I took Friday, March 23, 2007 off from work and headed south from my home in Medford, Oregon. Instead of taking I-5 south, I took I-5 north to Grants Pass and then headed south on Hwy 199 (The Redwood Highway). Near Crescent City in California Hwy 199 joined up with Hwy 101 and I headed south down the coast. My goal for today was to climb Rainbow Ridge near the Humboldt Redwoods State Park south of Eureka. The drive through the Redwoods and along the Northern California Coastline is spectacular. It is never boring and is always stunningly beautiful.
This is a long drive from Medford and it wasn’t until noon (5 hours after I left home) that I got to the trailhead. It looked to be a beautiful day without any fog or rain. My timing was good because sunny days along the Northern California Coast are not normal.
I grabbed my daypack and trekking poles and headed north on the gravel road that was to be my trail for the day. The road follows a ridgeline north and has a few ups and downs but nothing serious. There are no redwoods along the ridge. Instead, the forest is mostly California Live Oak, Douglas Fir, and Madrone. It is still pretty but can’t really compare to driving through the Richardson Grove.
After about 1.5 miles I emerged from the forest lining both sides of the road and there were open areas that were filled with fresh new spring grass. At one point I could see Rainbow Ridge ahead and to the left a little. I kept going and at about 3.0 miles I came to a fork in the road where another road comes up from the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The road was blocked to prevent vehicles from going down this road because of some winter weather damage to the road. There was also a sign on the road I was on saying I was leaving the State Park. There wasn’t any sign telling me I couldn’t continue along the road, so I kept going.
The road soon turned more westerly and headed directly towards Rainbow Ridge. I could see more of the summit area in spots as I continued and could see the communications antenna on the summit. I stayed on the road as it passed under the east side of the summit and turned more southwesterly. I was tempted to go cross country directly at the summit, but I stayed on the road.
At about 5.0 miles I came to another fork in the road and headed north towards the summit. There aren’t many trees on the ridgeline and it was easy to see where to go. There is a little branch road going up to the communications facility and the summit. I took that and was soon standing outside a barb wire topped chain link fence surrounding the communications stuff. I walked completely around the facility and enjoyed the views in all directions. The highpoint seemed to be on the west side of the facility.
I didn’t stay long on the summit. I also decided to take a “shortcut” down to the access road by going directly east from the summit down to the road. This was a mistake. About half way down, I ran into an area that had been recently aggressively thinned and all the down trees were laying down blocking my route. I didn’t want to go back up to the summit, so I fought my way through these obstacles almost all the way down to the road. I should have taken the road.
I took the road all the way back to the trailhead without any problems. I did see a couple deer in the grassy area and also had an owl hoot at me at one point. This is a nice hike without any technical difficulties. The overall hike was 11.4 miles with my “shortcut”, otherwise it would have been 12.0 miles on the road. It took me just under 4 hours and the total elevation gain was about 2,000 feet with the ups and downs on the road. Next up was to find a place to sleep for the night and then climb Mt. Hood (in Sonoma County).