spots. Like I said, there was no continous ridge. There are little micro-valleys in the way. While down in low spots, the traffic sounds echoed overhead and among redwood trunks. This gave the impression that Highway 101 was in a different direction, several times.

Eventually I realized that the way to get out quickly, was to slow down. Get up on higher elevation occassionally, stop, and wait for big trucks to pass down the highway, because they are louder. It was still challenging due to some echoes in the forest, but it worked. Although, I exited the forest about 1/8 of a mile north of where we parked and went in.

Pretty sure my hour in there started to scare the crap out of Thomas. And Michael realized that something had to be haywire. One part that was irritating, and all 3 of us knew it, was that they would not know whether I was injured or not. That's why I was pushing my speed to get out at first.

One reason I wrote this page was for amusement. Even if just for Thomas so he can review this and poke me in the side with the subject. The other reason is to point out just how harsh the Coast Redwood forest can be regarding getting disoriented or lost. It's really wicked. Especially if there is fog or clouds so you can't see where the sun sits in the sky. One bushwhacking skill I walked away with that day, was that sound is useful for navigation if it's used right. If it's used the wrong way, it can get you really lost.

Anyway ... I was nudged to buy dinner that day. So after Prairie Creek exploring, we headed into Orick for burgers and fries at the Palms Cafe.