Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walking Among Giants

There is a stretch of highways called the Mystic Corridor between Crescent City, CA, and Oregon's Crater Lake National Park.

More specifically, the Corridor begins at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park on Route 199 about five miles east of Crescent City.

I don't know how many miles one would travel in the drive between the two points, but it's not the miles but the sights along the way that would determine how long it would take to complete the journey.

We traveled about a half mile of this route--not half the distance, but half a mile (less than one thousand yards) in an effort to determine how best to use our time at the starting point.

The park ranger provided extensive information about roads, trails, and overlooks, and suggested taking Howland Hill Road--"a single lane gravel road" with two-way traffic that "a school bus travels on an annual trip, so you should be OK with your truck."

With that attempt at reassurance, we decided to consider other options.

So we re-traced our quarter-mile drive into the park, and, following the ranger's second suggestion, headed west toward Crescent City to the Park's Simpson-Reed Grove.

The Grove's trailhead, located right on Highway 199, has parking spaces for fewer than 12 vehicles. But we found one of those spots and enthusiastically began the hike through the old-growth redwood grove.

Two trails, the Simpson Reed and Peterson Memorial trails together form a one-mile figure-eight loop. The path crosses a small stream and winds through a very dense section of the woods, encountering all sizes of redwoods from young saplings to huge old-growth trees.

Some new trees are growing several feet above ground level, either on top of the many thick fallen trunks, or over the bark at the base of living trees, such is the richness of the environment. The forest shows some evidence of past fire damage, but not much.

Underneath the redwoods is a layer of hemlock trees so encrusted in moss and lichens that it's amazing they can survive (the redwoods don't have this problem because they shed their bark). It's these hemlocks that really give this grove its distinctive look.

Underneath the hemlocks are small maple trees with brilliant green foliage, a common sight near streams.

Finally, the ground is covered with a dense layer of sword ferns, and underneath those are abundant, clover-like redwood sorrel.

The figure-eight trail is probably covers less than a mile, but it took us 90 minutes to complete the loop.

We felt like young kids making their first trip to a large city, looking up to view the skyscrapers of the forest.

We would also take time to study the colors and shapes of the bark of these giant redwoods.

It is the thick, sapless bark that protects the trees from fire.

Being in the presence of these towers that have taken 400 years to mature and some of which have survived more than 2,000 years was quite an experience.

No comments: