one of the most beautiful places i've ever been: the california redwoods
A couple of years ago, I decided to spend my Xmas/New Year vacation camping and hiking in the redwood forests of Northern California. I took my kayak along, because I had been told that the lagoons were not to be missed. Man, was that ever true! I spent two days exploring Big Lagoon and one day on Stone Lagoon. Stone Lagoon was nice, but the real show-stopper was Big Lagoon.
On the first day, I had Big Lagoon all to myself, because the day was foggy, wet, and cold. The water, however, was as flat as a pane of glass. I kayaked the north end on the first day, then the south end on the second. The scenery was magnificent, with lots of wildlife, including a family of otters.
On the north end, I just spent the day following the shoreline, admiring the scenery and taking tons of photos. The south end includes a huge network of reed beds on the inland side of Hwy 101. I spent a good deal of time just exploring the many channels within it, again taking photo after photo.
I also camped and day-tripped in the Redwoods park system, itself a wonder to behold, I backpacked overnight near Tall Trees Grove, spent a day at Fern Canyon, and did lots of short hikes in Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the trails along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. On my next trip, I intend to venture further north to kayak the rivers and lagoons there, as well as camp in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
For sheer breathtaking beauty, this part of California easily rivals my trips into the interior of the Grand Canyon. If you go, do yourself a huge favor and spend the entire week there, or at least a very long weekend. You owe it to yourself to see as much as you can, and to get on those lagoons!
You can put into Stone Lagoon for free from the Kayak Zak's parking lot. You'll need to pay $5.00 to put in from Big Lagoon Campgrounds, but you can put in for free from a little dirt road off of Hwy 101, just north of Tom Creek. Put your maps app into satellite view and look for it. It's easy to spot on the map, but you'll need to pay close attention to the road. Watch for traffic!
There are campgrounds all over the area, of course, but I found the Trinidad Northbound Rest Area so pleasant and forested that I made that my basecamp and slept in my vehicle. The bathrooms were very clean, there weren't many people, and attendants were there very frequently. As a quiet spot to just spend the night and eat breakfast before heading our for another full day, it was perfect (and free!).
SAFETY, WEATHER, ETC
I went in late December, so the weather was cold, in the 40s-50s. However, there wasn't much rain that time of year. Lots of fog, though, so be mindful of road and boat traffic.
Be aware that there are black bears in the park, so you'll need a bear canister if you're doing any remote camping. Even if you're car-camping, you should have some way to secure your food against mice (like the one that got into some crackers I had in the back of my vehicle).