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Camping deep in the Humboldt redwoods.

Take a detour from the Avenue of the Giants, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and you'll discover that mammoth trees are only the tip of the iceberg. This state park is actually the largest in northern California, embracing more than 50,000 diverse acres west of U.S. Highway 101.

Little of the back country is visible from a car; however, those willing to expend the energy required to see it on foot will be rewarded with a solitude hinted at but rarely found in roadside redwood groves. Unshaded trail sections that can be unbearably hot in summer are pleasant to hike in autumn. Even the poison oak spiraling up the trees looks appealing when it turns flame red in fall.

While coast redwoods dominate the stream flats in the park, at higher elevations you'll pass through forests of tan oak, madrone, and Douglas fir. In places, trees give way to open fields that allow sweeping views of neighboring hills. Trailside remnants of past logging and farming operations are evident.

Unique trail camps: primitive cabins and giant redwoods

Five trail camps in a variety of scenic settings make excellent overnight stops for backpackers. Located at convenient intervals along the flanks of Grasshopper Peak, which rises to 3,379 feet from the horseshoe formed by Bull Creek and the South Fork of the Eel River, each camp is supplied with piped spring water 9check with ranger for availability in this dry year). Because of fire danger, campfires aren't allowed, so be sure to bring a stove.

Before setting out, register at part headquarters on Avenue of the Giants and pay a $1 per night fee. Also pick up a free map showing trails in the park.

These camps are available only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Trails leading to the camps begin at Bull Creek Flats Road. From Avenue of the Giants, the route meanders through ancient Rockefeller Forest, the world's largest surviving stand of virgin redwoods. Distances from trailheads to camps are short, but be prepared for some steep uphill stretches. You can park your car in designated areas along the road.

The two closest camps, each only a 2 1/2 mile hike from Bull Creek Flats Road, are also the most appealing. At Johnson Trail Camp, you can stay in one of four rustic cabins used by tie hacks (railroad-tie makers) from the 1920s to 1950s. If you'd prefer to pitch a tent among mature redwoods, head for Whiskey Flat Trail Camp, where you'll find old-growth giants. The camp takes its name from a moonshine still operated here during Prohibition.

For the best vistas, hike 3 1/2 miles steeply uphill from Johnson Camp to the fire lookout at Grasshopper Peak. After your climb, you can rest at the Grasshopper Trail Camp, about 1/4 mile below the peak. It's on the edge of a meadow frequented by black-tailed deer.

Views are also excellent from the trail to Hanson Ridge Trail Camp, a 3 1/2 mile hike from Whiskey Flat. Low boughs of Douglas fir shield tent sites; huge ferns prosper where a spring gushes out of the ground.

At Bull Creek Trail Camp, you'll be lulled to sleep by water splashing over rocks. Unlike routes to other camps, the 3 1/4-mile approach along Bull Creek is mostly level. Patches of severe erosion you see en route are the result of extensive logging.

Two walk-in campsites.

If the thought of trudging uphill with a backpack doesn't appeal, the only alternative isn't a large drive-in campground. Both the Baxter and Hamilton Barn environmental camps offer secluded camping near Bull Creek, a short walk away from your car. Baxter's two sites sit in young redwoods south of the creek. Hamilton Barn's three sites are in an old orchard; apples are still abundant- and deliciously ripe at this time of year.

The fee for these camps is $6 a night. Both have picnic tables, food lockers, piped water, toilets, and firepits. When you register at park headquarters, a ranger will tell you how to get through the locked gates to the parking areas.
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Title Annotation:Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California
Date:Sep 1, 1987
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