Prairie Creek Redwoods

I saved my favorite for last. We visited Prairie Creek Redwoods twice. The first time, we did a long, 15 mile, hike that started at the visitors center, where we saw the elk herd grazing in a meadow. From there, we took James Irvine to Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon was really cool. Just an unbelievable amount of green there. Then there was a mile of walking along an undeveloped stretch of beach, which was harder than it sounds. The sand was very soft and smooshy, which made every step an effort. Then it was back to the beginning on Miners Ridge. Just a lovely trip all around, with so many different things to see.

The second visit to the park was a shorter hike, but the part I liked the most, which I didn’t really capture in my photos well, was along Prairie Creek itself. The ancient trees there are so enormous and many of them are strange- gnarled and twisted. You get the feeling they must have some real stories to tell. And this park as a whole is very lush and feels quite wild. If there’s anywhere you feel like a dinosaur could appear at any moment, this is it.


Jedediah Smith Redwoods

The northernmost redwood park I visited this week was Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. There were beautiful trees here, some really massive ancient beings. I loved the Stout Grove, which was packed full of tourists and a bit too crowded for my taste in the morning,  but beautifully quiet later in the afternoon. When I had it mostly to myself, I wandered around it for a few hours, just taking it all in. The afternoon light slanting through the trees and down into the ferns was gorgeous.

I also quite enjoyed the banks of the Smith River, which was able to be crossed by footbridges, only in summer. The park ranger we spoke to told us the bridges had only just been put in last week, so we got lucky to be able to complete a hike that included both sides of the river. I hiked 12 miles this day and my friend hiked 16. I got to spend a lot of peaceful solitary time in nature, both gazing up at the trees and later looking out across the river. I found myself a quiet spot and hung out there for awhile, absorbing the peaceful scene. I enjoy hiking, but I also enjoy stopping and resting in nature. It is rejuvenating.



Humboldt Redwoods

I just got back from a hiking trip in the redwood forests of Northern California. We visited several parks and I plan to post one entry for each. First off was Humboldt Redwoods State Park, on the way to where we were staying for the week in Arcata. Humboldt reminded me more of Hendy Woods or even Kings Canyon/Sequoia in terms of the way the forests feel. It is more open and dry than the northern parks, with less ferns and more of that stately glowing light I associate with the other redwood forests I have seen. These parks are comprised of forests ofcoast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, unlike the redwoods of the Sierra Nevada which are Sequoiadendron giganteum. Although they are different trees, they have some similarities, notably, their gigantic size and reddish bark.

Humboldt is not on the coast, which probably accounts for much of the difference in the feeling of the forest itself. It seems more open. There is a famous scenic drive through the middle of the park, Avenue of the Giants. This is a pleasant detour from highway 101 and I can’t see ever skipping it when passing by here even if you don’t plan to hike or even get out of the car. The trees are beautiful and impressive and the forest has a wonderful fragrance. It feels more calm and serene than the forests we visited later in the week which seemed truly wild and lush. On this day we did hiked 8 miles.


Wildflowers of South Skyline

Wildflower season continues and the hills are still green, but they are showing signs of imminent browning. Soon we will return to the Bay Area of Golden hills, after this brief interlude of green. I wandered through four adjacent parks today, Monte Bello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, and Skyline Ridge.  Around every bend I was greeted by magnificent views and an abundance of many kinds of wildflowers. I’m focusing this post on the flowers, and may return with some vistas tomorrow or later in the week.


Yosemite in Black and White

Yosemite in April, and the weather was perfect. The waterfalls were raging and making rainbows in the mist. There was a half moon hanging in the clear blue sky in the afternoon. The rockface was shining in the sun, melting snow sending water pouring down. There were faces in the rocks.

I’d never been to Yosemite before, and I saw the famous landmarks and hiked up the side of a giant waterfall. Tonight I edited some of my photos from the first day in black and white, like Ansel Adams. I thought Ansel Adams was a woman until not that long ago. I never knew anyone named Ansel and it struck me as a woman’s name for some reason. Even though I have now seen photos of him and I know he was a man, I still have this residual feeling in my head that the photos were taken by a woman.

Well, a woman did take these photos:


Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin

The last time I visited Big Basin, I had not yet learned to shoot with a DSLR and was still taking pictures with my iPhone. High contrast nature scenes, like what you find in a shady forest with dark shadows and bright patches of sunlight, are one of the situations where phone photography falls short. So it was really fun to revisit this park with a real camera. We hiked out and back to Berry Creek Falls. Along the way, we saw blooming redwood sorrel, wake robin, canada violet, star solomon’s seal, and more forest flowers. It’s the perfect time of year for a waterfall hike here, right after the rain, wildflower season in full effect. Big Basin has some of the most beautiful redwood forest in the Bay Area.



Methuselah and Tafoni

I headed up to El Corte de Madera this morning, a park I haven’t been to in awhile. It’s a large park, with almost an overwhelming array of trail choices. First I stopped off on the opposite side of Skyline Blvd and took a look at a 1900 year old tree, aptly named Methuselah. Then I headed into the park. Usually when I go hiking I make a clear plan about what I’m going to do, sometimes with an option to make it shorter if I get worn out.  But today I just decided to choose whichever trail seemed more attractive when I came to a junction (and refer to a map of course to make sure there was a plausible way back). I found this quite enjoyable and ended up doing a 6.6 mile loop that took me to see the Tafoni sandstone formation for which the park is known and back to my car in a loop.

I got to thinking about how I tend to choose a loop at a given park and do it over and over again. Nothing wrong with that, but I realized there are a lot of trails I’ve never seen even within parks I have been to many times. So I decided I would start keeping track of the trails I hike on a big paper map I have of the whole area (from Redwood Hikes, by the way, excellent maps) and make an effort to diversify my trail selection. I am probably missing some hidden gems.