Redwood Hiking Summer 2017 – Redwood National Park

1      Helios Redwood, Redwood Creek Tributary

The tall trees lists have described the location of a number of tall trees in Redwood National Park as “Redwood Creek tributary”, including Helios.  There are a good number of Helios clues, and they all have some degree of helpfulness.  But to me, none made a specific location probable for Helios.  And on top of that there are no full views of Helios’ trunk on the internet.  Just bits and pieces, such as a small area of trunk burn marks and a small section of one side of the trunk.   And no canopy photos that show much.

But over the course of three years, with four visits to Redwood National Park searching for the tallest trees and quite a bit of time reading through research papers, viewing photos, and moving around Google Earth and Blue Marble I felt I had a good chance of finding Helios.


2      Hiking to Helios


I did not want to do the Helios hike alone.  So I planned the hike with two guys from the U.K, Carl and Phil, who I trust and are excellent redwoods researchers and hikers.

On a Sunday in August 2017 we took on this hike.  And it was quite an undertaking, ten hours of hiking in all.  And we were successful.

The approach to Helios is just what you would think for a tributary of Redwood Creek.  There is a creek and there are steep hillsides.  And both are filled with giant logs, some recent falls and many worrisome rotting logs from treefall one or two hundred years ago.  So over logs, around logs, under logs, along logs.  Logs, logs, logs.  Then throw in big ferns and nettles.  And rocks, big ones.  I fell three times, once off a rotten log, winding up on my back under some brush.  I had to wiggle my way uphill while on my back to get out of the thicket.  Carl and Phil took some spills as well.  One of us had a serious wardrobe malfunction to contend with on the hike back out.

Do not do this hike on your own!   Do not do this hike if you cannot tolerate extreme physical exertion!

Here are a couple views of typical redwoods and other trees and plants in the Helios area.  Lots of ferns and rhododendrons.  Also quite a bit of western hemlock, sitka spruce,  and bay laurel.   But the majority of the biomass is definitely redwoods.

Large redwoods above Helios’ creek


View looking down toward Helios’ creek


3      Finding Helios


The three of us had climbed up a hill and were spread out.  We noted a strong candidate, Phil got to the tree first and yelled “I think you will be very pleased with this tree” in the typical understated British way.  Then Carl had a good pic of the burn marks on his tablet and what we saw lined up exactly in every detail.   This was Helios, definitely.  And we got it confirmed the next day.

Here are two views of Helios similar to what has been on the internet.  The first is a section of the burn marks.   The triangle on the left is the official shark tooth.   Then the second is me in front of the trunk.

I cannot show any full trunk or crown views of Helios.

Helios shark tooth (on left).


Standing at the trunk of Helios.


4      Helios Height


We did put rangefinders on the top of Helios and got a ballpark height.   But we didn’t have prisms and tripods to get a definite height, and also didn’t find a ground level tag on the tree.

But Helios is immensely tall, perhaps as tall as Hyperion.   And Helios has a lot of character, lots of interesting and unique features.  That is what you would expect from a 2,000 year old tree.

Redwoods Hiking Summer 2017 – Crescent City Forest

1      Crescent City Forest

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park can certainly be described as Crescent City’s forest.  When viewed in Google Earth the start of the park is very abrupt, with farm land, commercial land, and housing immediately to the west of the park’s border.   As an example the Boy Scout Tree redwood is less than three miles from the Crescent City Walmart.

But don’t be fooled, there is a lot of remoteness for much of JSRSP.   There is an especially big patch of redwoods south of Highway 199 and north of the Boy Scout Tree trail that is pretty much free of trails and roads.  On a Saturday in August Mario and I did some exploration in this forest.  Not to any known giant trees, but just to look around.   This area has a wrinkled landscape and receives a lot of rain.  Therefore there are many creeks, generally flowing either north toward Smith River or south toward Jordan Creek and the Pacific ocean.    In one valley the water may flow north, then crossing to the next valley, at the same latitude, the water may flow south.

We took our time, looking over a small portion of the area, and found some really interesting “stuff”.

2      Big and Small Redwoods


We found this big whopper redwood with one of the nicest crowns you’ll ever want to see.

Large redwood with huge crown, a boiling cloud of green.


Then this is a classic nursery log, with a line of ten or so young redwoods growing out of the log.  That’s Mario along the log.

Nursery log supporting ten young redwoods


Here’s a nice cluster of big redwoods, maybe they can be called the Crescent City Towers.  Occupants are flying squirrels and marbled murrelets.  Mario’s in lower right for scale.

Crescent City Towers


3      The Elk Herd


Just above one creek sits this redwood grouping.  We gave it the name Elk Herd as there are elk sign in this area, lots of hoof prints and nibbled off vegetation from earlier in the summer.  It would be quite a picture to get a herd of elk surrounding this herd of redwood trees.

Mario has a good picture of this grouping on his website where you can discern the impressive size more clearly.  But let me just say, at 4.5 feet above the ground, there is 35 feet of pure redwood diameter, no spacing.  The big one in the middle is over 20 feet diameter.

The Elk Herd

4      Chill Down


That evening Mario organized a FB meetup at a brew pub in Crescent City.  He got a good turnout, both people interested in redwood photography and redwood hiking.  About 25 in all, everyone had a good time.