When Jurassic beasts roamed around Orick

Green gorge is a favorite California wild place for many.

By Ashley Harrell/SFGate.com

Ensconced in Redwood National and State Parks, located about 300 miles north of San Francisco, the narrow, dramatic canyon is famous for its 50-foot rock walls festooned in oversized ferns. From the top, tiny waterfalls trickle down through fuzzy mosses, and down below a creek rushes through the center over a multi-hued pebble floor.

The canyon has been designated a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, and gotten its share of publicity over the years. Too much. A quick search on Instagram for #ferncanyon turns up 27,000 posts, and it’s also been used as a backdrop in a number of films, including “The Tree of Life,” an art film featuring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” with Julianne Moore, Jeff Goldblum and Vince Vaughn.

After I visited the canyon for the first time in 2020 and learned it was a set in the dinosaur movie, I knew I wanted to watch it. Before I did though — and because I live about 45 minutes south of Redwood National and State Parks — I went back to the canyon three times first, each during a different season. Each was entirely different.

In the wintertime, the creek runs super high. On the canyon floor, toppled trees poke in all directions like pick-up-sticks. In the spring, the vibrant green ferns are flourishing and in the summer — when the footbridges are installed to assist with crossing the creek — it’s the vacationers that proliferate. When autumn rolled around this year, the wild mushrooms had really begun to pop, and the Roosevelt elk (which sometimes wander through the canyon) were calming down after their yearly rut.

Every time I visited, I wondered anew about the canyon’s role in the Jurassic Park sequel. I had seen the first movie as a teenager and definitely enjoyed it. But when the second one came out, I seemed to remember being told it was not as good as the first, so I skipped it. Earlier this week, as I lay in bed after my COVID booster, I decided it was time for “The Lost World.”

And now having watched the two-hour-long, $73 million production, I can say that there are some ways Fern Canyon probably shouldn’t be seen. Even Spielberg was apparently regretful that the movie didn’t turn out better.

The sequel has all the darkness of the first movie but very little of the awe and wonder, save for the “first encounter” scene — which was shot in the canyon. As humans gaze up at a group of stegosauruses wandering about in the canyon, its giant ferns, rushing creek and filtering light are on full display. Things go south after one character gets too close to a baby and adults come charging at her, swinging their tails and nearly impaling her after she dives into a hollow log.

Fern Canyon is featured again later in the film, when a villainous character stumbles on a group of mini velociraptors and they chase him around, attacking like piranhas with legs. He shakes them off a few times and tosses pebbles at them, but repeatedly falls over into the creek, and finally, they devour him off camera. The water runs red.

“That’s probably the most satisfying part of the whole movie,” says Richard Stenger, Chief Marketing Ranger with RedwoodCoastParks.com, a consortium of outdoor adventurers, conservationists and lodging partners in Humboldt County.

Even if the actors disappointed, Stenger says, Fern Canyon did not. “Too bad they don’t give Oscars for scene locations,” he says. “It’s not much of a stretch to drop Hollywood dinosaurs into Fern Canyon. It’s in one of the oldest forest ecosystems on the planet and resembles a patch of forest similar to what real dinosaurs might have lumbered through millions of years ago.”

The undisputed beauty of Fern Canyon — and its use in film — has actually become a problem, according to Redwood National and State Parks Chief of Interpretation and Education Candace Tinkler.

“Fern Canyon is a very fragile, special place,” Tinkler wrote in an email to SFGATE. “As visitation to our parks steadily increases and as Fern Canyon has, for various reasons, been recently spotlighted over and over again in everything from the media and internet to movies, it has become a destination and overcrowded.”

Park officials are looking for assistance from the media to encourage park visitors to instead seek out some of the less crowded and trampled areas, she added.

In fact, several years back officials looked at the cumulative impacts of Fern Canyon’s use in film and determined that it should no longer be available as a set. “We recognized that the best way to protect that area was to not continue to draw even more impact to it,” says Erin Gates, Acting Deputy Superintendent of Redwood National and State Parks.

“We also recognized that our state parks are protected for the people of California and the people who come to visit California,” she added. “By continuing to allow filming in an area that’s already being significantly impacted by increased visitation, we’re actually having to cut off visitation and access to parks.”

I was curious about what Gates and Tinkler thought of “The Lost World,” but as a policy state and federal employees must apparently remain neutral on such matters. “It would be very inappropriate (and against regulations) for us to use the authority of our position to steer customers to one business over another,” Tinkler wrote. “This applies to the movie business, too.”

Gates was able to say this, though: “Seeing the place with your own eyes is worth the experience.”

Ashley Harrell is an Associate Editor covering California’s parks for SFGATE.

SOURCE: https://www.sfgate.com/california-parks/article/Jurassic-Park-Redwood-National-Park-Fern-Canyon-16688946.php

Redwood rays make for illuminating hikes

By Ashley Harrell/SFGate.com

Setting off on the Damnation Creek Trail in Redwood National and State Parks, about a six-hour drive north of San Francisco, I felt giddy. This trail, I had been told, offered the best chance in all of California at seeing a dramatic natural phenomenon I’ve been chasing for nearly a year: light filtering through trees.

You may have seen some version of it before, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time in redwood forests or maybe in Japan, where there’s even a special word to describe it: komorebi. But last year during fire season, I saw light through trees in a more dramatic way than I ever imagined was possible.

I had been driving through Redwood National Park on Bald Hills Road and there was smoke in the air from a nearby fire. The sun was shining from overhead, and I turned a corner, and suddenly, wham! Bright, thick swaths of light were beaming down on the road for as far as I could see. It looked like a hundred alien abductions were about to take place, all at once.

Hiking was out of the question because of the poor air quality, and I certainly do not recommend that anyone venture into smoky forests. But after that day, I started wondering if it might be possible to see a light show like that again.

I scoured Instagram looking for photos tagged with #lightfilteringthroughtrees and #komorebi and Googled around a bit. Two hikes seemed promising: a path in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park leading to Stout Grove, and Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, both in Del Norte County near the Oregon border.

I had been to Stout Grove before, though apparently not at the correct time. According to www.redwoodhikes.com, to see the filtering light there, you have to go during the warmer months at about 4 p.m. That’s when “the foliage becomes backlit with rich, brilliant golds and greens, like a stained-glass window in a cathedral,” and “sunbeams slant down, often visible as they cut through the darkness, to dapple the tree trunks and ferns,” the website says.

The other option — Damnation Creek Trail — was closer to my house, and I had never tried it before. Unlike Stout Grove, this redwood jaunt takes visitors down a steep slope to the ocean. On foggy summer days, when the morning sun’s rays begin to slant down from above, I was told, the display would be at its most spectacular. There were no promises, though, because the coastal fog doesn’t always creep into the forest.

Upon arrival at the trailhead parking lot, a small pullout at mile marker 16 on Highway 101, my partner and I marveled at our luck. Just one spot left. Starting out on the trail, we sauntered past 300-foot redwoods with twisty, light gray-colored trunks (apparently they are bleached by the salt-filled air). Within a mile or so, the trail began to slope downward through a lush understory of ferns. Navigating the switchbacks, we peered through the trees hoping to catch glimpses of both the sun overhead and the fog downhill.

The forest canopy was pretty thick, which made it hard to locate the sun. And although we could see a little bit of haze down below, we worried our timing was off. It was almost noon — had the fog already burned off? Eventually we came to a bend in the trail, where a woman had set up a tripod. Her lens was directed at the sky behind us. We turned around and sure enough, there was the light.

It was shooting through the canopy in a circular pattern resembling an exploding firework, with the glowing rays illuminated by fog in every direction. A rainbow corona was just barely visible within an inner circle, and we gasped in amazement. The woman with the tripod seemed equally impressed.

“God is talking,” she said, and after a pause added, “whoever she is.”

The woman turned out to be Kay Walsh, a landscape photographer and teacher who traveled all the way from Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, just to capture this phenomenon. She had been to the spot 10 years before, she said, and since then had never seen light filter through trees quite as dramatically as it does here.

Walsh also teaches photography, and makes a point of telling her students, “You’ve got to paint with the light.” At a time when technology occupies so much of our attention, she said, she finds purpose in getting people to appreciate the world’s wild places and parks and to reconnect with the land.

“They’ve lost [that connection],” she said. “So if you can touch their emotions … well, that’s why I’m doing this.”

We encountered two other photographers on the trail that day — Nate Berg and Mitch Crispe. The recently married couple live in Arcata and like me, they had also become obsessed with finding a reliable place to see light filtering through trees.

Crispe, a personal trainer, first had the experience in the Arcata Community Forest last September. “Everything lined up that day,” he said. “There needs to be fog, but then there needs to be blue sky above the fog and then the sun needs to come up at such an angle that as the fog is kind of burning off and the sun rays can be seen coming through it and through the trees.”

The couple saw it in that forest a couple of times, but it wasn’t reliable, Crispe said. Then they saw it in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, but that was due to smoke. Eventually, they met another local photographer who mentioned Damnation Creek Trail. The first time they made the hour-long trip north, the conditions were absolutely perfect.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Crispe said. “The rays were just everywhere. It’s a very surreal experience, so we decided to try it again.”
They ended up coming back six times this summer. Each time, they returned home with stunning photos of the light bursting through the forest.

Berg is a wildlife biologist whose 88-year-old mother, an oil painter, taught him about the importance of composition in art. On this trail, he said, all of the elements align for perfect composition: ancient redwoods, Sitka spruce and Douglas firs on a mountain sloping towards the sea, a constant flow of coastal fog, and the easterly, angled rays of the morning sun.

“My mother is too old to visit this place now, but I love sharing the photos I take here with her,” he said.

As my partner and I hiked farther down the trail, we expected the fog to dissipate and for the light show to end. Instead, it only became more intense. Snapping photo after photo with my iPhone camera, I tried to capture how incredible it was.

If only I could somehow recreate the thing I saw, how it made me feel. Paint with the light, I told myself. Paint with the light.

Ashley Harrell is an Associate Editor covering California’s parks for SFGATE.

SOURCE: https://www.sfgate.com/california-parks/article/Redwood-National-Park-hike-light-photography-trail-16447126.php


Best social distancing camping ever

Hammock in Humboldt. Courtesy Lanewood Studio

As Californians weary of Covid resort to camping to break up the monotony and social distance in nature, one little known location stands out as one of the most remote, beautiful and least crowded spots.

Redwood National Park allows hikers to access the Tall Trees Grove, an old growth forest with record-sized arboreal towers, through a limited number of permits. During Covid restrictions, 50 are available each day and must be obtained online.

While some national park services are limited at this time, most of the park remains open, including the grove. Besides getting a free hike permit, nature lovers can get a free permit to backcountry camp near the grove along Redwood Creek, whose watershed protects most of the world’s ten tallest trees, including Hyperion, the record-holding king at 380 feet, or six stories taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Set aside at least four total hours for a Tall Trees trek, which is about a 45-minute drive from Orick on Bald Hills Road and an unpaved access road, then a steep hike for 1.3 miles down a winding trail. The reward is worth it, a mystical, rarely visited grove with super redwood giants, including the Libby Tree, a former record holder whose discovery lead to the creation of the park in the late 1960s.

Fortunately, given the vast expanses and limited permits, hikers and campers can expect to social distance with ease. And Covid or no, camping along the sandy banks of Redwood Creek, allowed during the dry season, offers an unrivaled forest experience in California national parks.

To reserve your free hike or camping permit for Tall Trees Grove or Redwood Creek, go to the RNP website here: https://nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/talltreespermits.htm.

Check at least 48 hours in advance of your trip, and make sure a permit is available for the date or dates of travel. Permits won’t be issued more than a week in advance.

For those seeking other nature overnights, additional primitive campsites are open too. Check the link above for more. Or sleep in a public campground in nearby Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, with running water, bathrooms and hot showers, for a nominal fee. To make a reservation, visit https://ReserveCalifornia.com or call 800-444-7275.

(Photo Courtesy Lanewood Studio.)

Welcome, Arizona, to the Redwood Coast

Daily Phoenix flights to Humboldt start in June

American Airlines will start daily non-stop service between the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport (ACV) and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) starting June 3, 2021.

“American is pleased to add daily, nonstop service between our Phoenix hub and the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County airport,” said Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning.

“As customers once again embrace travel, the great outdoors are high on their list of destinations. This new flight provides customers with access to the beauty of the redwood forests and northern coast of California, and it also provides northern California residents with access to hundreds of one-stop connections across American’s network. And when customers take to the skies, our Clean Commitment ensures their well-being through every step of their travel journey.”

American will provide the service with a dual-class 70-seat Canadair CRJ-700 regional jet with one daily flight as follows:

Depart PHX 10:25 a.m. – Arrive ACV 12:55 p.m.

Depart ACV 3:25 p.m. – Arrive PHX 5:50 p.m.

“This is great news for Humboldt County,” said Humboldt County Aviation Director Cody Roggatz. “I appreciate the broad support we have received from our community. I know this new partnership between the County of Humboldt, American Airlines, Fly Humboldt and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport will be successful. We’ve got a great airport and we are working hard to support the air travel needs of our community’s businesses, visitors, and citizens.”

“We are excited about this new service and look forward to working with American Airlines to ensure its success,” said Gregg Foster, executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, the sponsor of Fly Humboldt.

“We know that connecting with outside companies and markets is key to the success of our local economy and our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Recruiting and retaining air service has been a top focus of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) since 2003.

In 2011, RREDC joined with community members, businesses, and organizations to create Fly Humboldt, a collaborative effort to increase air service and support our local airport.

Forest therapy, give it a try

Ashley Harrell/SFGate.com

When naturalist Justin Legge was a young boy growing up in Ashland, Ore., there was an oak tree in his front yard that he used to climb. Even now, at 32, he can remember exactly the way the ants smelled when he squished them against the tree.

“Do you have a memory in your brain about a tree, from when you were young?” asks Legge.

There was a time I took my shirt off, climbed into a tree with a bunch of boys and got all scraped up, but that feels weird to mention, so instead, I say I have forgotten most of childhood, which is also true.

We’re walking from Elk Meadow Cabins, where Legge works as the manager of the lodgings and attached Redwood Adventures tour business, through a clearing and toward a creek and forestland on the outskirts of Redwood National and State Parks. It’s Legge’s standard introduction, an attempt to call to mind our visceral childhood memories involving trees. He uses it every time he guides forest bathing.

For the uninitiated, forest bathing — or shinrin-yoku, as its Japanese creators call it — is a process of taking in the forest through the senses. Breathing it. Smelling it. Feeling it. Watching it. The practice got started in the 1980s as a way to combat high rates of suicide among Japan’s working class; today, spending time on certified “therapy trails” is considered medical treatment, and scientists are studying it around the world.

I had read that forest bathing had certain health benefits, like boosting immunity, reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure, but wasn’t sure how reliable that was. Susan Abookire, a doctor who works as an assistant professor for Harvard Medical School (and also guides forest bathing) admits that more data is needed. “It’s all fairly small studies and a lot of them did not happen in the United States,” says Abookire. But a key benefit, she says, is breathing in phytoncides, which stimulate the production of certain white blood cells that fight tumors and viruses.

Abookire is careful not to oversell the science at this point, and really it’s just something you have to experience, she says. That’s part of why she’s designed two new curriculums for internal medicine residents that incorporate forest therapy.

Under normal circumstances, if somebody told me they could guide me in breathing near trees, it would set off my bullshit detector. In booking an $85 forest therapy session for the day before the election, though, I was hoping to distract myself with something out of the ordinary, something benign.

“Your main focus is to achieve nothing and to think about nothing, and to clear your mind and focus on what’s around you,” Legge explains. And actually that’s harder than most people realize.

On a usual hike, a human spends a lot of time thinking about things like: “What time is it? How far do I have to go? Where’s my water bottle? Is that a tick?” Legge says. “There are so many things that our monkey minds are over-analyzing and freaking out about all the time.”

So that’s basically why you need a guide, he says, which actually surprised him, too, back when he first got into this. Legge studied outdoor recreation in college and has worked for the Forest Service in Lake Tahoe, in addition to holding jobs as an educator and a guide and facilitating groups. He’s an emergency medical technician and a wilderness first responder.

“Why do I need a piece of paper that says I’m a forest therapy guide?” he wondered before going through the training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. “I was the person saying, ‘You don’t need that! Who cares! Whatever!’”

Against his better judgment, Legge attended the training, a seven-day trip into the Eastern Sierras last October. He says he emerged with a new set of new forest friends and a brand new body of knowledge, and became the first and only certified forest bathing guide in Humboldt County.

“This is a standardized method that flips specific psychological switches; it basically always works,” Legge says. “The goal of a forest therapy program is to exit our normal consciousness … to exit the human world.”

Legge is quirky and dramatic, but he’s also incredibly knowledgeable about Redwood National and State Parks. He cares deeply about providing visitors with an experience that is as fun as it is educational. If I were going to try this unusual practice, I was pleased to have someone a bit eccentric to guide me through.

When we reach the forested area, Legge has us sit comfortably on mats, anywhere we want as long as we can hear him, and close our eyes. He offers a reminder that he is not a therapist. “I am a guide. The forest is a therapist,” he says. “I would like to introduce you to this amazing therapist. She knows some pretty good stuff.”

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He gives us a series of invitations, which we are welcome to accept or ignore. There are no requirements, no correct answers, no prizes, no wrong way to do this.

“I’ll invite you to just take some deep breaths. In through your nose,” he says. “Just normal breaths, noticing what the sensation of breathing feels like.”

He speaks slowly, deliberately.

“Noticing right now, you are sitting,” he says. “Wonder what it feels like to be sitting.”

Suddenly, the wind picks up and blows a few strands of hair onto my face. I can hear the traffic of the nearby highway, which, according to Legge, is ideal. Forest bathing doesn’t happen in deep wilderness, he says. The Japanese designed the practice to take place at the edge of the forest, the satoyama, as they call it.

This is a way to begin seeing the human world as part of nature, rather than something separate. It also makes forest bathing accessible to anyone who can find a tree, or even an ocean, which apparently also works.

Legge asks us to shift our weight from side to side. To notice the sensation of our bare skin, feeling the air, feeling the wind. To touch the Earth. To rub dirt on a finger and smell it. “I wonder where the smell might take you.”

I haven’t exactly been taken anywhere, but I do notice that I’m starting to relax. To slow down. After a few more invitations, Legge has us stand, facing any direction we like. He asks us to report what we are noticing, just in a few words.

“The pull of the sun, and its warmth,” I find myself saying.

The next invitation — which can sometimes feel uncomfortable, Legge warns — is to simply walk slowly and notice “what’s in motion.” We’re allowed to go off-trail or wherever we want. There are no right or wrong answers. Legge will hoot like an owl to indicate that we should meet him back in the original spot.

I start to amble along the path, taking note of how the strands of spider webs twitch with the breeze. Bugs and translucent fibers from dead thistles float by, while maple leaves drift from branches and plop into the creek. Speckled light is coming through the trees whose shadows are dancing on each other’s trunks.

A bee lands on a leaf and takes off again, and I am fully present to witness it. In this moment, according to me, there is no United States president.

“How you should be feeling is childish,” Legge says after hooting us back to the circle. He then tells us to find a sit spot, maybe near a tree, maybe beside the creek. We sit for an undisclosed period of time, continuing to observe nature and remain in the moment. If our minds wander, we ask ourselves: “What am I noticing? What is happening in front of me.”

The minutes pass quickly as I gaze upon the creek, studying how the ripples move out when the leaves hit the surface. The only times I can remember watching something like this — and remaining interested for so long — all involve mind-altering substances.

I have to admit it — my state of mind is altered. I’ve departed the human world.

When Legge calls us back, he unveils a Himalayan blackberry concoction for a tea ceremony, a taking of the forest into our bodies. It’s been used since the times of the Greek army, he tells us, and is particularly great because the species is invasive. “Eat your invasives!” he says.

As we’re walking back toward Elk Meadow Cabins, he starts talking about how forest bathing helped him.

Before the training he says, he used to worry all the time about how humans would destroy the Earth. He hated that so many redwoods were cut down, and are continuously cut down — which he still considers a huge problem, of course — and also the sound of the highway through Redwood National and State Parks.

But forest bathing “helped me have these epiphanies about this land,” he says. “I have now fallen in love with the human artery that cuts through the park. I have realized, humans cannot overcome the Earth. The forest cannot be destroyed or defeated. Humans might be, but for now we’re part of this, and we can’t escape it.”


NOTE: To find out more, check out Justin’s webpage, redwoodguide.org.

Coast redwoods are the real giant sequoias


Special to Redwood Coast Parks from Mario Vaden

ORICK — Ten years ago, if you asked where to find old growth giant sequoia, my answer would be Yosemite or Sequoia National Park, where Sequoiadendron trees grow indigenous. But time passed, and Redwood National Park revealed hidden surprises that pushed a “reset button.”

What is a Sequoia? Going with facts, it can only be coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, a species known in Humboldt and Del Norte. So what merits calling Sequoiadendron a GIANT Sequoia? To deserve the title, the other mountain species would need dimensions far beyond the coast species. But that’s not the case!

Presently, the national tree champ among all species is General Sherman Sequoiadendron, listed with 1321 points, by American Forests . Tree champs are ranked with points for each foot of height, inch of circumference, and every four foot increment of canopy width.

Right now, Redwood National and State Parks has at least two coast redwoods exceeding 1321 points. Carefully adding, those two each hold over 1350 points, with dimensions to more than 29 feet wide and to over 308 feet tall. For now, the coast holds The Big Kahuna for points.

Why is Sherman listed national champ, and not these coast redwoods? There are reasons. Around 2012, a verification team released the location of a new height discovery to an Oregon news outlet. And other unique trees were damaged or burned, like The Senator cypress of Florida. In response, some discoverers do not submit trees to champion programs anymore.

“I am 100 percent certain that a coast redwood surpasses the General Sherman tree.” – Mario Vaden

Redwood National and State Parks also hides the widest diameter single trunk in the United States. It is 29.2 feet wide chest high (diameter at breast height, or DBH) and along the ground has the greatest circumference. 

It was found 2010 with a friend Thomas, from Germany. Then its full diameter was measured and discovered in 2015 by another redwood explorer from Arcata. We doubt people will learn about this at park visitor centers, but Save the Redwoods League’s site noted it for several years.

Why should Calaveras Big Trees or Yosemite stake claim to GIANT Sequoia and the biggest trees in the world? The largest trees in Redwood National and State Parks are much larger than the Grizzly Giant or other trees of those two mountain parks. Most parks within Redwood National and State Parks have a bigger coast redwood.

But what about the Giant Forest where some large wood volume Sequoiadendron can be seen? Someone may interject that grove to defend the giant sequoia nickname.

Take the following as a kind of Certified Arborist report. When trunks of real single stem formation are compared, I am 100 percent certain that a coast redwood surpasses the General Sherman tree. Furthermore, some mountain giants that look like single trunks, are actually merged or “fused” doubles. Between new coast discoveries and observations on the mountain, that Is what I learned. 

Both species are not immune to double trunk formation. Some have have seen trunks starting to merge like this where it’s easy to spot. In 1000 years, a future hiker may look at the same but think the two trunks are just one.

But trees give witness through marks, lines and shapes. They can denote what used to exist. For example, hike at Prairie Creek, then before reaching Westridge trail, a root crosses open space from a redwood trunk to the ground. 

That means there was a decaying log there centuries ago. The log vanished, but the root supplies a story for future generations.

Likewise, vertical lines on trunks can indicate a redwood is actually two trees. Especially if the included bark marks are on opposing sides of what seems like one trunk. That is the case with some so-called largest Sequoiadendron trees. 

This is not an anomaly. Hikers can spot this development in both regions with both species. But it becomes more obscure as each century passes.

Best I can tell, Redwood National and State Parks has a larger volume coast redwood than Sherman pertaining to genuine single trunks, with that aspect separate from the point rating for champions. So what can we conclude?

If the largest of both species were set side by side, the average person wouldn’t know which was the largest. Both species are virtually neck-to-neck for size. The coast’s biggest are randomly dispersed among thousands of acres, obscure in a Jurassic-like rainforest, while the mountain’s largest stand more open, rugged, and almost alien. Together, they are both the largest trees in the world.

But one thing seems certain. Coast redwoods exist, so large, they “vaporize” the notion that any other species deserves to be called a giant Sequoia.

Appreciate Sequoiadendron trees for their unique magnificence. And likewise appreciate Sequoia sempervirens for the inherent stature created within that forest of towers – tallest, widest and giant.

The park visitor centers know where a handful of the largest can be found. Ask for directions. Easy ones are Giant Tree in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Big Tree up at Prairie Creek. 

In Jedediah Smith park is the Boy Scout redwood near the Boy Scout Tree trail, but pay close attention to the size of trunks just feet from the trail. Also in Jedediah Smith park, take the Mill Creek trail. That trail is closed in 2020 for construction, but there are redwoods through there that can convey the magnitude of other giants most people will never be able to reach. Just give it a year.

Between the two big tree regions, the coast redwoods are hands down my favorite. I have met many new friends in relation to this forest; local folk, and others from across the United States, Germany, South Africa.

Alone and together, new finds include many new largest coast redwoods, the world’s tallest maple, tallest hemlock, and various other unique trees.

I am glad my mother had a chance to see the coast redwoods toward the end of her years. She said “this is the most peaceful place I have ever been.” Reaching age 98, she rests among the coast redwoods.

Mario Vaden is a certified arborist, photographer and redwood enthusiast based in Oregon. He has more redwood lore on his website, https://www.mdvaden.com 

Best of the big tree videos on the Net

ORICK — Tired of tigers on Netflix? Join us on a virtual trek to meet up with monsters hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old in Redwood Coast Parks, the original wild kingdom. We combed the Internet so you didn’t have to and came up with the greatest hits. Enjoy.

National Geographic goes all out in Redwood National Park (3:48)

If redwoods could talk, this is likely what they would say (2:55)


According to hippie legend, if you drink the water at Fern Canyon (at 2:10), you’ll live forever (10:10)

One man’s mission to revive the last redwood goliaths will restore your faith in Earth and humanity (10:45)

Princess Grace of Monaco recites a Louis Simpson poem about the redwoods. Wow. Just wow (3:53)

Cartoon turtles sing about a redwood. Defies explanation and logic but fun (1:39)

Humboldt’s finest nature guide goes out on a social distancing limb (11:01)

Simply the park’s greatest eye candy in super high definition (3:45) If not enough, here’s a similar saga 2.5 hours long 

When the Klamath Tour Thru Tree meets a Ford Econoline, who will win? (2:36)

How tall is the world’s tallest tree? Little kids cavort around a big clue. Take the (super easy one question) quiz. Maybe win a shirt (0:43)

The ten most amazing trees

Tall Trees Grove. Kyle Meyer

ORICK, CA — Our team of adventure professionals in Northern California has ranked the ten most remarkable trees in Redwood National and State Parks, home of the world’s tallest living things. The list comes as we officially launch Redwood Coast Parks in Orick, California, the central town in Redwood NSP.

“There’s no private organization with more experience in Redwood Country,” said Redwood Coast Parks chief Richard Stenger, a former national park ranger spearheading the group. “We work with naturalists, arborists, equestrian experts, representing generations of people who have lived and worked around Redwood National Park.”

Based on a system that includes visitor feedback, visual aesthetics and scientific value, the RCP team ranked the top ten trees in Redwood National and State Parks. 

1. Illuvator

Nick Nichols. NatGeo

This monster, one of the most massive trees in the world, with more than 200 trunks and stems, graced the cover and eight-page centerfold of National Geographic in its feature on the super trees of Redwood National & State Parks. Named for the supreme creator in JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, it resides in the Atlas Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

2. Nugget

Once the tallest known tree, this retired champion in Redwood National Park could retake the crown someday. It’s the second fastest growing redwood on record. The tree has plenty of elevated company in Tall Trees Grove, a fine-looking forest along Redwood Creek near Orick. Like Nugget, several neighbors are among the world’s ten tallest trees.

3. Corkscrew Tree

Corkscrew Tree

This photogenic oddity, featuring four trunks knitted together, poses a botanical mystery. Some think it a cathedral tree with a fairy ring gone wild. Others suspect that several coast redwoods grew around a central tree that later died and decayed. In either case, children of all ages find its twisting nooks irresistible to explore.

4. Klamath Tour Thru Tree

Klamath Tour Thru Tree

Only three living drive thru trees remain in the world, all along Highway 101 on Northern California’s Redwood Coast. The newest and least visited one offers the most pristine natural setting. It stands atop a small private hill surrounded by Redwood National Park and Yurok tribal lands. And the craftsmen who carved the tree’s cavity avoided essential living wood, safeguarding its health.

5. Stout Tree

Stout Tree

The largest redwood in Stout Grove, a forest at the confluence of two rivers in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park south of Crescent City, this venerable giant features distinctive rippled bark and a wooden viewing platform to protect its roots and provide wheelchair access.

6. Big Tree

This old growth giant in Redwood National & State Parks lives up to its name, having a circumference of 68 feet. Estimated at 1,500 years in age, the tree is just off the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway near the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park Visitor Center.

7. Sir Isaac Newton


While not the one that dropped an apple on the English physicist, this redwood is a legend in its own right. A former American Forests national points champion and one of the largest recorded redwoods, it’s located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. An unmistakable burl makes it stand out from the Prairie Creek Trail.

8. Horse Goose Pen

Horse in a Tree

Redwood Creek Buckarettes lead horse rides from Orick into the dense old growth forests of Redwood National Park, including to this unusual tree with a large natural cave, a so-called goose pen. The interpretive tours share insights on local wildlife, flora and history, and stop here for an unforgettable selfie.

9. Eternal Spring Tree


This redwood has a strange spot, maybe a hole into the cambium, from which water constantly flows. It’s in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, named for the former first lady who championed forest preservation, which offers a fine walk on an flat mountaintop loop. An added bonus: The many wild rhododendrons that bloom in late spring and summer.

10. Hyperion

Hyperion. Drew Hyland

The tallest of three trillion trees on the planet, Hyperion lords over Redwood National Park from a hidden hillside near Redwood Creek. The Internet tantalizes with location clues, but park rangers keep it secret to discourage foot traffic. Fortunately, the few trekkers who find the 380-footer, named for a Greek titan known as the High One, tend to respect low-impact hiking protocols

Google Map

To find these trees, some easy, some not so much, we put together this handy GPS laden treasure map with our Google friends.

Sky High Quiz

Watch this short. Take the (easy one question) poll. Pop an answer in the comments here and you may win a free tree t-shirt. 



Redwood Coast Parks, a group of professional redwood adventurers, is based in Orick, California, the central town in Redwood National & State Parks, the home of the world’s tallest trees, 300 miles north of San Francisco. It’s a project of the Northern Humboldt Lodging Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to sharing the wonders of the Redwood Coast with the world.

Watch the whales, now from land

Great news land lubbers: Weekly whale watching walking tours are almost here.

Kayak Trinidad, one of the North Coast’s top paddle outfitters and guide services, will offer a two-hour walking tour among the cliffs of the beautiful seaside village of Trinidad, California. They will start Feb. 23rd and go every Sunday through May.

For those of you who love seeing whales but are less inclined to venture into the ocean in kayaks, this guided tour lead by their seasoned guides and naturalists is a great option. And it’s only $25 per person.

Call 707-329-0085, email  reservations@kayaktrinidad.com or visit KayakTrinidad.com for details and reservations

Fern Canyon: Remote wonder, no crowds

Fern Canyon in Redwood National & State Parks. Kirt Edblom

With so many of California’s best-known natural wonders loved to death, we decided to look for less-traveled alternatives across the state, especially in Northern California. First up:


Seven different varieties of fern including the descendants of species dating back millions of years line the steep walls of a narrow gorge in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The short loop trail takes you past hanging greenery, tiny waterfalls and moss gardens.

Claim to fame: Steven Spielberg filmed a scene from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” in the canyon.

Special considerations: It’s a wet hike. Waterproof boots or river sandals are recommended.

Camping: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and Elk Prairie Campground are nearby.

Getting there: Moderately difficult. While Fern Canyon isn’t really remote compared to other destinations on this list, the 10-mile drive over unpaved road from Highway 101 at Orick helps keep the mobs away. Cost to enter: $8 per car.

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