Saturday, May 23, 2015

Redwoods in the Rain, Again: Stout Grove at Jedediah Smith State Park


Date: November 28, 2014
Place: Jedediah Smith State Park, Crescent City, California
Length: 1.3 miles
Level: easy

After our our wet hike at Myrtle Creek no one had any desire to leave the car for another hike. We drove slowly along the Smith River on a narrow, muddy, not all paved road that was the long way back to Crescent City. The heater was on full power and the rain tapped incessantly on our car. I tried to convince myself that I should be happy with the hike we did do and not glum over those we didn't get to do.                      
But the rain eventually east off and by the time we arrived at the little pullout which was the parking area for the Stout Grove trail it nearly stopped. I thought I'd be going down by myself to check it out but Grandma Quail wanted to join me and see the big trees. So grudgingly, Papa Quail and the chikas came along as well.

Our hike to Stout Grove as captured by GPS. The GPS capture wasn't accurate - the loop completes where I fixed it in black.
For a while there was only misty moist in the air, mixed with heavy droplets that fell off the trees. We walked along the Smith River, slowly descending to to the water.
Afternoon air laden with water. 
The only thing 'blooming' were mushrooms, and most of them were species I've seen on earlier hikes so I left my camera tucked under my rain poncho.
I did takes it out from time to time, though.

Banana slugs were out and about. It was nice to see them in bright yellow again.
Banana Slug
Little by little, almost without noticing, the rain got heavier. We crossed a couple of creeks that were gashing on their way to join with Smith River.
I love the redwoods, and the rain really brings forth their beauty in a very intense way. I is certainly worth getting wet to see that first hand. But - I got even more careful with pulling my camera out but many of my photos still got droplet smudges on them.

Sometimes those smudges add an artistic level to the photos ... or so I try to convince myself.
The redwood trunks we were seeing were getting larger and larger. All too quickly, they were impossible to hug all the way around.
Coast Redwood trunks (Sequoia sempervirens)
If there were any birds about - we didn't see or hear them. Papa Quail did bring his camera along but had kept it under his poncho throughout the hike (and later complained about the futility of having carried such a heavy thing for the slight chance of any bird posing out in the rain).
We arrived at the Stout Grove loop. The rain got heavier and Papa Quail hurried along with the chikas while Grandma Quail and I lagged behind. Grandma Quail doesn't like hiking in the rain but the giant trees worked their magic on her and she wandered among the giant trunks, craning her neck to get a glimpse of their tops (and getting rain water collecting under her poncho).

S/he who had never seen giant redwoods before may not understand the magic they work on their beholders. John Steinbeck had described it perfectly in his book, 'Travels with Charley in Search of America':

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
I only wish I could write like Steinbeck. 

The redwood forest floor is also magnificent. Some very common redwoods undergrowth are ferns, which love the wetness and truly come alive in the rain. 
 A Field of Fern, all glistening in the rain. 
Redwood base growth happens when the trees experience stress. Many of the Bay Area redwoods display ample base growth. The trees at Stout Grove have almost clean trunks - a sign of happy trees!

Redwood base growth
I also saw fewer burls on those redwoods. They certainly looked straighter and less gnarly than their southern relatives. More regal, I may add.
Redwood Burl
Upon completing the loop Papa Quail took the chikas and hurried up the trail back to the car. He had had enough rain for one day. 
Grandma Quail and I followed along slowly, taking the time before saying goodbye to those majestic trees and to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. At the end of that hike we turned about and started our journey southward, and the last lag of our Thanksgiving vacation. 

On our way south, just before dark, we got to the exit for Fern Canyon and Papa Quail pulled out. This time, the meadow was full with elks. The chikas were asleep already. PaPa Quail and Grandma Quail were satisfied with b=viewing them from the car. I took the camera and stepped outside to get a clear view :-)

That night we stayed in the town of Arcata. Rain or shine, we had planned for the morrow to go bird-watching at the Arcata Marsh.


  1. I don't like hiking in the rain either... but the redwoods are indeed magical and worth it :-)

    1. Somehow I think you'd be quite fond of rain right now ...
      Seriously, if the rain isn't in cold weather I find it very pleasant to be outdoors. (Perhaps growing up in the desert has something to do with it). It gives a different and very refreshing point of view on the world.

  2. redwoods are incredible, rain or shine I would have gone with you :-)
    and the Elks are a wonderful bonus!

    1. I seriously believe that rain is the best time to see the redwoods. Everything is so much more alive there when wet! (plus the bonus of having no other humans around).