Story Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassadors Dani and Nate Wyeth
Photos by Nate Wyeth
Tall Trees Travels
The coastal Redwoods of Northern California are something from a magical land. Foggy marine layers in the morning give way to warm rays of light filtering through a tree canopy that’s hundreds of years old and just as many feet tall. Visiting these giants had long been on our wander list – our constantly growing list of places to road trip to – since our recent epiphany of how close these were to our home town of Bend.
I don’t know if it’s ever been proven that dogs have the ability to appreciate the beauty of nature, but whenever we watch them hanging their heads out the windows as we travel down the road, looking every which way at the stunning sights (and smells), there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re as in awe as I am. It is for this reason – and let’s be honest, a million more – that we never leave on a road trip without the two dogs joining along. Tanner, at 12.5 years old has cancer, and we know our time to share these special experiences with her while our 10 month old puppy Ranger can learn as much as possible from her about how to do this dog life right, is fleeting.
Our route from Bend to Redwood National and State Parks took us west to the Northern California Coast because playing in the ocean was priority number one. Not for us, of course, but for the pups. Leash rules in the park, even along the coast, are in effect and enforced consistently, but it’s for good reason. Redwood National Park is not only home to hundreds, if not thousands, of Roosevelt Elk, but also to cougars, bears, and other animals that are best off not having a run in with a dog. Trust us, the dog is better off too.
So, we strapped on our harnesses and leashes after five hours in the truck, and bolted for the sandy beach. We ran, frolicked, chased sticks (driftwood is a different kind of delicious, apparently), and rolled in the sand, soaking in that coastal air. I swear Ranger has some beaver lineage in him. The boy can’t resist a good stick, no matter where he is. He quickly became particularly fond of coastal driftwood.
After rehydrating from the saltwater immersion therapy, we headed south, crossing over the Klamath river to another special coastal area tucked below towering bluffs full of coastal redwoods and spruce trees. After setting up camp for the night at Gold Bluff Beach Campground, the only drive-up beach campground in the park, we set up camp before quickly shifting the focus to the real reason we were there—more running and playing on the beach. Dogs aren’t allowed on any hiking trails within the park, but most roads and the beaches do allow them. It’s not ideal, but the nice thing about the roads here is that they’re very lightly traveled, and because of the remote location of this campground, we had the beach to ourselves. After a lot more stick chewing and frisbee chasing, we tucked ourselves in for the night in preparation of heading inland to find some of the biggest trees in North America the next day.
We woke up the next morning, and following one final jaunt on the beach, headed to the visitor center to get the scoop on a few more lightly traveled forest roads that were suitable for hiking with the pups. We got some great intel on roads in two places we were heading next – the Cal Barrow Road in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (seriously, check this place out, it’s insanely beautiful), and Walker Road in Jedediah Smith State Park. Both are bumpy dirt roads unaccommodating to many passenger vehicles, which meant they were perfect for taking the dogs on some hikes through these ancient giants. It quickly became a goal of ours to not only make sure to hit these places, but to also seek out any other public road we could find to get out and take a walk through nature.
Jedediah State Park is particularly beautiful because the Smith River winds its way through the middle of the park. The river’s clear, turquoise waters are accessible throughout the park, and there are several places to pop down to the river for a quick soak and cool down. We’d been working with Ranger to teach him how to swim (he is a Golden Retriever, after all), and this river seemed to want him to swim as well.
We made our final camp that evening along the Smith River just upstream from Jedediah Smith State Park at Patrick Creek Campground. This part of Northern California is one of the most beautiful places to explore, with the river winding through a canyon, its walls towering on both sides far above you. Below our campsite, the pups found a secluded beach area with slow moving water – perfect for Ranger’s first real swimming experience. It’s fun watching a puppy grow up around a senior dog. Ranger certainly has his own personality, there’s no doubt about that, but at the same time he longs to do and be everything that Tanner, 12 years his elder, does. A few stick tosses later out in to the deep part of the water, and Ranger had decided it wasn’t fair that Tanner was getting all of the good wood. Like a trepid toddler jumping in to the deep end for the first time, Ranger took one leap off of solid ground and while it wasn’t pretty, he was swimming! We sat along the river bank for a while after that, just tossing sticks in, and watching as throw after throw, he’d jump in, kick those legs and arms, and retrieve them with so much excitement. Ranger had officially become a water dog.
We headed back to our campsite wet, exhausted, but fulfilled. We made s’mores, the dogs napped by the campfire, and it was at that moment that we realized that this life we’ve made for ourselves and for our pups was exactly what we wanted it to be, right where we wanted to be.
Follow all of Nate, Dani, Tanner, and Ranger’s adventures on Instagram at @natewyeth and @daniwyeth.