Tag Archives: montgomery redwoods state reserve

Montgomery Redwoods Hike

 

1      Tall trees In A Small Area

 

Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve is a very scenic spot with a high concentration of very tall redwood trees.   The tall trees list shows 17 trees in this reserve over 350 feet in height. The tallest redwood in the reserve (Mendocino Redwood) is about 368 feet tall and is the 11th or so tallest tree in the world.   The tall trees over 350 feet are found throughout the reserve – in the lower, middle, and upper flats. But that is a small area – a long stretched oval about 1.5 miles around and only 150 or so yards wide.

I had the fortune to recently hike through this reserve with Jerry Beranek. Jerry is a noted redwood photographer and writer who has published several books. His book “Coast Redwood – Tree of Dreams and Fortune” is a must have for any redwood enthusiast. It contains many great pictures of redwood trees as well as lots of information on the trees, plants, and animals that coexist with redwoods.

Jerry points out Montgomery Reserve may have been a lake at one time. A landslide could have backed up the creek for several centuries or thousands of years, allowing the shallow lake to form. Then the natural dam let go, the lake drained, and the rich soil was populated by redwoods which grew tall in the protected valley on the north side of a coast range mountain. As he mentions the redwoods needed to “stretch” to get up above the rim of the bowl and get more sunlight.

This picture is from the area at the start of the grove after hiking up the hill from the parking lot. You can see the evidence for a long ago earthen dam (I am standing on it) as well as the beauty of the grove. Montgomery Creek winds through the flat area with tall redwoods uniformly distributed throughout.

Start of lower flat in Montgomery Redwoods
Start of lower flat in Montgomery Redwoods

 

2      Fire Event in 2008

 

There was a large fire in this reserve in 2008 that burned the undercover (it has since fully recovered) and some of the hardwoods on the slopes above the flat (they didn’t make it). This fire was part of a group of wildfires that occurred in July that were very destructive to Mendocino County. Most of the redwoods came out ok as one of their specialties is fire survival given their thick bark. However a few of the hollow redwood trees sustained significant damage including one really big one that burned for days like a giant smokestack and then collapsed. As part of the collapse event one huge branch splintered into three sections as it crashed to earth. Each of the three sections entered the ground at about the same angle. These branch sections are still buried in the earth – three big widow makers. They are pictured below.

Congruent near simultaneous ground entry for broken sections of a single large redwood branch
Congruent near simultaneous ground entry for broken sections of a single large redwood branch

 

3      A Big Tree and a Tall Tree

 

The biggest and fourth tallest tree in the reserve is the Montgomery Giant, with a diameter of 17 feet and a height of 361 feet. Jerry and his buddies did some climbing in this reserve in the 1980’s. In 1981 Jerry climbed the Montgomery Giant and measured its height via tape drop at 357 feet. While at the top an even taller tree in the distance was noted as the tallest tree in the reserve. This tree was assigned the name Mendocino Redwood in the 1990’s and for a few years it was the tallest known tree (before the Stratosphere Giant was identified).

Here are two pics of the Montgomery Giant. The first is a mid to upper trunk view. Then the second is of Jerry and I having a discussion on how to get a fish line over the lowest branch in the tree.

Montgomery Giant mid and upper trunk view
Montgomery Giant mid and upper trunk view

 

Montgomery Giant - we are discussing the methods used to get a weighted fish line over the lowest branch of a tall redwood
Montgomery Giant – we are discussing the methods used to get a weighted fish line over the lowest branch of a tall redwood

4      Finishing Up the Hike

 

Jerry, like some other redwood enthusiasts, hikes with a tripod and camera. Here he is checking light while setting up for a photo.

 

Jerry Beranek setting up for a photo along the trail
Jerry Beranek setting up for a photo along the trail

 

Recently eight of so interpretive information signs have been put up along the trail. They are well done. Here is one of them.

One of a group of very well executed information signs recently added along the loop trail
One of a group of very well executed information signs recently added along the loop trail

 

Montgomery Redwoods Reserve is a great hike. This was my second hike there and both times I was lucky to hike with someone knowledgeable about the reserve. Jerry’s knowledge of and experiences in the redwood forests are impressive, interesting, and entertaining.

 

 

Tall Trees in Mendocino County

1      Mendocino County, California, USA

Mendocino County is noted for its wineries, microbreweries, and  coastline but also retains some remnant redwood forests.   On one hand these forests are not as extensive as the ones further north but on the other hand their smaller size makes them easier to thoroughly explore. Also since they are remnants of the once great coastal redwood strip they are surrounded by rangeland which provides a contrast in views as well as interesting winding drives up, over, and around the coastal ranges to get to these groves.

I visited two of these groves on a late winter weekend, the weather was spectacular. Unusually clear with temperatures near 70 in the sunny open areas and then mid 50’s in the redwood forest valleys.

2      Hendy Woods State Park

This park and its redwood groves have nine lives.   The original titled owner was Joshua Hendy who was a 49’er (1849 Gold Rush, not the football team) who kept about 100 acres of his best redwoods uncut. Eventually though this land was purchased by lumber companies but the locals kept pressure on to keep the 100 acre grove uncut and in the end the grove and the area around it were incorporated into a California state park.   Then more recently California wanted to reduce or cease operations at the park but again local pressures and more comprehensive economic studies served to keep this park in the state park system.

There is some construction work going on around the redwood grove parking area so until sometime this Spring (2015) visitors need to park in the camping area then take a short half mile walk downhill to the redwood groves.

The groves are adjacent to grasslands dotted with oak trees. Here you can see the entrance to the redwood grove, with a tall tree sticking into the sky right where the forest starts.

Tall redwood at entrance into the grove
Tall redwood at entrance into the grove

 

Because it is surrounded by open land, the grove itself is not quite as dark and imposing as some of the northern groves.   Here is a typical view early on in the trail.

 

Discovery Trail Big Hendry Grove
Discovery Trail Big Hendry Grove

 

For sure there are some large and tall redwoods in this grove.   The 2010 tall trees list shows six trees in this grove between 340 and 345 feet in height.  That’s really tall, even for redwood trees.

This large redwood appears to be the “king of the forest”. It has a 17 foot diameter trunk and is a little over 300 feet tall.   That’s about 23,000 cubic feet of wood if you apply the volume for a cone formula ( pi r squared h/3) which provides a decent estimation of the total wood volume in a redwood tree.   Not quite a top 20 by volume redwood (which requires about 27,000 cubic feet) but very large indeed.

 

Hendy Discover Tree Base View
Big Hendy Grove large tree
Hendy Discover Tree Upper Trunk View
Big Hendy Grove large tree upper trunk view

 

The trails are very well marked and the hiking is easy. At places there were open areas which I am sure are used for ranger programs and school field trips.

 

Big Hendy Grove Discover Trail Upper and Back Loop Junction
Big Hendy Grove Discover Trail Upper and Back Loop Junction

 

At the exit of the grove there is a nice live oak prairie.   Then you can turn back around and see the forest you just walked through. Pretty cool.

 

Big Hendy Woods Discover Trail Exit at Navarro River Meadow
Big Hendy Woods Discover Trail Exit at Navarro River Meadow

 

View of Big Hendy Grove from Navarro River Meadow
View of Big Hendy Grove from Navarro River Meadow

 

 

3      Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

This reserve is known for its abundance of tall redwoods in a small area.   According to the tall trees list four of the top fifty and seven of the top one hundred tallest redwoods can be found in this reserve.

Starting from the parking area there is a short but relatively steep (250 feet elevation gain) trail up to the reserve which is at the headwaters of Montgomery Creek. Then the redwoods are in a relatively flat flood plain along the creek. There is a 1.3 mile stretched oval trail that loops through the reserve on either side of the creek.   The flood plain is surrounded by steep hillsides which help protect the redwoods from the wind.  In a way this park reminded me a little bit of Pennsylvania state parks with glacial flooding history, such as Cooks Forest or McConnells Mills.  Of course Montgomery has much taller and larger trees.

This park could give you a stiff neck as you look up to the tops of the tall redwoods, with their upper crowns lit up by the bright afternoon sunshine.  One way to assess the tallest trees is to see which ones are still lit up in the late afternoon sun.   Those could be good ones to measure if you have a laser rangefinder.

 

Incredibly tall Montgomery Reserve redwoods with tops lit up by late afternoon sun
Incredibly tall Montgomery Reserve redwoods with tops lit up by late afternoon sun

 

Then to even things out you can try to find early blooms in the redwood sorrel or watch the water flow down Montgomery Creek.

 

Early blooming redwood sorrel (February 22)
Early blooming redwood sorrel (February 22)

 

Montgomery creek outflow below Montgomery Grove
Montgomery creek outflow below Montgomery Grove

 

Even on a no rain weekend you need to pick your way carefully to avoid small pockets of water in some areas.   But generally the trail is a little elevated and there are also boardwalks and foot bridges through the wettest areas.   Here are trunk photos of a couple nice trees in the grove.

 

Tall redwoods in Montgomery grove
Tall redwood in Montgomery grove
Another nice redwood in the Montgomery grove. That's me by the tree.
Another nice redwood in the Montgomery grove. That’s me by the tree.

 

This is the biggest (by volume) tree in the grove, it is about 361 feet tall with a 17.3 foot diameter.

 

Big tall redwood in Montgomery Grove.  On some days I would get wet standing where I am but not on this day.
Big tall redwood in Montgomery Grove. On some days I would get wet standing where I am but not on this day.

 

If approaching this park from US 101 / Ukiah you go up and over the coast range from the valley side to the Pacific side. The drive is winding and scenic.   Here is a view near the summit of the coast range.

Coast range between Montgomery Reserve and Ukiah
Coast range between Montgomery Reserve and Ukiah

 

Montgomery Reserve is a popular park with a strong reputation for great redwoods which is well deserved.