Monday, September 10, 2012

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

 I drove up to Humboldt Redwoods State Park Friday night to do some more redwood exploring. By the time I reached the park, it was already dark. I hoisted up my backpack, put on my headlamp, and hiked towards my secret spot to camp. I quickly realized that I better not make any navigational mistakes or else I was going to have to pick a random spot and wait until morning to figure out where I was. Thankfully, I found my spot without too much trouble and decided to cowboy camp for the night, since no rain was in the forecast.

 Navigating through the redwoods becomes easier the more you do it and the more familiar you become with certain sections of forest. Certain trees stand out like prominent landmarks. You can travel from one landmark to the next. After laying out my ground pad and sleeping bag, I walked out to the creek. The water is low this time of year. It was really cool to look up at the stars from the creek. The giant redwoods block most of the sky on both sides, so basically there is a narrow ally to view the stars from. The Milky Way was running perpendicular to the ally. Something strange to be able to watch satellites float across the night sky and then disappear behind the redwood canopy. It's like the modern and the ancient existing at once.

 After walking back to my camp, I tried to go to sleep. So far, the theme has been that I don't sleep particularly well in the redwoods. I don't know if its the forest per se, or it's just the first night sleeping outside that's difficult. This night was no different. It was dead quiet in the forest. The frogs that have kept me company all summer were silent. The creek that adds background noise was just a trickle. I heard crickets for a little while, but they too eventually fell silent. There was no moon for most of the night so it was pitch black once again. Every few seconds, some small debris would fall down from the trees above. Also, the sound of small animals could be heard running around on the forest floor from time to time. I remember drifting into sleep and then having a muscle spasm in my legs. As soon as I twitched, some nearby animal dashed through the woods.

 The strangest part of the night was a dream that I had. It was almost as if I was half awake, and half asleep. In the dream, I was laying exactly where I was camping. As hard as I tried, I couldn't move or wake up. I was clawing at the earth, trying to sit up, and it was like I was being dragged towards the creek. Then I heard the distinct sound of horses galloping through the forest. I looked up and saw probably four riders heading down the trail just above my camp. There was a young kid who had a camera and was taking my picture as he galloped past. Then there were horses stomping all around me where I lay. They were braying in my ears. Again I tried to get up, but I couldn't move. I was afraid they were going to stomp on me. Then a couple of women walked into my camp. One of them turned to the other and said, "I wonder if the professor knows how many rings this redwood has? Oh my God, there is someone laying there..." She was pointing at me laying on the ground. I couldn't move or say anything. Then all of a sudden, a large prehistoric mammal walked into camp and began running around my sleeping bag, stomping and snarling. He was cream colored with orange spots, four legged, with a flat nose. As I lay there, he began sniffing into my ears. Then I heard a deafening bray from a horse and finally woke up startled. I thought for sure I was going to see a horse in my camp because the noise was so loud. However, there was nothing to see. I lay there quietly and spooked for a little while, and eventually fell back to sleep, and had a dreamless slumber the rest of the night.

 I woke up to one of my favorite sounds in the redwood forest. The whistle of the Varied Thrush. I've described it in previous posts as  sounding like a whistle one would hear at a ball game. It sounds like a referee blowing the whistle. I don't know why I like it so much. I quickly packed up my gear, hiked back to my car and threw my stuff in the back seat. I returned to a section of forest to explore where I left off last time. My goal was to find the exceptional giants lurking in the forest yet again. Of course, it's like an ant looking at the foot of an elephant. These trees may not be the tallest, just the largest from our perspective. There were plenty of great trees to see.

56 feet 2 in cbh! (above)
The highlight of the day for me occurred on the way home. As I was driving, I stopped at a random spot on the road to use the bathroom. As I wandered into the forest, I saw a huge lumbering giant lurking in the shadows. As I approached, I was blown away. This tree was enormous, from every angle I looked at it. After a long day of looking at trees, to be awed by one at the end of the day definitely meant that this was a special specimen. As far as I could tell, it had very few visitors. Someone had carved their initials into it, but the base of the tree looked completely undisturbed. I ran back to my car to get a quick measurement of the circumference. The tape measure read 56 feet 2 in! I've read about and seen pictures of larger trees to the north, but for me, this makes it the largest tree I have seen to date. A personal record breaker!


  1. The tree in the first picture has so many knots! Good thing they decrease its value as timber ;)

  2. I guess you could call it an evolutionary advantage at this point...

  3. Just like the Honey Locust.
    The trees know what is happening around them.