Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Prairie Creek Redwoods

Redwood National and State Parks

Normally the Newton B, Drury Parkway can take travelers through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but the road was closed due to a fallen redwood blocking passage!  We wanted to hike one of the numerous trails through this old growth forest, so we had to take 101 all the way down to the Elk Prairie Campground and backtrack from there via our own two feet.  The ranger at the kiosk advised us to take the Prairie Creek Trail up to the "Big Tree" and then return via the Cathedral Trees Trail.

This hike was different than the one through Stout Grove.  There, the redwoods ruled.  Here, they formed a canopy for a variety of other temperate rain forest plants like ferns and rhododendrons. Even the Douglas Firs (big in their own right) seemed small in comparison; and my travel buddy looked like a chihuahua.  (Sorry, buddy!  Okay, maybe a Great Dane.)

We didn't meet a single other person until we crossed over the creek to "Big Tree".  Everyone wants to see this tree even though (in my humble opinion) it is not the most beautiful.  Still . . .it's worthy of a picture, that's for sure, as it stands a whopping 304 feet high and is 1.500 years old!
Big Tree

Feeling like a chihuahua, too?

As I headed back to the campground, I nearly stepped on this tiny little banana slug, but I have to tell you, I was almost as excited to see this little yellow creature as I was the Big Guy.  They're supposedly quite common in these rain forests, but this was the first time I came across one.  (Probably because I'm always looking up and not down.)

As I am writing this entry, I am also looking forward to our trip back north to Oregon.  We will be pulling a U-Haul trailer behind our van this time, with all our worldly possessions, so we aren't going to be able to stop in too many offbeat locales.  But maybe, just maybe, the Newton B. Drury Parkway will be opened and I can see these gorgeous majestic redwoods one more time before I bid California a fond farewell.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Stout Grove Redwoods

Redwood National and State Parks

When we stopped at the Visitor's Center in Crescent City, California to ask about hiking trails, the ranger pointed to Stout Grove on the map and said, "The road is a bit rough, but well worth it.  Because of the rich soil around the Smith River, the Redwoods here are among the tallest and most beautiful in the park.  And they're all old growth."

We were hooked.  Off we went over the narrow dirt road, creeping over pot holes and wet mud.  Oh brother!  He wasn't kidding.  Higher clearance would have been nice, but then again, it was an adventure just getting there.  Our van looks like a toy car next to these tall majestic giants.

Stout Grove is located on the east end of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  From Crescent City, take Elk Valley Road to Highway 199.  An easy trail loops through this beautiful grove of trees.  This 44-acre forest was donated (ironically) by the widow of lumber baron Frank D. Stout in 1929.

The ranger told us that periodic flooding along the Smith River prevents other trees from growing here so that the redwoods reign supreme.  They appear taller and straighter because their bases have been covered with soil.  You don't see this anywhere else in the park.  The ferns are also notably fuller, greener and larger.  The whole place has a primeval feeling to it.  

It's hard to visualize the two million acres of redwoods that once covered the Northern California Coastline.  Once the gold rush was over, men turned to logging these patriarchal trees and we came perilously close to losing them all.  If it weren't for the State of California preserving key groves in the 1920's, there might not be a single tree left.

Today the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service cooperatively manage these old growth forests.  In addition to park status, all these redwood groves were added to the World Heritage List in 1980, further ensuring their protection for generations to come.  Many of these trees are already over 2,000 years old and tower to 300 feet.

I highly recommend stopping at several of the groves if you happen to be driving up the 101 in Northern California.  To walk among these giants is not only a magical experience, but a humbling one.  But if you are short of time, don't fret!  This stretch of the 101 through the Redwood National Park is lined with magnificent specimens.  You don't even have to get out of your car to see them, making it one of the most beautiful road trips in the world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Devil's Punchbowl

Why is it so many interesting geological formations are named after the Devil?  I'm not sure this evil mythical creature deserves such attention.  But as we drove down the Oregon Coast, we came across yet another:  Devil's Punchbowl.  We turned.  We saw.  Our cheeks turned red from the biting cold wind and our lips turned blue as we walked out on the headland and peered below.  It was March and very, very COLD.  Work of the Devil?  Maybe.  After all, he's a tricky sort.

But it's not work of the devil, at all.  It's dear old Mother Nature who has been around a heck of a lot longer than this fictional character.  Relentless beating by the waves and wild, thunderous wind over millions of years eventually caused the collapse of this sea cave, forming a bowl in the basalt cliff.

But I guess, Mother Nature's Punchbowl just doesn't have the same ring, does it?