Friday, October 5, 2007

The Great California Adventure - Part 3 - Fern Canyon & Lotta Elk! (09-15-2007 to 09-22-2007)

As I reflect back on this adventure, the price tag for it seems to be steadily increasing, even still. I know it took its toll on the Dodge, I'm still in the process of solving the mystery of the fuel pressure problem, hopes are high that the new fuel pressure regulator will solve it once and for all, I'd really hate to have to cancel my last camping trip of the year to Nehema Bay, Oregon.

Anyway, I left off in my tale with us having finished our visitations to ToM and the annoying puzzle of how in the fark to get out onto the spit at the mouth of Klamath River.

I pick up, today, with our second day of adventure from our stay at Elk Prairie State Park.

Now, there's a really good reason why they call it Elk Prairie. I figured that there was occasional sightings of Elk at some times of the year, and that my chances of ever seeing one was remote.

Boy was I wrong....

Dueling Elk

I'm guessing we were getting close to mating season, if not already in it. I do know that the California hunting season had already begun at this point and the elk were in migration of some sort.

Behind me at the time these pictures were being taken is another part of the prairie, namely the Ranger's housing. In the field over there was probably 5-8 cows (female elk). Two of the bulls were about 50 yards away, very casually dueling each other with their antlers over... something, I'm not certain if it was the females, there was defintely one bull Elk I'd call the alpha male that was pretty much keeping the females to himself.

Now this bugger here, he decided I was far more interesting than the elk he was dueling at that point and casually trotted over. The three pictures above were taken from about 5-10 feet away. This bloke just strolled up and posed! Just stood there, going "I'm ready for my closeup Mr. Seville."

Scared the living tar out of me. First time I see a live elk in my life and the buggers decide to be social... What do I do? Big as bugger elk walking up to me, whole lotta pointy bits sticking out of its head and it giving me the eye? I stand there and go "Derr... pretty elk, must take pictures!", rather than back away more and keep my distance.

I'd say, judging by how it was handling the mob that had formed by this point, these elk are very familiar with humans.

Alpha-Male Bull Elk and Cows

Thats our alpha male I was talking about, he was across the road behind me, kinda casually watching all the goings on in the other part of the prairie. That was, until the mr. Closeup decided it was a good idea to cross the road a little ways down from me and enter his field. The pictures above were taken as the alpha was... I dunno, doing the Elk equivalent of a street taunt?

After our adventures with Elk, we managed to tear ourselves away and drive on down the Drury Parkway (The road you see in those last two pictures) to the turn off for Davidson Road, the route over the hills to Fern Canyon.

First off, don't ever let anyone tell you that Davidson road is a nice, well maintained gravel road in the woods. It might have been that, once upon a time, but heavy use, lack of maintainence (I don't think I've hit a deeper pothole) and hard winters has turned it into something that might have been graveled at one time, but is mostly rutted dirt and bits of gravel thrown in.

We thought the folks driving the very nice sports cars (Mustangs!) down that road were just nuts after we had driven it and got the poo shook out of us (Literally...)

One good thing we did learn is since this area is also part of Prairie Creek Redwoods, our pass from paying for our campsite back at the main campground covered us for entry into the Gold Bluffs/Fern Canyon area.

Fern Canyon is defintely worth the drive. The road is managable with a truck camper, but I'd recommend bubble wrapping anything breakable before attempting it. After visiting Gold Bluffs CG, I defintely think we were probably better off where we had decided to camp, though the Gold Bluffs CG was very nice, clean and with a good outhouse structure, we just would have completely missed the huge numbers of Elk and probably the wonderful drive on the Drury Parkway (Which, btw, is a great way to get around those big 7% hills heading into Orick.)

Fern Canyon

Ah, I do love Fern Canyon, the area is crisp, cool and amazingly green! The entrance into the canyon truly understates the depth of amazing lushness beyond. The hike follows the small stream that made the canyon (One of the many you ford on the road into the parking lot for the Fern Canyon Hike, don't take them too fast like I did!), with man-made crossings set down here and there over the waters path. Many of these primitive pressure treated board crossings are in odd states of repair. More than once, we needed to cross side ways as have the planking was entirely missing, or smashed into small pieces.

Even so, I'd still do the hike again in a heart beat.

Now, if you aren't interested in hiking back out through the canyon itself, there's a canyon rim trail that runs back towards the parking lot, if nothing else, it adds a bit of extra variety to the walk.

Now, here's a very important lesson one must remember before hiking, or for that matter, driving, to Fern Canyon. When ya get to the parking lot, make certain you are empty, Davidson Road is not the best road to drive down right after eating breakfast, as I learned in our hike. I don't think I've pinch-walked faster back towards the parking lot when we were done with the trail.

After all our adventure with Fern Canyon, we set off back to camp to collect the camper and start on our way south towards Ferndale and the what we affectionately call, "The Road from Hell.".

As an added tidbit before I close this part of the adventure tale, I've included some photos of my hitch extension and the hitch reinforcement we did.

And, YES, it is a 48" extension.

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