Trip Report, Part 6: Prairie Creek Redwoods

Officially surrendering to altitude sickness, I high-tailed it across the state. I spent five days living in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the most spectacular old-growth redwood forest I know of. The park was saved in the 1920s, long before other redwood areas, so it has big tracts that have never been logged. With only about 3% of old-growth redwood forest remaining, you can find much of it here. I’d been here before but never had such a big chunk of time to explore.

It was quite the contrast going from the dry Great Basin at the base of the Sierras to the moist coastal forest. In the Buttermilks, I was slathering lotion on my hands several times a day to keep my skin from cracking. At Prairie Creek, I poured a little water on my tent fly to remove some bird scat and two days later the ground was still wet in that spot.

I was impressed by how far this park has come over the years in preventing wildlife from being habituated. When I first visited Prairie Creek many years ago, bears ran through the campground looking for food. This time, not even the Douglas squirrels or gray jays were habituated. Birds and squirrels were all around me at my campsite, but all were focused on their natural food of tree cones and elderberries.

Late September was the ideal time to visit. The weather was great and I had lots of solitude on the trail. It was the perfect place to spend my birthday, diving deep into the company of wise ancient trees.

I am awestruck every time by just how massive the ancient redwoods are. I felt like an elf there.

This shot gives little sense of scale, but this was an enormous grove of redwoods on the James Irvine Trail. To get a sense of its size, see the previous photo. In this picture, you can compare the trees to the trail and ferns below. I parked myself in a hollow here and just took it all in for a while. I felt so connected to everything that it seemed like I could easily have just dissolved into that spot.

And here are images that show the intricacies of what’s going on at a small scale.

I was struck by the contrast of the red undersides of the redwood sorrel against the green of the upper surface and the color of the fallen log.

Here’s a close-up of a redwood sorrel leaf and a forest inhabitant.

Redwood sorrel flower

Blue-bead lily

The cones of the Sitka spruce are delicate.These evergreen trees grow beside the redwoods.

I’m too lazy to learn the species of fungi, but here are a bunch that were interesting.

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