We arrived at Elk Prairie campground relatively early in the afternoon. Since it was only 2pm, we figured we had plenty of time to see a recommended sight: Fern Canyon.
There are no direct roads connecting the campground to Fern Canyon, which is located ten miles away. There is just a Park Service "road" that peeters out into a single track mountain bike trail, and then joins a gravel road that descends dramatically towards the beach.
When I say that the road "descended dramatically", I mean I freaked out about how we were going to get back to our campsite before dark. I mean I slammed on my brakes and felt I was diving down the gravel. It took us an hour and a half to reach the beach, and it was 4pm when we arrived. As we travel further south, the days keep getting shorter and shorter, and I imagined us struggling up this gravel hill for hours then navigating the forest mountain bike trail in pitch black, making it back to the campsite around 9pm. I decided right then and there that I would see this canyon BUT I would try my hardest to hitchhike back to camp.
Well, good thing because this canyon was EPIC. For whatever reason, the creek flowing down the bluffs carved out a fifty foot canyon through the sandy cliffs to meet the ocean, and on these canyon walls grows seven species of ferns. The creek had slowed to meandering flow, and there were plenty of huge fallen logs to navigate so you wouldn't get your feet wet. It was truly magical and unlike anything I've ever seen.
But then we had to go back to camp. It was 5:30, and the sun was starting to make long shadows beneath us. I started up the gravel road and stuck out my thumb. I was dreading the climb, hoping that SOMEONE would have pity and let us through our bikes in their mini SUV. I choked on the gravel dust as the cars passed and passed, no luck.
But then, after only riding for like 15 minutes, we were back at the start of the mountain bike trail. It was still light. I hadn't collapsed from exhaustion. We were halfway back to the campsite.
We had worked ourselves us so much about the hill that it was over in no time. I thank the previous day's bi-hiking for crushing it on the climb. We made it back to camp in 45 minutes, with plenty of time to cook dinner AND see that night's ranger program.
These little legs must be getting stronger and stronger.