Friday, September 27, 2013

Wow! Redwood National and State Parks in northern California

Today we hiked near some of the most massive trees on earth:  the giant redwood.  Also called the coast redwood or the California redwood, they are protected along the northern California coast in four parks.  Redwood National Park is on the southern end of the string.  The other three parks from top to bottom are Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. The four parks are jointly managed by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Rec and it's hard to tell where the national park ends and the state parks begin.  

Per a park brochure, redwoods once covered 2 million acres of land along the California cost.  They now cover 118,000 acres.  Only about 5 percent of the world's old growth redwoods still exist and more than 95 percent of those are in California.

We spent most of our time in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just north of the national park and near the tiny town of Orick, CA.  A ranger at one of the visitors centers suggested some hikes for us, and we picked a 4-miler that connected Cathedral of Trees Trail and Prairie Creek Trail. Just a small handful of other people were on the trails, so it was a great day to hike.  Plus, while the park gets about 100 inches of rain a year and much of the rest of the time it's foggy, today was cool but sunny.

We're getting close to the end of this leg of our trip, which started in June.  As of today, I'd say the three most beautiful places we've visited are Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Glacier National Park, and Northern California's Redwood parks.  All are spectacular.
At the beginning of our hike was a tree simply called "Big Tree." At the very bottom you can see Bev almost doing a back bend to view the branches.  I did this maneuver many times today; a couple of times I almost fell over.  "Big Tree"  is 304 feet high, just one foot shorter than the Statue of Liberty if you count from the bottom of the statue's pedestal to the top of the torch.  "Big Tree" is estimated to be 1,500 years old.
Looking toward the sky and the tops of the redwoods. 
Bev standing between a Redwood root ball that split after the tree fell over.  A movie we saw at the visitor center said a redwood's roots are only about ten feet deep but spread out very wide.  They intertwine with the roots of other trees, which helps provide stability.
Redwood needles are softer than pine needles.  And we learned that redwood cones are small -- about the size of olives -- which  surprised me.
If a redwood falls across a hiking path, park staff cuts and removes the section blocking the trail...
...or cuts a hole in the tree big enough to walk through.

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