Florida Man on the Run

Among the Redwoods – Part Two

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Following our day driving among the redwoods and the Avenue of the Giants, it was time to seek out even bigger trees. The final true portion of our trip in California involved our toughest hike. It also cemented my real desire to continue seeing the wonders this world offers. Though the time in Rockefeller Forest meant the most to me on this trip, seeking out the Grove of Titans solidified the foundations for my future. Not all went as planned this day, but it never does in a life of adventure.

Redwood NP and Prairie Creek SP

The lush greenery of Lady Bird Johnson Trail

Having stayed not far from our first stop, an early morning start got us there in short order. Lady Bird Johnson Trail is the most popular trail in Redwood National Park and for good reason. It is a large flat trail which is easy to hike and provides its own spectacular forest. The upland environment is home to a lush forest with numerous trees other than redwoods. This was one of my favorite hikes because of the uniqueness of the grove. It was far more “jungle” like, though it still provided any number of beautiful redwoods to enjoy. One downside is that even with our early morning start, the trail quickly gained more hikers. Solitude was difficult to find here. During the busiest seasons, I can only imagine the state of the trail.

Drury Scenic Parkway, California
When there is no traffic, you can stand in the road!

We next took an opportunity to explore a few trails in Prairie Creek State Park. You’ll need to get off the 101 and take the highly recommended Drury Scenic Parkway. It runs through the middle of the park and provides access to a number of great trails. On top of that the drive itself is wonderful. We didn’t have time to do any of the big loops like Prairie Creek Loop or Cathedral Trees Loop. However, we did take an opportunity to see Big Tree. There is a place just past the initial stop for Big Tree where Prairie Creek Loop crosses the road where you should stop. This allowed us to hike to Big Tree and Circle Trail, as well as take a short jaunt over to Prairie Creek.

Four sister trees stretching into the sky

When driving is a major part of your trip, you are bound to hit traffic at some point. Unfortunately for us, it was on the 101 before Klamath. Two hours stuck in traffic was a massive bump in our day. Luckily, we made it to Crescent City and then Jedediah Smith State Park just in time. With out car inching along the unpaved Howland Hill Road into the park, we began the toughest hike of our trip. As light faded into the late afternoon, we set out on the Mill Creek Trail in search of the Grove of Titans.

In Search of Titans

Chesty Puller just before reaching the grove

Mill Creek Trail was the toughest hike we tackled on the trip. Amateurs that we are (and living in literally the flattest state) the small elevation gains of the trail are strenuous enough. From the trail head off Howland Hill Road, the trail gives you most of the gain right away. At times the trail winds somewhat perilously with steep drops just to the side of you. Looking back, Mill Creek Trail isn’t very difficult but compared to the relatively flat and wide trails found through much of the Redwood National and State Parks it has its challenges.

With evening beginning to close in on us, we did the trail as quickly as we could. After returning to the flats near Mill Creek, I spotted a massive tree just off the trail. Hurriedly walking down the “unofficial” trail that spurred off it, I initially thought I had found the grove. Closer inspection and a re-reading of my guide corrected my assumptions. It simply was Chesty Puller, a massive redwood in its own right but not the monsters we sought.

El Viejo del Norte and its distinctive talon

After realizing our false start and with a sprinkle of rain starting to fall, we pressed on. The trail wound its way to the creekside. I worried that we had missed it, the trees somehow escaping us. The alarm on my phone, set to ensure we had time to hike back before dark, soon began its vibration. Alas, as we neared the footbridge along the path another group of hikers was coming up the trail. They had begun their hike from Stout Grove and ran into us just after crossing the footbridge. We discussed our various travels that day, peering into the woods beyond the trail in search of our now joint goal, The Grove of Titans.

It was then, as light continued to slip away, that I spotted it. The talon of El Viejo del Norte. The entire group began to carefully work our way down the narrow unofficial social trails to the tree. The massive trunk stretched into the graying sky, the talon sharply sticking out of the tree. Having identified El Viejo, I knew that another titan was just nearby.

Navigating around a large fallen tree, we saw it. Lost Monarch stood just behind another fallen redwood, its massive bulk piercing deep into the sky. As the rain began to fall harder, I feel like mother nature was gently telling us that we had our time among the titans. It was time to leave the grove and to leave those massive redwoods in peace. We took our leave and made our return hike to the car just as the first touches of darkness fell on the forest.

A Word of Caution

The site had been a closely guarded secret for many years. Now there are quite a few websites which can point you to the general direction of the Grove. Having been hidden just off of a well used main trail, it wasn’t long from when the secret “leaked” to its knowledge reaching the wider world. Though the park service has yet to help establish any formal trails around the grove, they have placed signs up. These signs ask hikers to stay on the main trail, but largely they serve to call out to other where the grove is.

Lost Monarch, the king of the Grove of Titans

Though we hiked off the main trail, I highly encourage any others who come to see the Grove to do so with great care. Stay on the small trails that others have already created and respect the rest of the forest around these trees. I hope that soon the park service will work to formalize the trails around these trees and provide elevated walkways like they do near other massive redwoods. Such efforts will go a long way towards helping preserve the trees and allowing us to experience their beauty up close.

Wrapping up the Redwoods

My time among the redwoods is one I’ll never forget. These trees have existed for hundreds or thousands of years. Their size dwarfs nearly all other living things. Their combinations of size and age, helps to put our own lives into perspective. In a trip full of perspective granting experiences, these forests did the most to make me realize where I am in life and where I want to be. My sincere hope is that when you visit, they serve a similar purpose for you.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions at all. If you missed Part One, find it here! To catch more of my adventures in real time be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

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2 Responses

  1. Dang! I’m all in! Thanks! I’ve read one and two! I’m all ready for tommorow and the next day and maybe even the next! Love you! Mom

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