Redwoods – February 2020

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bobcat
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Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Redwoods – February 2020

Post by bobcat » February 11th, 2020, 11:02 am

A weather window opened up, and I did a few days of hiking on the northern California/southern Oregon coast. The first two days were cold in the morning (just below freezing) but sunny and the sunsets were magnificent!

Sunset in Crescent City.jpg

First, a few details about the redwoods. Being the winter season, debris from the lofty crowns of these giants allowed a view into parts of the tree ground-level visitors rarely glimpse. Essentially, being the tallest trees in the world, redwoods exist in more than one climate zone, with a humid moist environment on the forest floor leading to the more exposed, sunnier and drier regime 300 feet higher up. Lower leaves, seen on all the baby redwoods in the understory, are shiny, flat needles while up in the crown the leaves are more scale-like.

Redwood needles, Cathedral Trees Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Higher leaves, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Male flowers exist throughout the tree and pollinate in late fall-early winter. The tiny male cones are now evident on winter blowdown. Female flowers are tiny and green at the tops of the trees, and pollination is achieved by updrafts in the microclimate.

Male cones, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg

You’ll see massive, sometimes grotesque burls on many redwoods, the result of some injury or infestation. Some of the burls sprout witch’s brooms, and most of them support a cluster of other plant species, especially leathery polypody ferns.

Sow's head, Miner's Ridge Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Witch's brooms, Oregon Redwoods.jpg
Leathery polypody (Polypodium scouleri), Miner's Ridge Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Clusters of redwoods arising from a single base, or lignotuber, are known as cathedral trees. They are essentially clones, and sometimes you’ll see the original decayed tree or stump in the center, usually fire-scarred (although mature redwoods, with bark a foot thick, rarely die by fire). Other redwoods have “fire caves,” hollowed out by flames, but still alive!

Cathedral cluster, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Hollow redwood, Miner's Ridge Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

You’ll also see big redwoods sprouting secondary trunks high up the tree. Unlike branches, these trunks grow vertically, and botanists call them “iterations.” I read of one redwood that has 48 such iterations!

Burl tree, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg

Some trees have "spiral bark." There is some disagreement about cause/usefulness of this trait.

Straight and spiral pair, Cathedral Trees Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Boy Scout Tree

Coming down from Grants Pass, I stopped here in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The 5 ¾ round-trip hike is off of gravel, potholed Howland Hill Drive, which eventually drops you right into Crescent City, and proceeds through an old-growth redwood forest, with impressive giants all the way. The trail is distinctive as it is far from any paved highway, and offers a true feeling of primeval solitude (except on weekends and during busy summer months). The Boy Scout Tree, part of the Metcalf Grove, is a twin tree, two fused trunks which are 27 feet in diameter. The trail ends at a small but pretty waterfall at the edge of the state park.

Trailhead, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg
Group of three, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg
Boy Scout Tree, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg
The Boy Scout trunks, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg
Fern Falls, Boy Scout Tree Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods.jpg

Miner’s Ridge-James Irvine Trail Loop

An 11 ½ mile loop which takes you from Elk Prairie, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to the beach and back again. Most of the hike is within the Murrelet State Wilderness as this extensive patch of old-growth redwood forest hosts both marbled murrelets and spotted owls. The Miner’s Ridge Trail drops down to Squashan Creek, where Sitka spruce, hemlock, and alder dominate: you begin to notice the transition from redwood to spruce as you descend the ridge.

Trailhead, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Prairie Creek boardwalk, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Footbridge, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Twins, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Gargoyles, Miner's Ridge Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Waxy cap, Miner's Ridge Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Once at the coast, I had a choice – take the gravel road to the Fern Canyon Trailhead or head out to the beach. I chose the latter, knowing that I was going to get my feet wet at some point. It was a sunny stroll up the beach, where my only companions were a couple of vultures and a friendly raven. Once I crossed Home Creek, I had to head inland, as the stretch of dunes north of here is banned to humans year-round to protect snowy plovers. There was no dry crossing of the inland swamp, so I sloshed through the sedges on a confusion of elk trails until I reached the Fern Canyon Trailhead.

Vultures, Gold Bluffs Beach, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Lagoon at Home Creek, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Raven near Home Creek, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Aggressive elk, Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Fern Canyon itself is sheer-sided narrow ravine supporting several species of fern, especially drooping fronds of winter dormant maidenhair. If you want to see it in winter (It appeared in a Jurassic Park movie), you basically have to wade up the creek, about a foot deep in places, and do a couple of scrambles over logjams.

Entrance to Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Narrowing of Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Ferny walls, Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

I then connected with the James Irvine Trail, which heads up at a gentle grade into the forest of old-growth redwoods and deposits you back at Prairie Creek. As everywhere in the redwoods, you’ll come across memorial grove signs. The program began in 1921, and there over 1,000 such groves: at the top end, it’s $250,000 to get your name or that of a loved one/favorite cause on an old-growth grove next to a trail or roadway; cheaper if it's secondary growth or away from a trail.

The Baldwin seats, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Newland Grove plaque, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Lush woods, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Atmospheric burls, James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Cathedral Trees

At the end of the day, I took this mostly flat loop up Prairie Creek to cross over the scenic parkway and visit the star of the area, the imaginatively named “Big Tree.” They’ve built a platform at the tree now, and the sign claims a 74 ½ foot circumference, 23 ¾ foot diameter, and an age of 1,500 years.

Venerable tree, Prairie Creek Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Tunnel No. 2, Prairie Creek Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Trunk of Big Tree, Foothill Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Base of the Big Tree, Foothill Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg
Big redwood, Cathedral Trees Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods.jpg

Hidden Beach and Klamath Overlook

This is a four-mile stretch of the California Coastal Trail entirely within Redwood National Park, but without any redwoods! The tree cover is mostly spruce and alder, and at the beginning there were views to False Klamath Cove (a former mouth of the Klamath River) and False Klamath Rock offshore. I visited driftwood-strewn Hidden Beach and then made a long traverse that took me high above the rocky shore. Views opened up again as I approached the Klamath Overlook, a view to the current mouth of the Klamath River and its impressive spit.

Footsteps Rocks and Wilson Beach, Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
False Klamath Rock from the Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Coast silktassel (Garrya elliptica), Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Spur to Hidden Beach, Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Looking south on Hidden Beach, Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Sulfur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare), Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Hooked-spur violet (Viola adunca), Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Candy flower (Claytonia sibirica), Coastal Trail, Redwood National Park.jpg
Klamath Spit, Redwood National Park.jpg

Oregon Redwoods

This two-mile loop in the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest near Brookings, allows access to some of Oregon’s biggest redwoods. A short accessible trail connects with a loop that leads downhill through an open understory and then rises past a number of impressive trees.

Kiosk, Oregon Redwoods.jpg
Big tree at trailhead, Oregon Redwoods.jpg
Redwood forest, Oregon Redwoods.jpg

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jessbee
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Re: Redwoods – February 2020

Post by jessbee » February 11th, 2020, 6:30 pm

Cool, I'm headed that way in April. Thanks for the inspiration!
Will break trail for beer.

Blog and photos

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retired jerry
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Re: Redwoods – February 2020

Post by retired jerry » February 15th, 2020, 7:44 am

That's a nice area, huge trees.

Prairie Creek usually has huge elk.

Rhododendron trail is just sort of a random trail, yet has huge redwood and douglas fir

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bobcat
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Location: SW Portland

Re: Redwoods – February 2020

Post by bobcat » February 15th, 2020, 8:50 am

I was surprised not to see any elk, nor any recent signs really. I thought they'd be hanging out in the prairie or down at the beach.

Rhododendron Trail was closed at some point - bridge out.

Some of the Top 20 biggest/largest trees are in the vicinity of the Prairie Creek Visitor Center but only the Big Tree is marked.

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retired jerry
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Re: Redwoods – February 2020

Post by retired jerry » February 15th, 2020, 9:00 am

yeah, that's so weird, you just take any of a number of trails and you find the hugest trees. The Douglas Fir are almost as big as the Redwoods.

At the beginning of the Rhododendron trail, it goes along this Redwood that fell, so you really see just how big it is.

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