Monday - October the 10th: Hiking the California Coast Redwoods - Part 1
Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the Trillium Falls Trail of
Redwood National and State Parks
On Monday morning we said our good-byes to Chris, Meui and two very sleepy little girls. Today was a school day and everyone was back into the M-F routine which does not include leisurely morning coffee hour with guests!
As we headed down the mountain we passed Chris on his way back up after dropping off the kids. Now he and Meui would be busy, busy, busy all day getting the crop in, keeping the smoker going, sorting the peppers and who knows what all. Then back down the mountain to pick up the kids, getting dinner ready, homework, tablet time, bed time and then...?
Whew! Betsy and I are glad to be retired!!
After consulting with Chris we decided to take the scenic and what is the most direct route west to the coast Redwoods. The route would mean lots of twisty-turning driving on both paved and unpaved roads.
A curiosity I encountered on my first trip to this area was all the towns with names that included "bar" (Otter, Sawyer, etc). At first I thought I must have encountered an area that had as many watering holes as the small towns in rural Wisconsin we had visited. But after thinking about it some (over several years) I finally concluded it must have something to do with the bars in the river.
A bar in a river is an elevated region of sediment (such as sand or gravel) that has been deposited by the flow. Types of bars include mid-channel bars (also called braid bars, and common in braided rivers), point bars (common in meandering rivers), and mouth bars (common in river deltas). Bars are typically found in the slowest moving, shallowest parts of rivers and streams, and are often parallel to the shore and occupy the area farthest from the thalweg.
Here we see the confluence of the Klamath and Salmon Rivers at Somes Bar in Siskiyou County, California. Note the numerous gravel bars in both rivers.
The Klamath River flows 263 miles (423 km) through Oregon and northern California in the United States, emptying into the Pacific Ocean. By average discharge, the Klamath is the second largest river in California after the Sacramento River. It drains an extensive watershed of almost 16,000 square miles (41,000 km2) that stretches from the arid country of south-central Oregon to the temperate rain forest of the Pacific coast. Unlike most rivers, the Klamath begins in the plains and flows toward the mountains – carving its way through the rugged Cascade Range and Klamath Mountains before reaching the sea.
The river has its origins in the high mountains of the Trinity Alps, Russian Mountains, and Marble Mountains (all sub-ranges of the larger Klamath Mountains). The Salmon River comprises two forks, the North Fork and the South Fork, which join at the hamlet of Forks of Salmon, California to form the main stem Salmon River. A large tributary stream, Wooley Creek, joins the mainstem Salmon River about 4 miles (6 km) from its mouth at Somes Bar, and is nearly as large as the North Fork. The lower portion of the Salmon River's southwestern divide defines the boundary of Siskiyou County and Humboldt County.
The drive on SR 96 was very scenic with many fine views of the Klamath River and the rugged, conifer covered mountain sides. We passed through several small towns like Orleans.
Orleans (formerly New Orleans Bar and Orleans Bar) (Karuk: Panamnik), is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California. It is located 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Weitchpec along via State Route 96 (the "Bigfoot Scenic Byway"), at an elevation of 404 feet (123 m). The ZIP Code is 95556. It is within the area code 530. It is within the aboriginal territory of the Karuk Tribe of California.
Originally named Panamnik, renamed by miners and settlers New Orleans Bar, it was renamed Orleans Bar in 1855, when it became the county seat of the now-defunct Klamath County, California. The Orleans post office was established on December 2, 1857.
Note the above reference to "an elevation of 404 feet". That is a long way down from 3000' + which was our starting point just a short time ago.
At Weitchpec SR 96 crosses the Klamath River. But that would not be our route today. Rather than cross the river and head south we continued west on SR 169. We were on SR 169 only a short time until we crossed the Klamath River on another bridge and started up and up and up and up...
NOTE: SR 169 ends at State Route 96 near Weitchpec. The entire route is within the Yurok Indian Reservation.
Before we knew it we were back up to our starting elevation of 3000' - but that would not last long.
Meet the Big Leaf Maple - Acer macrophyllum.
We ran into this Big Boy when we pulled off the road for a pee break.
Once upon a time, back in the 1980s I caught "Maple Fever". No, this is not some strange disease acquired from a maple tree. Rather it is a compulsion to collect exotic species of Maples.
Yes, it is true. I am a recovering Maple Collector. Now, however, I collect them digitally rather than "in the flesh".
The above leaf photo is of a Maple species I used to have in my collection. Not surprisingly the common name is Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum).
WikiPedia tells us "it is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska to southern California. Some stands are also found inland in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, and a tiny population occurs in central Idaho".
So, how did I end up growing it in Morgantown, West Virginia? My younger brother and fellow tree hugger Wayne had some seed sent to him from somewhere in northern California. He then germinated the seeds and grew them on until they were of a size which could be transplanted out into the landscape, which I did.
The tree grew well but never had the typically large leaves one would expect from Acer macrophyllum . Additionally the tree produced a milky sap when a petiole was separated from the stem as in Norway maple (Acer platanoides). On top of that the leaves had a purplish cast to them when newly emerged.
Considering all this I could see no way possible it was indeed a Big Leaf Maple. A big disappointment for me.
But it was still an interesting tree to have in the landscape.
It grew well for about 10 years and then one particularly harsh winter it was killed to the snow line. But the following spring it push several vigorous sprouts and was back to its original height in no time. The tree still lives today and is one of many trees we left behind when we departed Morgantown in 2014.
We went up and up the twisty road which had now turned from paved to gravel. We were up on top of the ridge line now and this area is refered to as the Bald Hills. For some reason I was lax with my snapping so I have no photos of this unique area. Fortunately I stumbled upon Patrick Holleran's excellent "Redwood National Park" site. Patrick has 24 topics on this page which include lots of photos and commentary. I wish now I had found this before rather than after this visit.
Along with many other photos Steve has some good ones of the Bald Hill area.
When we drove through the Bald Hills we passed numerous US Park Service fire control vehicles of all shapes and sizes. It turns out the Balds are being kept open by seasonal burning to provide habitat for the Roosevelt elk. Steve Shannon has a bunch of Roosevelt elk photos on his site. Check them out.
The Redwood National Park site has some good info on the Roosevelt elk.
The Roosevelt elk (Cervis elaphus roosevelti), is the largest of the six recognized subspecies of elk in North America; they once occurred from southern British Columbia south to Sonoma County, California. Today Roosevelt elk in California persist only in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, and western Siskiyou County.
Seven elk herds call Redwood National and State Parks home, although at times these herds become loose aggregations of smaller groups. General herd locations are the Crescent Beach area, Gold Bluffs Beach and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Elk Meadow, Lower Redwood Creek, park lands in the Orick Valley, and the Bald Hills. The Bald Hills herd is by far the largest in parks, numbering around 250 animals. The other herds range in size from approximately 10 to 50 animals.
Along with the Roosevelt elk, indigenous people also frequented the Bald Hills.
Until their removal to Hoopa Valley in the 1860s, the Chilula, a small tribe, inhabited the middle reaches of Redwood Creek valley. They used split planks from redwood trees to build rectangular, semi-subterranean houses. They also used hollow redwoods as emergency shelters and campsites. They fished for salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, candlefish, and lamprey eels at the nole or waterfall below the village of Noledin.
In summer the people left the redwood valley to live in the grassy Bald Hills, collecting seeds and bulbs and hunting deer and elk. As autumn approached, they harvested acorns in the Bald Hills or crossed Redwood Creek to gather tanoak acorns.
The Chilula People
Chilula villages were built along Redwood Creek, which ran southwest of the Klamath River and emptied into the ocean north of Humboldt Bay. The Chilula, however, occupied only a portion of the land along Redwood Creek. They were cut off from the ocean by the Yurok, whose lands extended across the mouth of Redwood Creek and who were not friendly with the Chilula. The upper reaches of Redwood Creek were occupied by the Whilkut.
There were high hills along both sides of Redwood Creek in Chilula territory. On the western side, thick forests of redwood and oak trees came down to the creek. On the eastern side of the creek, the hills were broken by valleys with little streams running down them. It was here that the Chilula built their homes. There were more than 20 villages, with an average size of about 30 people.
These people who lived along Redwood Creek did not call themselves Chilula. This name was given to them later, and comes from a Yurok term, Tsulu-la, meaning people of Tsulu. Tsulu refers to the Bald Hills, the name given the hills in this area because there are no trees on the hill tops. The Chilula are also called the Bald Hills Indians.
As we wound our way down the mountain, we left the sunny and dry balds behind and we were soon in the realm of the Redwoods - cool, shady, ferny and lots of BIG conifers. Our first stop would be the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
Bald Hill Road intersects US 101 (Redwood Highway) just to the south of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
This shows our route for today's redwood exploring: Bald Hills Road north to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, then south through Orick and to the NPS - Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center for a picnic lunch and maps, then backtracking north to Elk Meadow and the trail head for the Trillium Falls Hike.
Our first stop would be the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood Grove.
Here is an interesting historical tid-bit about the establishment of the LBJ Grove.
The Tale of an Oval Office Redwoods Deal
In the 1960s, advocates for Redwood National Park asked President Lyndon Johnson to sign legislation that would establish the park, and the President agreed that this was a good idea, adding that it would mean the world to him if the Park Service would dedicate a grove to the First Lady, who for so many years had championed the environment and the Keep America Beautiful movement.
Reluctantly (and probably sheepishly, as well), park officials explained that unlike California State Parks, the National Parks could not honor individuals during their lifetime. According to witnesses, the President thought for a moment before responding, “Folks, do you want this park or not?”
Source: © 2016 Save the Redwoods League
And so the Lady Bird Johnson Grove was born.
The Remarks at the Dedication of Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park in California by then president Richard Nixon can be read here.
We found ourselves a parking spot and started our hike by crossing this bridge to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
The Lady Bird Johnson Grove loop path winds through a fine collection of old growth redwoods, situated in a flat area near the end of a ridge at elevation 1,200 feet, high enough for the forest often to be covered by low cloud, which adds to the atmospheric scenery. This location is far enough from the main road to be unaffected by traffic noise, though the tranquility is sometimes spoilt by the large number of visitors.
Source: © The American Southwest
I am always glad to see these signs.
The first photo opp of many: Betsy and a sizeable Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) .
This is why the term "cathedral forest" is often used when describing a stroll through the redwoods.
From southern Oregon to Central California only 5% of the original range of old growth Redwood forest remains and every tree we would see was hard fought for. Especially considering attitudes like this:
I think, too, that we've got to recognize that where the preservation of a natural resource like the redwoods is concerned, that there is a common sense limit. I mean, if you've looked at a hundred thousand acres or so of trees — you know, a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?
Source: © 1995-2016 by snopes.com
Above quote: Ronald Reagan, while speaking before the Western Wood Products Association in San Francisco on 12 March 1966
The historical accuracy of this quote got a bit of a make over. When I was a teenager living in San Francisco I was introduced to the quote as: "If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all".
Here is the story behind that deviation from the original quote.
While the issue candidate Reagan was addressing was a legitimate one — how to balance commercial interests against a desire to preserve natural resources for aesthetic reasons — he expressed his thoughts on the subject so coarsely that he came across as glib and callous, and incumbent governor Pat Brown's campaign soon mocked him by transforming his statement into the pithier "If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all," a phrase that was picked up by the press and widely circulated during the campaign.
Source: © 1995-2016 by snopes.com
This past election some people have compared Trump to Reagan.
Did Trump say anything like this?
This little hike turned out to be a good preview for our brief stay in the redwoods.
Another big Doug fir.
Many of the older redwoods had all manner of strange growths like these shown here.
As we were coming down off the ridge from the Lady Bird Johnson Grove we got stuck behind this log truck. It was most likely coming down from the Bald Hills area where we noticed and heard several logging operations.
Our next stop would be the NPS Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center to get some maps and general info. The staffer we talked to was helpful but a bit on the testy side.
With maps in hand we headed out the door to the adjacent picnic area for a lunch of peanut butter on graham crackers washed down with milk.
This is the beach area behind the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. Not exactly skinny-dippin' conditions! But it was beautiful none the less.
It was getting late in the day so we scanned the map for a short hike and settled on the Trillium Falls Trail which is a 2.8 mile loop.
Probably the second most popular hike in Redwood National Park, after the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, is the 2.8 mile Trillium Falls Trail, looping through a band of undamaged, old growth redwoods on the west side of US 101, near the start of Davison Road to Fern Canyon and the Pacific Ocean. Most people just walk the first 0.3 miles to the waterfall, which is a rather small cascade on an unnamed creek, enclosed by ferns, moss-covered boulders and (in spring) white flowers of the western trillium, but the path continues beyond the stream through quite an impressive and atmospheric section of forest, only slightly affected by traffic noise from the highway below.
The belt of old redwoods is only a quarter of a mile wide, bordered to the east by meadows along US 101 and to the west by logged woodland of young replacement trees, yet most of the trail is all through dense forest, with no glimpses of the open lands at either side.
Source: © The American Southwest
Betsy transcribed the sign for us.
Trillium Falls Trail
This trail leads you through the misty hallways of an ancient redwood forest. Along the path, families of Douglas-fir, western hemlock and Sitka spruce reside beneath the shade of the world's tallest trees. The forest floor creates a moist sanctuary for red tree voles, Pacific giant salamanders, and banana slugs. Listen for the high-pitched hoots of the spotted owl or the rapid trills of the ever present winter wren.
Along the creek, scattered patches of silky white trillium bloom in the spring. Near the waterfall, the heavy, sloping limbs of the big leafed maple reach out in every direction. The Sun's rays attempt to blaze through the foggy sky, sprinkling beams of light upon Trillium Falls, a 10-foot cascade flowing over rocks covered in deep green moss.
Ah, yes - I do indeed love the ladies! Especially the Lady Fern! (Athyrium filix-femina var. cyclosorum)
The Lady fern lives and thrives in West Virginia but she never is quite like the statuesque beauty shown here.
If there is one thing the redwood forest has it is ferns, ferns and more ferns. Here we see the Deer fern (Blechnum spicant). I think it is safe to say the Deer fern (Polystichum munitum), along with the Sword fern are the two most abundant species of ferns one will see in the coast redwood forests.
As you can see here the Deer fern has two differently shaped frond types. This is called "dimorphic" - occurring in or representing two distinct forms. Those "two distinct forms" manifest themselves in the Deer fern as one frond shape which bears spores and one which does not.
This is clearly shown in the photo above - the erect, upright fronds have the spore bearing structures and the lax and slightly prostrate fronds are the non spore bearing fronds.
Here is a closer look at the "fertile" or spore bearing frond of the deer fern. In the background are a few fronds of the Sword fern.
The scene reminded Betsy and me of the lush and verdant conditions in the Hoh River rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
Here Betsy takes in the view from this foot bridge which is flanked by Deer, Sword and Lady fern.
Here is it is! Teeny-Tiny Trillium Falls.
Meet the Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). The Sword fern is mostly terrestrial. But when conditions are right it will grow on branches and tree trunks.
The drapery of brown fronds are the spent ones from previous growth cycles and as you can see are persistent.
We have our very own Sword fern in West Virginia. Well, sorta. We have the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides).
It is pretty easy to see the similarities between this plant of the Christmas fern and that of the Sword fern.
I don't know what it would take to bring a big redwood down, but down they do come.
Here we see many Sword ferns flanking the trail. They grow thick and lush here in the redwoods and often border trails where there is just a wee bit more sunlight to help them grow a little thicker.
Here is another redwood with all manner of strange growths on it. What caused these?
Here Betsy is dwarfed by the big trees.
No, that's not a bunch of prunes someone left on the trail - that is Elk poop!
At this point the Trillium trail is very near Elk Meadow where dozens of Roosevelt Elk can be seen grazing - if you are lucky.
After our little hike was finished we realized it was very close to Happy Hour. So we skedaddled up US 101 to Klamath where we would be spending the next two nights.
We checked into the Ravenwood Motel which is conveniently located directly across from the Country Club Bar & Grill where we decided to have Happy hour and dinner.
When we walked into the place we were shocked to see someone sitting at the end of the bar smoking a cigarette. And the bar had ash trays the whole length of the bar.
That was when I realized we may be in California but this neck of the woods is a redneck enclave.
We decided to split one of their green chili burgers which was pretty pathetic and then we headed back to the room to plan the next day's hike and then to bed.
Seeya in the morning...
Mike and Betsy.