Don’t let a midday meal stop your Northern Humboldt outdoors experience. Here are tips on where and what to eat to maximize your nature time.
First, as big tree hunters plumb the depths of Redwood National and State Parks to find monster specimens, hidden in plain site is one of the most photogenic champions: the so-called Picnic Tree, an old growth giant next to the campground of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s been featured in travel magazines and websites, but few who pass notice, on the edge of a pleasant day-use area, just a few steps from the Prairie Creek visitor center, this massive vertical spire, whose sprawling roots flare around its base like the foot of a prehistoric mastodon. Nearby, old stone grills covered in moss add to the prehistoric charm. Should you eat here among the giants, there are plenty of picnic tables from which to choose. And you can work off the meal with a stroll on the Revelation Trail, an easy mile that showcases more mammoth trees.
While technically inside Redwood National Park, most of Bald Hills Road looks like anything but a primeval forest. Rather than foggy groves, the area is dominated by sunny prairies, with occasional clumps of oaks, once grazed by sheep and cattle. The grassy hillsides, with panoramic views of the redwood groves below in the Redwood Creek valley, offer perfect places to picnic, especially in the spring when wildflowers like purple lupines spring up everywhere. To start, from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick, turn east on Bald Hills Road, pass the signs for the Lady Bird Johnson and Tall Trees groves, and ascend into what looks like a scene from The Sound of Music. Three suggested lunch stops: Dolason Prairie, which includes a 9-mile trail for the ambitious; Schoolhouse Peak, which at 3,097 feet is the highest point in the park, and the old Lyons Ranch, whose original barn and bunkhouses are intact and worth exploring. The first is 11.5 miles from U.S. Highway 101. The last two, which require a few miles of unpaved road, are just shy of 18 miles from the highway.
If you are compelled to stay in town for a taste. Here’s an idea, EdeBee’s Snack Shack in Orick, a modest outdoor-seating-only cafe along U.S. Highway 101. Don’t let its appearance deceive you. It frequently attracts lines of locals and visitors for lunch and afternoon eats. The Bigfoot, Flaming Redwoods and Prairie Creek burgers leave the kitchen on a steady basis. Those seeking an extra special treat put in for the 8 Point Rack or Great Hunter Burger, made from tasty elk meat (not the endangered Roosevelts roaming the park). Fries, Tater Tots or onion rings round out the classic American meal with a wild twist. Their tortilla wraps and made-to-order sandwiches earn praise from particular palates, too.