Sunday, October 12, 2014

Headwaters Forest Reserve

I hiked the Elk River Trail, the small black line in upper left hand corner. It's a 5 mile hike to reach the small old growth patch. The loop is about a half mile, and then it's 5 miles back to the parking area (11 miles total).
 Yesterday was my introduction to the mysterious Headwaters Forest Reserve. The area was ground zero during the timber wars of the 1990's. Anyone who can, should not only read about the history of this area, but also visit. I hiked the Elk River Trail, an excellent visual metaphor for the status of our redwood forest. 95% of the hike travels through logged redwood forest. The reward is the 5% of the hike that travels through a peaceful, small patch of old growth forest way up on a ridge.
Sometimes it's good to see and feel what we have done to our redwood forest. As far as the eye can see, the forest has been logged. It's hard not to feel so sad and discouraged sometimes. But I believe it's essential to keep looking forward and focusing on the positives. Perhaps this land will one day recover and be allowed to recover. The redwoods sure are doing their part.
Old giant stumps follow the trail like tombstones, confronting the hiker into contemplation. The new redwoods grow in bizarre clusters of fairy rings. I compare it to Mozart as a three year old. The potential for greatness is there. It will just take time, lots of it, for the trees to once again reach their full potential and majesty. I can't help but think of what could have been. How sweet would it have been to have a forest like Prairie Creek just outside of town? It looks like Prairie Creek, smells like Prairie Creek, but again, the trees are just starting to come back, so it's definitely no Prairie Creek.
Entering the small old growth patch near the ridge.
To reach the old growth from the Elk River Trail is not all that easy. The first three miles aren't especially tough, as the trail mostly follows the creek and is fairly level for the most part. The challenge is the last two miles which are pretty much all uphill to the ridge line. I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath. The first sight of the old growth is like greeting old friends. The forest instantly takes on a new character.
The loop takes maybe 15 minutes to complete
The trees are not especially big in redwood terms, keep in mind that in this spot, they grow near the top of the mountain. I'd guess the largest were probably in the 30 foot circumference range. I hiked off trail near the ridge line to inspect one large specimen. When I reached the top of the ridge, the entire south side of the mountain opened up and revealed a clear cut. It was fascinating to observe how dry and charred the clear cut area was in comparison to the dampness and saturated soils of the old growth on the other side of the ridge. A few minutes later, I could see why. A coastal mist blew over the mountain top and the canopies of the old growth disappeared in the fog. Small droplets of moisture dropped down from time to time as the canopy captured the moisture.

The hike back to the parking area from the old growth was as quiet and peaceful as the hike to it. Suddenly mushrooms started revealing themselves on the ground. The fascinating thing about mushrooms is that it seems that they are almost invisible unless you really look for them. Once I realized they were there and started looking, they appeared everywhere!
Mushroom season has begun!
Overall, it was a great introduction into this forest. There is a lot of old growth that was fought over and saved here where trails do not go, and that is good. Salmon Pass is next on the list...

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