Regrets . . . Since retirement I’ve been living the no regrets policy but this park never made it to the top of my list. There’s no excuse as it’s less than 4 hours from my home base.
Well now 97% of park is burned from wildfires in 2020 and 2021.
There’s something for everybody at this park. Geology, history, flora and fauna. With hundreds of caves it’s a spledunkers heaven. So many birds and a wide variety of plants given both the volcanic soil and high desert environment. Plenty of trails of various lengths to hike and explore, although some may be closed due to fire damage.
Pictographs at Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave. Petroglyphs at appropriately named Petroglyph Point (tip the best ones are the furthest from the restroom).
The Schonchin Butte fire lookout was built by the CCC. It’s a nice 500′ elevation gain hike in less than a mile to reach this 360-degree viewpoint where you can see Mt Shasta plus much more.
I hiked to Heppe Cave, Big Nasty and Mammoth Crater and Fleener Chimneys, the latter being my favorite. For cavers there are many options, both semi developed and off the beaten track.
I hiked the trails to Thomas-Wright Battlefield, Gillems Camp and Captain Jacks Stronghold. I wished for more interpretative signage on the first, loved the interpretative booklet for the second, and was sad they were out for the third, although it was my favorite hike. I found you can get them on line at NPSHistory.com.
This high desert, lava landscape is home to many types of flora. I hiked the Three Sisters Trail, which has many species and also offers solitude. Included are blooms I found all over the park during my 3-day visit.
For convenience I stayed at the Park campground. There’s one GREAT site, the rest are potentially problematic. At least I enjoyed the local sunsets.
For hiking, ask for the list at the Visitor Center. Don’t discount the short hikes. They are worth your time and can be combined with other hikes.
Be aware and prepared for snakes and heat.
Dispersed camping is available outside the park. I enjoyed a few rainbows on my departure date.
Rain is such a rare event, I was thrilled to put on my raincoat.
My spring jaunt has officially begun! It began with a north heading. What’s next? Who knows!
The month started with temperatures feeling more like summer, but thankfully Mother Nature decided to shake up the forecasters by sending us on a rollercoaster ride. From freeze and wind gust warnings, to low elevation snow, and finally to measurable rain.
When Whiskeytown National Recreation Area announced an April 1st opening of trails after a nearly 4-year closure, it was easy to wonder if this was an April Fool’s Day joke. But alas, it was true and I was first legal steps on the Papoose Trail. It was worth a dedicated post (link). A few days later my friend Rebecca and I took the main Boulder Creek Trail to Boulder Creek Falls. This view of the creek brings back memories of days before the 2018 Carr Fire.
The Park was a little tardy in removing their closure signs. The snowdrop bushes were loaded. Indian Rhubarb (top right) likes to grow in creeks, and I believe I initially learned about these beauties at Whiskeytown. Star Tulip and Hosackia stipularis var. ottleyi (bottom right).
I was ecstatic to join my friend Cathy for a jaunt in Trinity County where I was introduced to the Fritillaria purdyi lily. It’s a tiny little thing. My friend Bino Bob is about 1.25″ tall for reference.
I was treated to displays of Lemon Fawn Lilies and Lady Slipper Orchids, hidden in the leaf littered oak forests.
When the local forecast called for 90+ degree temperatures, I grabbed Poppy Pack and headed for higher ground. With no goal in mind except to turnaround at snowline. We found plentiful sights, smells and sounds of spring.
When I reached snowline, I was happy to soak in this grand view and dream of further exploration.
Home sweet home. Lulled to sleep by a nearby creek. Temp dropped to 44 my first night and 34 the second. I added this one pound tent to my quiver in 2021 (Zpacks Plexamid) and finally replaced my quilt with one from Enlightened Equipment (10 degree 950 fill). With my aging body I’m motivated to drop pack weight while maintaining safety and comfort.
Finding this display of Western Pasqueflowers was a highlight of this trip. I used this photo as a headline in my recent post about individual responsibility when it comes to caring for public lands (link).
This sunrise view was a reward for sore muscles after climbing 3,800 feet. My mantra was you need to do hard things if you want to do harder things.
One week later the trail was buried again (not my photo). I was giddy to delay spring!
Locally rain finally arrived! We are still far behind normal levels but more rain fell in April than in the previous three months combined.
When the storms cleared, I couldn’t resist a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
I was ecstatic to find the first of the season snow plants.
A ranger pointed out this goose sitting on her nest. She expected a hatch any day.
Since we were cheated out of winter, I need another snowshoe adventure and Mt Shasta offered the perfect opportunity.
I found icicle goodness and moody skies.
Nature’s decorations are better than anything we can mimic.
This storm made for a wonderful reason to delay my spring jaunt departure.
I might be feeling a little prickly after focusing on trip prep rather than enjoying daily adventures. Happily I still got out for daily walks where I could find roadside surprises like these yellow cactus blooms.
I’m super excited to get back into jaunting mode. If all goes according to plan, soon I’ll be frolicking among these beauties.
It’s going to be a challenging season as I work to avoid fires and smoke. My motto will be get out now, enjoy every day and hope for good air tomorrows. There are already big fires in New Mexico and Arizona.
Dino and Bino Bob are ready for adventure and nagging Jan to hurry with her final chores. Where oh where shall we go? Oh how I love the unknown with many opportunities awaiting exploration. Curiosity is a good thing!
Drought brought a very early spring and no mass displays like I enjoyed last year.
One day I got super excited to take a walk in the rain. I used my windshield wipers for a few minutes to get to my walking trail. But the joke was on me as that was all we got, just a big tease.
Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies provided plenty of reasons to smile along the local trails.
Last year I learned about the pipevine plant and blooms, so when I stumbled upon a pop-up interpretative display I knew it must be time to see what I could find.
Sure enough I found vines, blooms, old seed pods, and coolest of all eggs! I learned they have a 3-5 day incubation period which means soon I should find lots of caterpillars.
With our county finally reaching low risk COVID status, the local Native Plant Society resumed their field trip hikes. It was great fun socializing again. Besides the usual spring suspects, we also found Yellow Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) and Cardinal Catchfly (Silene laciniata).
It was impossible not to smile with trails like this threading through green grasses and oak tree forests.
This wouldn’t be a year of the super bloom, although I don’t think the Warrior’s Plume got the message. “This plant likes to form a symbiotic relationship with moderate to high acid plants, shrubs and trees. It forms this relationship by searching for the root ball or root mass, then it entwines itself roots to roots, feeding off the roots to supply the plants needs.“
It seemed I was always able to find something new and different to photograph. Since I can’t control weather and conditions, I decided to embrace it. Cheers to celebrating spring blooms! Speaking of symbiotic relationships, Broomrape is another. When I found the first of season Death Camas and was reminded of foraging, I was happy to offset with the Red Maids which indeed are edible.
With an acceptable weather window, I decided to test my fitness and gear on a small section of the PCT. There was a little snow on the ground, plentiful water, and I stayed entertained watching the moon, sunrises, sunsets and beautiful clouds. Yes it was chilly and I was reminded of how condensation can accumulate on your bag/quilt. My body rebelled at too many miles with pack weight and I admitted I needed to work on realistic expectations of my still rehabbing body.
This was the most beautiful snowmelt stream. The water was the best of the trip!
This seasonal pond not only provided reflections but also one night it gifted me a frog orchestra.
With the early spring I was able to visit Trinity Alps where I found a few blooms including Warrior’s Plume, Toothwort, Viola and Shooting Stars. It was so nice being back in the forest.
I continued to be delighted by local blooms. There are several types of Euphorbia at our local arboretum. I was thrilled to find a new seedpod of the pipevine plant. I wasn’t able to identify the two flowers, most likely non natives. The pink dogwoods were a welcome sight along the river trail. Bonuses included first ladybug sighting and busy bees on the lavender.
March has been the month to observe the lifecycle of pipevine plants and butterflies. On the last day of the month I finally found caterpillars, albeit babies, who will soon litter the trails but for now they are safely munching on the pipevine leaves. Blooming iris were a signal the calendar was about to turn to April.
When phlox is more than phlox. This particular species is the Yreka Phlox, near my hometown. It was fun to go in search of this beauty. Bonus was views of Mt Shasta. “The Yreka phlox (phlox hirsuta) dots the landscape of Yreka’s hillsides and valley from March to June. The Yreka phlox is both a pride of Yreka and conservation concern. The recorded history of the Yreka phlox dates back to 1876 when Edward L. Greene described and collected specimens of the phlox hirsuta from the local area. However, the flower has since been placed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State endangered species list. Efforts to conserve the Yreka phlox originally began in 1975 when, in a report to Congress, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution included it on a list of endangered plants. In 1984, The Nature Conservancy dictated that China Hill and Soap Creek Ridge warranted protection as part of their Element Preservation Plan. The City then became involved alongside The Nature Conservancy in 1986. In 2000, phlox hirsuta was placed on the Federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an official Recovery Plan for Yreka phlox was released by the agency in 2006. Multiple organizations have come together to support recovery efforts, but the flower’s biggest conservation proponent was the late city attorney Larry G. Bacon, who died in 2004.”
While the bright pink Yreka Phlox stole the show, other finds included Popcorn flowers, Astragalus and Allium.
As the temperatures increased my computer screen was on refresh to watch snowline. Where oh where can I go without slogging through snow? GAIA maps have been a great resource. The darker the blue and pink the deeper the snow. We are officially in extreme drought. I’m fearful of the fire season.
I also spent time studying the 2021 fire boundaries to avoid early season trail problems. The darker and brighter the red, the more recent the fire. Sadly about 70% of the trails in the Trinity Alps have been affected, as well similar in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a large swatch of the PCT.
Photos are from hikes and walks in Shasta, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tehama Counties including,
No precipitation since January 5th combined with warmer than normal temperatures has led to spring in February. According to my photo archives blooms are 3-6 weeks early. The good news is it gave me plenty of opportunity to race to find new blooms along a variety of nearby trails.
I continued to see blooms I’d already photographed and shared from my January jaunts, so instead I focused on the new hit parade. First up was Milkmaids. “Cardamine californica, or milkmaids, is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, native to western North America from Washington to California and Baja California. It is common in a variety of habitats including shady slopes, open woodlands, chaparral and grasslands in the winter and early spring.”
Nature’s color wheel gifted me purples. Top and bottom left is Blue Water Speedwell found in Whiskeytown Lake where water receded during the winter. Top right is a nightshade, middle right is Tolmie’s Pussy Ears or Star Tulip, with lupine in the bottom right.
February 10th brought me my first poppy.
It was easy to appreciate these non-native Cape Marigolds rather than the sad barren burned canyon. I also found a new friend I’m calling Bino (binoculars) Bob. “Dimorphotheca sinuata, the glandular Cape marigold, Namaqualand daisy, or orange Namaqualand daisy; syn. Dimorphotheca aurantiaca hort. is an African species of plants native to southern Africa.”
The early spring parade continued with bush poppy in upper left, which I first found last year at the end of April in peak bloom. This year the plants still look to be in winter hibernation stage but I found a few buds and blooms. It’ll be interesting to see if the bushes come back to life this year. Bottom left is phlox and sage is one the right. The details on the phlox leaves was a wonderful surprise.
One day when I didn’t find any new blooms I found these new leaves. The top row are oak leaves, I’m in love with the one on the left which is black oak. The bottom row is those nasty leaves of three . . . let them be, otherwise known as poison oak.
One day my color wheel was red, with the winner being Scarlet Fritillary.
It took two trips to get these amazing photos of the purple larkspur (Delphinium). February was a breezy month making photography extra challenging like with these red larkspur. It seemed longer than expected to see my first paintbrush.
It’s fun to find surprises like these white Blue Dips and white Hound’s Tongue. The photo in the top right is poison oak flowers, which I had no idea existed until a couple years ago. Bottom right is Hound’s Tongue nutlets (seed pods).
Chasing the blooms kept me mixing up my trails and interested. Top left, Redbud; bottom left, Violet. Top right is Wild Cucumber, followed by Sulfur Pea and Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill.
I was excited to find the small bloom in upper left of below photo, only to be disappointed to learn it wasn’t a native. Oh well, it’s a beauty regardless, Henbit Deadnettle. The blue are Scutellaria tuberosa, Skullcaps, ones I first learned about last spring. You can see size comparison with my new friend Bino Bob who’s about 1.25″ tall.
Finding blooming Fritillaria affinis aka Checker Lily became a game of too late, too early, marginal and finally just right.
I ended my month of wandering the nearby trails with these finds. Top left, Fringe Pods. Top right, Nemophila heterophylla (Small Baby Blue Eyes) and Claytonia parviflora (Miners Lettuce). Bottom left, Mountain Phacelia. Middle, Cream Sacs. Bottom right, Clematis.
I also continued my quest to find unique photographic subjects like this algae.
Acorn woodpecker granary. “With their sharp, powerful beaks, Acorn Woodpeckers excavate custom holes into trees that are the perfect size to hold an unusual food—acorns. Each Acorn Woodpecker group works together to maintain and defend its acorn collection. The same tree, called a “granary”, is reused over generations to store the winter food supply.”
Often it felt more like March with numerous high wind warning days. On those days I had to be a bit more strategic about my choice of trails in order to avoid crashing burned trees. Thankfully I had options. After a few months of closure (due to winter light festival) at the McConnell Gardens, I was off to see the early blooms. As if on cue Summer Snowflakes and Lenten-roses were awaiting my visit.
Neighborhood walks during these wind events had me finding first fiddleneck blooms. I pulled this photo from my archives as they were impossible to photograph on the day of my walk. “Amsinckia is a genus of flowering plants commonly known as fiddlenecks. The common name is derived from the flower stems, bearing many small flowers, which curl over at the top in a manner reminiscent of the head of a fiddle. Fiddlenecks are in the family Boraginaceae, along with borage and forget-me-nots.”
Winter finally returned toward the end of the month, but the lupine didn’t get the message. In my search for interesting things, I found this colorful weed. “A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation; a plant in the wrong place.” Well this one happened to be in the right place. Not only does it add a little beauty along a powerline dirt track, but it also helps stabilize highly eroded post-fire soil.
I found this interesting bud on some neighborhood trees. It looked tropical and out of place. However as the week progressed and I studied further I realized it was developing gumballs and before I knew it out popped some leaves of the Liquid Amber (Sweetgum) tree.
As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case a perfect depiction of our lack of precipitation. Mt Shasta has bare spots in February and Lake Shasta has a very large bathtub ring (140 feet below maximum mid month). My apologies for this crappy quality phone photo.
Although I’d rather be traveling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue rebuilding my base conditioning while enjoying a blooming early spring. My body knows I need to keep climbing these hills if I want to enjoy the bigger mountains I plan to hike this summer.
Photos are from hikes and walks in the Redding area including,
Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
Mule Mountain Area
Sacramento River Trails
Swasey Recreation Area
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Yes there’s a lot of ugly in a burn, but views are open and when you look closely you find beauty in nature’s smaller gifts.
The week before the calendar officially declared winter, a big snowstorm arrived in far Northern California. I-5 was closed for about 36 hours delaying distribution of all those holiday goodies. Meanwhile the nearby hills were turning white and I finally had an opportunity to go snowshoeing and test my post-surgery knee. I’m happy to report it was 100%. As for the rest of my body . . . it needs some work.
Lunch with a view at Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park. My favorite snowshoeing lunch is piping hot homemade turkey soup.
On my third snowshoe outing of the season I found myself ascending Diamond Peak at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was a great cardio challenge and improved my confidence.
Sadly it also gave me my first look of the burned trees from the 2021 Dixie Fire.
I found myself back on Mt Shasta for my fourth outing. By now it had been a couple weeks since our last storms and the wind swept the ridges bare making it obvious more snow is desperately needed.
With hard pack snow conditions I couldn’t resist the temptation to try summiting Brokeoff Mountain at Lassen. I turned around before the top as my legs said not today. I wasn’t disappointed as I was beyond thrilled to be outside climbing mountains again.
On each walk/hike I challenged myself to find something worth photographing and sharing. It’s been a fun game and just when I think I’m going to be skunked I find a gem like the bark of this sycamore tree.
After the frost, comes the dew.
With many of my local trails impacted by wildfire, I’m happy to celebrate the areas that have escaped damage.
I also cheer on the new trees working hard to replace their burned ancestors.
I found the first bloom on January 4th, Wild Radish. I was interested to learn “the entire wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) plant is edible, from the veined purple, white, or yellow flowers to the leaves and roots. Wild radish pods are crisp and peppery, much like the root of a true radish, and can be eaten raw or cooked.”
We have a lot of pretty rock in the area.
The nearby creeks make for nice lunchtime lounging.
Manzanita dominates the landscape, but often when you look closer you find nature’s gifts.
I found a variety of tree lichen or fungus.
And other fungus as well.
This bark caught my eye.
We had crazy warm temperatures for a couple of weeks in the middle of the month and soon enough the landscape began to look like spring. Oh how I love green!
And then it happened, WILDFLOWERS in January! I checked my photo library and blooms are about three weeks earlier than I’ve previously documented. Buttercups appeared first, followed by Shooting Stars, Warrior’s Plume and Pacific Hounds Tongue. Interesting factoid shared by a friend, “The genus name Cynoglossum comes from greek Kynos- meaning dog and -glossum meaning tongue, while the specific epithet creticum is a reference to the island of Crete, where this plant can indeed be found.”
Glue-Seed, Night Shade, Saxifraga and Redmaids.
Butter ‘n’ eggs, Lupine, Padre’s Shooting Stars, and Blue Dips
When a friend was looking for a backpacking opportunity, I volunteered to join him. We went to the Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area in Tehama County near Red Bluff where the elevation is around 500′. While daytime highs were in the 60’s, we experienced an overnight low of 27F. We camped with this sunset view of Lassen peak. What a great way to end the month!
While the lack of precipitation for the last three weeks of January is bad for the earth, it’s been really good for my spirit. Spending most days under sunshine filled blue skies encouraged daily hikes and sent my typical SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) symptoms into hibernation. This is my best January since 2015 when it comes to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and that’s saying a lot when so many are suffering from pandemic issues.
Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.
Clear Creek/Cloverdale Area
French Fry Trail
Hornbeck/Waterfall/Lower Ditch Trails
Lower Salt Creek Trail
Shasta Dam/Upper Ditch Trail
Mule Mountain Area
Princess Ditch Trail
Sacramento River Trails
Swasey Recreation Area
Wintu/Mule Mountain Trails
Meiners Loop Trail
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Mt Shasta Mine Loop Trail
Oak Bottom Ditch Trail
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mt Shasta Area
Bunny Flat/Horse Camp Cabin
Sacramento River Bend Recreation Area
Yana Trail/Massacre Flat
On this 27F degree morning, nothing is quite as welcome as the sun hitting my tent.
After spending a month in Washington followed by a couple of weeks in Oregon, including an epic conclusion in snow at Crater Lake (post link), I returned home to summer temperatures. There was only one thing to do, grab the paddleboard and head for Whiskeytown Lake.
Although we received record rain fall over about a month (14″) the leaves stuck around providing weeks of entertainment.
The dogwoods were showing off their pastel colors along the PCT in Castle Crags State Park.
I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon’. “That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.
Thich Nhat Hanh
I found new growth in an area burned by the 2018 Carr Fire.
This is my favorite Madrone tree in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, she’s a buxom beauty.
After all the rain, I couldn’t resist visiting Crystal Creek Falls at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
Fungi seemed to be happy with all the rain.
Earth stars, a type of fungi. I thought it was the bottom of a pinecone.
When you look closely you might even find a stowaway.
This is a story of good, evil and humanity. The 2018 Carr fire burned this tree. I visited in spring 2020 when I took a photo of this wreath on the remains. When I processed the photo I found a surprise inside. This heavy chainsaw carved bear was a welcome gift representing hope at appropriately named Black Bear Pass. Sadly it was kidnapped in winter 2020. When I returned this fall I was thrilled to find a new bear hiding in the stump. Yes there is goodness in this world!
Lichen and moss seemed to enjoy the extra moisture as well.
And what would a jaunt be without a few blooms?
Although many were ready to spread their seeds.
Soon enough it’ll be time to welcome back the orchid blooms.
But until then I’ll welcome winter. The time for renewal.
I love being able to see Mt Shasta, from 100 miles distant.
One thing nice about having a home base at low elevation (500′) is nearby winter hiking options.
Nature offers up a holiday bouquet.
I wish my friends and followers a wonderful 2022, at least one filled with more peace, unity, kindness, caring, forgiveness, collaboration and love.
Photos are from hikes and walks in the following areas.
I returned home from a couple weeks in the Redwoods (link) to more smoke, bad air quality, hot temps and forest closures.
Where oh where to go? There were only a few places showing consistent good air quality. The coast, the Flagstaff area and the Washington cascades. Of course all it takes is a change of winds to dictate new smoke zones.
Since I’m not really a coastal gal and having just spent a couple weeks there, I chose north. I grabbed a bunch of maps prepared to run from the smoke, using Purple Air as my guide.
It was still quite smoky and I was happy to have N95 masks.
The images are powerful and my timing was appropriate as there had just been deaths in Afghanistan.
This was one of my high school teachers.
Mt Shasta was nearly invisible due to the nearby fires.
You can see on Gaia the colored blobs which represent this year’s fires. Two crossed Highway 97 which I was driving, the Lava and Tenant fires. The Antelope Fire is still burning and hopefully will be snuffed out with plentiful snow and rain this fall.
I was testing an air purifier (Amazon link) suitable for car use with USB power and rechargeable batteries. I’m happy to report it made a huge difference driving through smoky areas as well as sleeping in lower AQI than optimal.
Gaia has a new map layers showing AQI for today and tomorrow. I drove 6 hours to land outside the yellow zone where I found blue sky. I’d hoped to stop at Crater Lake but it was completely smoked in according to my resources, with AQI around 300. The purple blob is where my house lives and what I’d be breathing if I hadn’t escaped. Last year I purchased an air purifier for my house (Amazon link). It helps but being stuck inside is not my idea of fun.
Ah happiness is finding blue sky!
I found a dispersed campsite where I could enjoy some fresh air.
I enjoyed watching the sunset and had hopes for good AQI for nearby hiking the next day.
My heart is filled with much empathy to those who can’t escape and especially those who have homes, family, friends and communities at risk.
The previous post covered my trip south of Orick including Grizzly Creek State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Patrick’s Point State Park, and Humboldt Lagoons State Park plus an introduction to Redwoods National Park (link). As I stated in that post, the relationship between the Redwoods National and State Parks vs other nearby State Parks with Redwood in their name is confusing at best. “Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation that includes Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek State Park.” Basically this combined entity excludes coastal areas south of Orick.
This was the only campground I stayed at with easy beach access. What it lacks in privacy and wind protection it makes up for with the best ocean music. You reserve sites through Reserve California which is how I made all my reservations. There is an Iron Ranger should you choose to try for a walk-up option. There is also a ranger fee booth before the campground, but a ways down the long dusty road.
This is the best place to base camp if you’re a hiker as there are 75 miles of trails in the Park. Another benefit is nearby elk viewing, well sometimes they visit the meadows but not during the five nights I stayed.
Most days I found a herd somewhere along a nearby road.
This is one of the most popular hikes in the Park and as such has a day use fee; however, it’s waived if you are staying at one of park campgrounds or have an America the Beautiful Pass.
This is a place to plan on getting your feet wet and is not the best for those looking for a smooth trail. I didn’t bring my hiking poles and wished I had them to assist with scrambling and slippery sections. There are also a few sets of primitive stairs if you want to walk the loop.
Prunella vulgaris, the common self-heal, heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, brownwort or blue curls, is a herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.
Five-Finger Western Maidenhair Fern (notice the long middle finger).
This trail provides a lot of WOW per mile enjoyment. It’s one of the shorter trails but is much less busy than those within walking distance of the campground.
My friend works for the Forest Service and was well versed in the Redwood trees, teaching me a few key details such as that the trees have a different type of greenery in the canopy verses lower down. The tannins in the bark are what protects the trees from fires and disease. It was interesting to note the trees are not hosts to moss like many other species. Also the cones are tiny in comparison to other trees. To learn more, here’s an educational NPS link.
Probably the most popular longer trail in the Park is James Irvine to Fern Canyon, with many looping back on the Miner’s Ridge Trail. Since I’d already hike the Fern Canyon loop I opted for an abbreviated version. I got an early start and only saw a couple of backpackers along the Miner’s Ridge section and then didn’t meet hikers again until I reached the James Irvine section and even then probably only a dozen.
I didn’t find any Clintonia seedpods on the named trail but found these on an earlier hike. They were quite eye catching with the blue among so much green and probably standing about 3′ tall.
I look forward to seeing it in bloom someday. I need to go back in early spring some year to see azaleas, rhododendrons, skunk cabbage, trillium and many others blooming.
There was so much visual stimulation.
The trillium was huge with leaves ranging from greens to purples.
It was so peaceful wandering the quiet forests, feeling like a tiny munchkin among the giant trees and plants. I loved the variety with fog, shadows, blades of light, breezes and stillness.
This was my longest hike and for the most part it was another day of pleasant wandering through a redwood forest, albeit the name “ridge” is a misnomer and it was much more of a rollercoaster with no true ridges or views. I didn’t care for the northern section of the Prairie Creek Trail. It’s more overgrown with a lot of sun exposure and frequent vehicle noise from nearby Newton B Drury Parkway. I spent time looking at trees sporting obvious burned bark. Most were still alive and growing with large heads of greenery. The rangers indicated there hasn’t been a fire for over 200 years. It was hard to imagine. Redwoods are known to live 2,000 years.
Soft shoots of baby redwoods.
Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana) carpets the ground. The underside is purple and there were still a few blooms.
While staying at the Elk Prairie Campground, I tended to hike in the morning and beachcomb in the afternoon. My favorite spot was near the Kuchel Visitor Center just south of Orick. There is plenty of parking, a restroom and no fees required. In Orick there is a small grocery store and an eatery (that is occasionally open). Trinidad is about 20 miles south of Orick and offers many more options.
All too soon my reservations were up and it was time to say goodbye to the Redwood coast. Now that I’m more knowledgeable about how the State and Park systems work, what is fee based and what’s free, how to get last minute reservations, where to stay and what to do, I won’t wait nearly as long before my next visit.
Did I come to like staying in campgrounds? No; however, I enjoyed a few benefits. Having nearby water and trash was convenient as were showers when they worked. Collecting blackberries for breakfast on my way back from sharing dinner with the invisible elk, was a plus. I hated the nightly ritual of campfire smoke turning my tiny site into an ashtray, not much different than the wildfire smoke I’d runaway from. I seriously wish camping with campfires would become a thing of the past. It was really miserable having to lock myself in my car with the windows closed when it was time to sleep. I just purchased a mini air purifier for my car and am hopeful it’ll help eliminate smoke in the future.
I won’t soon forget the calm I felt among the gentle giants.
TIP: Don’t count on the accuracy of GPS trackers. It’s very challenging to get a clear view of the sky with the tall trees and dense canopy. In fact I hard to work hard to send my Inreach checkins. Usually I had to get to a road or meadow.
Dense wildfire smoke sent me in search of a location where I could find consistent green AQI (air quality index) ratings, which meant the coast. With my normal route closed due to raging wildfires, I opted for the more southernly route which resulted in the beginning of my redwoods tour. While my home base is within a few hours of the northern California coast, I’ve only visited a handful of times so this was going to be an opportunity to fully immerse myself.
Campground or lodging reservations are a must. Planning 6 months in advance will never be my forte’ but learning that Reserve California releases cancellations every morning at 8am opened opportunities. Although I’d prefer to disperse camp, those options don’t exist along this section of coastline. So with the motivation to escape smoke-laden skies, I secured about 10 nights of reservations at 4 different campgrounds geographically separated.
The relationship between the Redwoods National and State Parks vs other nearby State Parks with Redwood in their name is confusing at best. “Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation that includes Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek State Park.” Basically this combined entity excludes coastal areas south of Orick; those areas are included in this blog post.
This is a very small park offering camping and day use areas near the junction of Highway 36 and Interstate 101. I spent my first night here and stretched my legs wandering through the Williams and Graham Grove and Jameson Grove. Save the Redwoods League “is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. The League protects redwoods by purchasing redwood forests and the surrounding land needed to nurture them. We restore redwood forests by innovating science and technology that can improve stewardship and accelerate forest regeneration. And by protecting more than 200,000 acres and helping to create 66 redwood parks and reserves, the League builds connections among people and the redwood forests. The League’s work is grounded in the principles of conservation biology, research and improving our collective understanding and appreciation of the redwoods.“
A bit further south is the well-known 32-mile Avenue of the Giants auto tour. This park hosts the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world, with some believed to be 2,000 years old. Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest trees on earth, towering above 370 feet. Access fees seem to be limited to campgrounds otherwise you can drive the various roads in the park and hike a multitude of trails without needing to pay. I utilized the Redwood Hikes website to help me narrow down trails throughout this trip. I’ll reserve at this campground in the future so I can hike more of the 100 miles of trails. I was there on a Friday morning mid August and it wasn’t in the least bit busy, although all of the campgrounds were fully reserved.
Over the years I’ve spent more time in this town than any others along the northern California coast. It’s a beautiful seaside city boasting ten public beaches. I think it also might be the winner of most beautiful yards award as colorful blooms adorn every street. There are some great places to eat and explore.
I hiked up Trinidad Head where you not only get a workout but are provided most excellent harbor views.
Orange Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus) lined the trail.
This has been a favored campground and the only one I recall staying at during previous visits to the coast, except as a young child when my family took a trailer up somewhere near Crescent City. This park charges a day-use fee for those not camping. Fog was a nice change from smoke although views down to Agate Beach were impacted. Skies cleared the next morning and I saw a whale from this same viewpoint.
Montbretia, although non native, was a common bloom in the park, Trinidad and nearby coastal areas.
A friend and her 9-year old son joined me and since we’d already hiked most of the park trails, we decided to first explore Yurok Sumeg Village.
This Park consists of several lagoons bordering the Pacific Ocean. Once again this is a no fee area except for camping. We parked at Stone Lagoon day use area, and spent the day wandering the spit on a section of the California Coastal Trail.
Unlike other trails, the California Coastal Trail (CCT) consists of many disconnected sections best accessed by vehicles and planned as shorter backpack trips or day hikes. Although this trailhead was in a National Park, there wasn’t a fee station or sign indicating that it was a fee area.
It was well past peak skunk cabbage bloom season but I found a few seed pods.
Pacific Banana Slug
Bubble Gum Fungus – Lycogala epidendrum, commonly known as wolf’s milk, groening’s slime is a cosmopolitan species of myxogastrid amoeba which is often mistaken for a fungus.
The giant ferns and all the bright colors kept me smiling.
While the trail continues down to the beach I turned around at the high point, a bit beyond this viewpoint.
My first four days of this coastal getaway were everything I could have expected and more. Beautiful forests, giant trees, sandy beaches, perfect temperatures, flora and fauna, crowd-free trails, lots of new stimulation, and my favorite nature color, green!
The Nobles Trail is an old wagon route with a few remaining sections in the park. “it was used by emigrant parties from the east as a shortened route to northern California. It was pioneered in 1851 by William Nobles, who discovered an easy shortcut between the Applegate Trail in Nevada and the Lassen Trail in California. The trail was extensively used until the 1870s, when it was superseded by railroads. The 24-mile section of trail within the boundaries of Lassen Volcanic National Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 3, 1975. The section within the park is maintained as a hiking trail.” Source: Wikipedia
We chose the trail for creek access knowing it would be another hot day, but I was reminded that maps lie and creeks aren’t always as accessible as depicted. So instead it became a day to find beauty and change as the land regenerates from the 2012 Reading Fire.
We were happy to see many new trees.
The wildflowers were flourishing with all the extra light.
Especially the Lassen Paintbrush.
This section of the Nobles Trail is still in use by Park vehicles providing access to the Hat Creek Patrol Station.
The trail becomes less defined after the cabin but is still relatively easy to follow. Just look for the log cuts and piled clearings.
The first creek crossing is via a bridge where you have to work a bit to gain access to the water. This is the second access point. Plan on getting your feet wet. Notice all the new growth aspen trees. We found quite a few patches and one giant mother that survived the fire and was now surrounded by her children.
This trail also provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail.
We found large meadows of blooming balsamroot near this junction.
This was the third creek access point, just a short distance off the trail, and our turnaround for the day.
I found a perfect hole to cool off in preparation for the return trip.
The highlight of my trip was finding a few large patches of Ranunculus aquatilis L., white water buttercups. I’d seen photos of these in Warner Valley and I really wanted to see myself. They grow in floating mats of algae or something similar.
The wildlife was back! We saw tons of deer prints, this bear print, and enjoyed watching the squirrels and birds.
The Reading Fire was massive and changed this landscape. It won’t recover in my lifetime so I’m trying to learn to appreciate what remains. While many trails in the Park are heavily used, there are still some like this one with low to non-existent traffic. On this day, it was all ours.