Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 5- Whales and Wonderment

Stats: Brookings, OR to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA – 70 miles

Dear reader,

Our ride started out pleasantly flat for a change, and with clean laundry, refreshed groceries, and full bellies, we were feeling pretty good about the day. After crossing the border into California (woohoo!) the trees began growing in size, gradually introducing California’s legendary redwoods into the scenery.

We stopped for a BLISSFUL lunch at Jack In The Box, (seriously we couldn’t stuff our faces fast enough) during which I got in a quick nap. We were dreading the next segment of our ride, having been warned by a nice (not insane) biking couple that the hill after crescent city would be the worst incline of our entire trip.

We set out full of trepidation, even before we mounted the base of the hill, we could see it rising up before us, leering at us with its steep ugly face. The climb was indeed long and painful, our toiling punctuated by RVs and logging trucks zooming by waaay too close for comfort. However we were rewarded on the other side with a long free-fall down the hill we had just conquered, and a beautiful view of the beach where we stopped to celebrate Kim’s birthday with an apple strudel loaf.

After reaching the beach and taking a few more pictures of the gorgeous surf, we stumbled across our “hokey tourist trap of the day” in the form of a giant sculpture of Paul Bunyan, and Babe the big blue (anatomically correct) ox, perhaps the most awkward thing I saw all day.

A few miles later we were in the process of crossing a bridge, and couldn’t help but notice that a huge crowd of people were crowding the edges, staring into the water. At first we just thought these people needed a life if they thought a calm river was this absorbing, but as we paused one of the gawkers shouted “there’s a whale in the river!” What?! Interest piqued, we pulled over to see an honest-to-goodness blue whale, swimming in the river below us. Some of the bridge people informed us that she had swam up here with her calf three days ago, feeding on the salmon in the river. Her calf had just left to return to the ocean the day before (it was the whale equivalent of a college student, apparently it is common for the calf to leave around 6 months old), but the mother had stayed behind. Some felt that she was sticking around to finish cleaning out the river of its fish population, while others thought she was too big to pass the sandbar that blocked the ocean, while her calf was still small enough to navigate it. Whatever the case, we wish luck to the lady whale and hope she has a safe journey home.

All these things, the views, the whale, even the incredibly campy tourist attractions, were causes for wonderment as we continued on our ride, but they were all blown away when we got to our campsite, which was conveniently located in a state and national redwood forest park. Everyone knows these trees are huge, and most have seen the pictures of cars driving through, etc. But there is no way to really, truly comprehend how massive they really are until you are standing at the base of a trunk bigger than your house. And then to have an entire forest of these mammoths, blocking out the sun and making the late afternoon into dusk, branches and limbs big enough to be trees in their own right. It was a the very best reward for a long hard ride and a terrific way to end the day.

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