Monthly Archives: October 2019

Exploring the Wonder of Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on the California Redwood Coast is loaded with ferns. I love seeing the forest floor and hillsides full of them. But one place in particular really celebrates fernery and is aptly called Fern Canyon. The first time I came here was over 18 years ago during an Oregon/Washington road trip with my sister, daughter and niece. We were all amazed by our visit and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Mark and I also came here some years ago and it was still just as wonderful. A return to Fern Canyon was definitely in order. I would love to visit this place every year if I could as it is that special.

My $6.00 Walmart rubber boots saved the day

I am glad we talked to the rangers before driving out to the Canyon. We visited the Redwood National Park Visitor Center a few days before and were told that the Canyon was accessible, but the footbridges over the creek had been removed for the season. A visit guaranteed wet feet. I decided we should bring our rubber boots and it was the best decision as we were able to walk through the creek and keep dry.

Creek Crossing on Davidson Road to Fern Canyon

Getting to Fern Canyon is a bit of an adventure as it involves driving for some miles (about 10) on a winding, narrow dirt road with a couple of creek crossings. One of the creeks was rather wide but it was no problem for our truck. Once we reached the parking area it was a short walk before entering the Canyon where Home Creek flows. Since it is later in the year, I was a little surprised at how well the creek was flowing. As I said earlier, I was very happy about our rubber boots. While others were rock hopping and enduring soaked shoes, we could happily splash in and out of the creek. I think I spent most of my time walking in the creek, as it was just more fun that way.

Fern Canyon is well known for having 50 foot walls covered with ferns. These walls and all the fallen logs and branches give the Canyon a primeval look and feel. It is not surprising that several movies have been filmed here including “Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs” and “IMAX: Dinosaurs Alive.”

There are five different kinds of ferns growing here including five fingered, sword and lady. The National Park Service page describes these ferns as an “ancient species” dating back over 325 million years. In addition, there is lots of other foliage giving the Canyon a lush, tropical look. In some areas moss covers the walls and misty sprays from the top keep everything soaked.

Water sprayed down on me and the moss was soaked and dripping

Although the Canyon is fairly open most of the way, at one point there was a tangled mass of downed trees, stumps and logs. It looked like we wouldn’t be able to go further but we were able to pass under the trees and continue on.

A few obstacles in Fern Canyon
A few more logs to climb over

Fern Canyon can be done as a loop hike with steps that lead up the hill to a trail in the forest and back to the beginning. We didn’t want to leave the creek and fern covered walls though and decided to continue further up the creek until there wasn’t any where to walk and go back the same way. This was a perfect walk, I just wish it had been longer as it is under a mile each way and I hated for it to end.

The Canyon narrows and the trees/shrubs get thicker

On this trip I took this walking stick that I am embarrassed to say I have been meaning to use for close to two years but keep forgetting to take it along. This stick has a bit of a story. When we were staying at a campground next to the Mississippi River we met one of our neighbors. Although we only had the opportunity to talk to him a few times, he kindly surprised us with this stick. On the river’s edge he found a willow branch which had been gnawed by a beaver. He turned it into a walking stick, writing in pen the date and place it was made (Vidalia, Louisiana). A thoughtful gift that shows we have met some of the nicest people on the road.

It seems to us that Fern Canyon is one of the more difficult places to take photos because it tends to be dark and shafts of light beaming in wash out the photos. I say this because I don’t think pictures can do this place justice. It needs to be seen to be appreciated. If you haven’t been I hope you will consider a trip here some day. There is also lots more to see in the area since it is part of Redwood National Park. The redwoods are incredible and the beaches are pretty great as well. Check out the gallery below for several more Fern Canyon photos.

In my next post more about our stay on the California Redwood Coast!

Our Time in Chico, CA and Fall Plans

Pool party time – my parents and daughter
Our grandsons Luke and Levi enjoying lunch after a swim

I thought I would update on what we have been up to the past few months. From the end of July to the first part of October, we stayed in Chico so we could be near my parents. My mother had to have emergency surgery and we are so thankful and pleased that she had a full and quick recovery. For some time she has been back to her normal activities – she is a tough one! When we first arrived in Chico we stayed at the RV park where we usually stay when visiting my parents – Almond Tree RV Park. This park is less than two miles from their house and is a really nice spot for short stays. Unfortunately, they have a two week stay limit and we wanted to be in Chico longer than that. I did some research and found another RV/trailer park about a mile down the road. It was reviewed as once being a “problem” place full of questionable residents that gave the Park a bad name. Enter a man named Eddie who became the manager, rousted the ones who wouldn’t follow the “law” and peace ensued.

Mark and I showed up to see if we could convince Eddie to take us in as residents. At first he was doubtful as our RV is smaller than ones usually accepted there. But it happened that a small site was being vacated the next day that could perfectly accommodate our rig. After filling out the rental agreement and other necessary paperwork we were accepted. We affectionately nicknamed it the “gravel pit,” because well, there is nothing but gravel there. But this place was just what we needed. It was very quiet and peaceful, close to my parents’ house and also close to shopping, restaurants and other businesses. In addition, the monthly cost was very low and Eddie was a great landlord.

Yeah – we finished it!

Our two plus months in Chico were filled with lovely visits with my parents, sharing meals (my mom is a very good cook) and great talks full of reminiscing. Together we watched many baseball games as my dad is a big Giants fan and catches all the games. Mark and I never watch sports so this was a new thing for us and I learned some things I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about the game. Watching baseball games is more fun than we thought (except for all those looooong commercials 😞 ). During the games (and other times) my mom and I worked on this puzzle of the Anza Borrego Desert which was rather challenging, more so since we did it on a flowered table cloth and it was too long for the end of the table!

My dad and I at the Food Locker – making sure shelves are stocked and bags are packed

Staying in Chico meant attending church with my parents and helping out on Wednesdays at the Food Locker which is sponsored by the Catholic Ladies Relief Society. Food and other provisions are provided to the needy and my mother has volunteered here for 20 years 😃 .

Heirloom tomatoes at the Chico Farmer’s Market
Lots of stands have flower bouquets for sale at the Chico Farmer’s Market

I had been missing the food and restaurants in California and Chico has an abundance of good ones. There were great lunches at Sierra Nevada Brewery, Beatniks, Priya’s Indian for the buffet, Hula’s Mongolian Grill and Great Harvest Bread. We liked getting Italian food at California Pasta Productions which makes their own homemade noodles and sauces. On Saturdays I made sure to go to the Farmer’s Market which is one of my all time favorite outdoor markets. Among other things, the tomatoes, nectarines and bread were standouts.

Diving in without first getting used to the water – pretty good for an almost 86 year old

My parents live in a beautiful, tree filled neighborhood that comes with a clubhouse and large pool. That pool was a welcome treat in the hot summer weather and my dad and I took advantage of it on several occasions. We arrived at Chico when temperatures were often in the mid to high 90’s, even breaking 100. Our trailer air conditioning couldn’t handle the heat by mid afternoons and often shut off. Getting exercise outside was not a popular option for us so we headed to the local mall to walk inside. It was the perfect place to do some laps and I got in some fast power walks, getting in a little better shape than when I arrived. Sadly, the Chico Mall like so many around the country are becoming like ghost towns with fewer and fewer shoppers. Who knows how long many of them will hang on.

Walking with my dad under the tall oaks in Bidwell Park

When the temps cooled down after August we walked in Bidwell Park which in my humble opinion is one of the best parks in any town/city I have visited. The Park features amazing huge oak and sycamore trees and is very large (11 miles in length) with a road and many paths for walking, biking and horseback riding. The focal point of the Park is Big Chico Creek which flows year around. Due to the beauty of the trees, the original “Adventures of Robin Hood” movie starring Errol Flynn was filmed here in 1938.

Big Chico Creek flows through Bidwell Park
My dad at one of the bridges over Big Chico Creek

The best part of our Chico stay were all the family get togethers. Besides my parents, we were able to visit with my sister, brother-in-law, son, daughter and family, two nieces and a great-niece. It was such a blessing to see everyone again.

From left: Mark, niece Emily, daughter Shannon, son-in-law Jonathan, son Matt, grandsons Luke and Levi

We celebrated my dad’s birthday while we were there. Our family has always enjoyed gag gifts and years ago when our son Matt was a pre-teen, my parents gave him a broken tennis racket as a gag gift. Matt was wanting a new racket for Christmas and he was known for having busted a few while playing. This year Matt decided to return the favor and give his grandpa (once an avid tennis player) a busted racket. It brought lots of laughter from everyone when he opened his gift.

My dad with his bent tennis racket
My dad enjoying a homemade sniff and scratch birthday card from the great-grandsons
My dad with his great-grandsons

We also enjoyed trips to visit at the home of our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons who live south of Chico near the Sacramento area. We enjoyed their new spa and beautifully renovated backyard. It was great to be together again.

As I write this we are sitting in our little trailer in an RV park in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. We just arrived here today, the 37th state of our RV travels. After leaving Chico we stopped near Redwood National Park on the Northern California Coast for five nights. We had a wonderful stay there which I will be writing about in future blogs. For the rest of October and into early November we will be exploring Oregon, first making our way up the coast. Stay tuned!

Exploring Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

Relief map of the Keweenaw Peninsula

After leaving our campsite near the town of Munising and the Pictured Rocks area, we traveled west to the Keweenaw Peninsula for our last stay in Michigan. The Peninsula is the most northern part of the state and juts out into Lake Superior. It was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. There didn’t seem to be many campgrounds to choose from but we did find one in the town of Ontonagon and reserved a spot for one week. I thought this would be a good location as it was central to the main town of Calumet to the north and also in the vicinity of Porcupine Mountains State Park and Bond Falls to the south. Our campsite was basic, inexpensive and situated across from the Ontonagon River.

Ontonagon River with Yellow Yarrow wildflowers

The River is most well known for the Ontonagon Boulder discovered near the shore in 1667, exact location of discovery unknown. It is a 3,708 pound boulder of native copper that is now held by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C.

During our short stay in this town I found two main things of interest. The first was the Ontonagon Lighthouse which can only be accessed with a tour guide. The tour ended up being myself and one other family who met at the local museum and then were driven by van to the lighthouse built in 1866. One of the main keepers was a man named James Corgan who began work here in 1883 and remained for 37 years, retiring in 1919 when he was 71. Mr. Corgan is credited with saving the lighthouse when fire 🔥 broke out in Ontonagon in August 1896. The fire destroyed the town including sawmills and the Diamond Match Company, the town’s main enterprise. Mr. Corgan and his family carried water from the river, keeping the roofs and buildings wet to prevent igniting. The light was discontinued in 1964 and in 2008 restored to its 1915 appearance.

The tour was given by a life-long resident of Ontonagon, who reported he was 80 years old. He really knew the history of the town and lighthouse. Inside we were able to visit all of the rooms as well as the light tower. Although, me and those spiral staircases ☹️ .

Lighthouse living areas

After driving back from the lighthouse tour I saw a small hand made sign on a street corner advertising music that night by Peter Yarrow at the community theater building. I pondered if this could possibly be the Peter of the “Peter, Paul and Mary,” trio, the famous folk group in the 60’s and 70’s. I found out it was indeed and there was no way I was going to miss this show. I really enjoy the music of Peter, Paul and Mary and had never seen any of them performing live.

Peter Yarrow and his son Christopher

During the show Peter was accompanied by his son who played the washtub bass as well as a talented duo called “Mustard’s Retreat.” This turned out to be one of the most fun musical evenings I had been to in years. Peter encouraged lots of audience participation and we sang along with him during many of the songs, including: If I Had a Hammer, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Blowin’ in the Wind, Lemon Tree, This Land is Your Land and El Salvador. When it was time for Puff the Magic Dragon, he asked that all the children come on the stage. Well, there was a real lack of children in the theater that night but a few adults came up. He insisted that more join him and a few more came including myself. On stage we all sang about Puff together and it was a memorable experience. Throughout the show Peter was personable and funny with frequent messages promoting good will. He encouraged love and acceptance as the remedy for society’s ills. During the intermission he invited people to come and say hello and get a hug.

After intermission which included homemade cookies and punch (at no cost and something you don’t usually find in a big city) the concert continued as Peter played requested songs from the audience. When it was getting close to 10:30 and he had been performing for over three hours, even I a night owl was starting to get a little tired. After all, you can only sing along so long 😊 😊. I was amazed by his stamina and exuberance especially since he is now 81 years old. When the show ended I thought it was the best $20.00 I had spent in a long time. I was glad my eye had caught the small Peter Yarrow sign on the street corner.

The town of Calumet was once the center of the copper mine industry and a National Park (NPS) Historic Site Visitor Center is located there. The day we drove up we found a parade getting ready to start. Turned out this was part of the Upper Peninsula Firefighters Tournament which was in its 125th year. The tournament included fire departments from various towns competing in skill races and other events. We were glad we came at just the right time because we watched dozens of fire engines, both vintage and new as well as floats travel the downtown streets of Calumet.

One of the most clever floats was put together by the West Iron County Fire Department from the town of Iron River. Dressed like KISS band members they rocked and sang their hearts out.

Mark and I were surprised to learn that hockey had its beginnings in this part of the Peninsula. The nearby town of Houghton claims to be the birth place of organized professional ice hockey and home of the world’s first all professional ice hockey team which began in 1902. So, it made sense that there would be kids from ice hockey teams in the parade. We were especially interested to learn about hockey in this area because our son Matt has loved and continuously played the sport for 26 years, since he was nine years old.

Young hockey players parading past the former St. Anne’s church and carrying a sign “Calumet is Hockeyville USA”

The NPS Visitor Center was a place to get our passport book stamped and see all the exhibits regarding this once booming copper mining town. We learned that the copper rush began here in the early 1840’s, before the California gold rush got going in 1848. For about 40 years, Michigan surpassed all other states in copper production. Several copper mines no longer in operation can still be toured and are a popular attraction in this part of Michigan. Today, Arizona remains the top copper producing state.

Remember the pasties we ate in Munising? Miners carried them in these tin pails

I really enjoyed seeing Calumet’s historic buildings and many were built with Lake Superior sandstone. In the later years of the 19th century small towns with wooden buildings in the Keweenaw Peninsula were ravaged by fires. Sandstone was seen as a much better alternative as it was prized for its beauty and toughness. I always love seeing historic churches when we visit new places and I admired two very beautiful sandstone churches – St. Anne’s, a former French Canadian Catholic Church and now a heritage center with the National Park Service and St. Paul Catholic Church, built in 1902 and still holding services.

St. Paul Catholic Church

Calumet has several museums and we spent some time at the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum. It was built as a fire station in 1898 with the rear of the station functioning as a stable for eight horses that pulled the fire wagons. The horses were used into the 1930’s even though the first mechanized fire truck arrived in 1919. During the winter the wheels were removed from the fire engines and sleigh runners attached so the fire trucks could be pulled to fire locations by the horses.

Calumet Fire Museum

The museum has a variety of historic fire wagons, engines, memorabilia, photos and information. The first mechanized fire truck was the La France pumper made in 1919 and shipped to Calumet over the ocean and then by rail.

First mechanized fire truck

Perhaps the most well known historic sandstone building is the Calumet Theater which was built as an opera house in 1900. Many famous performers of that era came to this opera house which still has shows today. I was hoping to see the inside of it but it was closed even though we were there on a weekend. I was told at the Visitor Center that the buildings are staffed by volunteers and hours of operation are therefore limited.

Calumet Theater

This finishes our Michigan exploration as the next day after our visit to Calumet we had to return to California for a family emergency. In my next post, I review our time in California and plans for the Fall.