After checking out Lost Man Creek we still had lots of time left in the day, so we decided to head deeper into Redwood National Park. We drove south to Bald Hills Road; the only paved road in the park. There are two main old growth groves in this park that we were interested in. The Tall Trees Grove is more remote, and is far from any paved road. You can hike to it from various routes, or you can obtain a pass to use the unpaved access road that takes you down within about 1.5 miles. We thought Tall Trees deserved an earlier start than we had, so we opted for the more accessible Lady Bird Johnson Grove.
Turning up Bald Hills Road from the highway (101), the road shortly begins climbing, and winding its way up the ridge system. The paving is marginal, hastily repaired, and bumpy, but passable. The many curves are fairly sharp. About 2.7 miles brings you to the trailhead for the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Redwood National Park was commissioned in 1968 under Richard Nixon, and the dedication was attended by Lady Bird Johnson, who was actually quite an advocate for preserving nature. Thus; this grove was named after her. Ironically, this park was created due in part to the publicity created in 1964 when Humbolt County, the Trinity River, and Redwood Creek had a massive flood. The over-harvesting of timber, especially redwood, had severely compromised the washboard terrain. Heavy tropical rains sent massive volumes of silt flowing, clogging the watershed, which caused flooding of near biblical proportions. Today there are signs along the highway showing the 1964 water level being 10 feet overhead. Only then did the threat of wonton destruction of irreplaceable old growth forests become real to general public, and more importantly, to the political machine of the period. If not for that disaster, perhaps there would not have been any old growth left at all on the north coast, where it is the most pristine and beautiful.
The trail is not a lengthy hike. Including the entrance trail it’s still less than 2 miles, and there is virtually no elevation gain. But this is not a trail to ramble through, making distance with one eye on the clock and the other on the map. This is a place to quietly stroll and savor, lift your head up, and drink it in. I almost don’t want to show my photos of this grove because there is virtually no chance of capturing its spirit. Tricky lighting balance, intricate textures, delicate coloration, and deceiving perspectives all combine to make it something you simply have to experience. The trees are not monstrously huge, but the overall character of the grove is captivating. It would be challenging to attempt to portray the essence. The trail is very developed and smooth, but not enough to detract from the deep woods ambiance. The breeze makes a delicate music high within the thick array of leaves and branches, and the sunlight glints in needle-like shafts as you move along imbuing the aroma. We saw very few other people on the trail. That’s one benefit of being here during the quiet season. I don’t know exactly how much time we spent there, but it was hard to leave. We decided we still had time to check out the lower section of The Redwood Creek Trail before heading back to camp.
There is a signed turn off only about half a mile in from the highway that leads to the trailhead for lower Redwood Creek Trail. Our car was the only one in the parking area. Crossing a rustic little bridge, the trail begins in impressive stands of Big Leaf Maple, and Alders which are covered by thick mosses, and carpeted with ferns and leafy vegetation. Along the way there are a few even more impressive large redwoods. There are a few little tributary creeks flowing into the main Redwood Creek which provide the backdrop of flowing water sounds. The trees, mosses, leaves, and vegetation are so thick, the trail feels almost primordial. The first 2 miles or so are under thick shade before the watershed opens up along the rocky sandbars of the main creek exposing you to sunshine. This trail could be hiked 8 miles into the Tall Trees Grove, but we were not going that far. We had obtained a pass for that grove for the next day. We hadn’t hiked a lot of miles that day, but we were more than happy with the quality of the experience. A restful day like this is good for the soul. The next day we would be headed for Tall Trees Grove and Dolason Meadow.
Click here to see the pictures on flickr