Tag Archives: redwoods

Hiking to Redwood Tree Cathedrals

1      Redwood Tree Cathedrals

Tall redwood trees tend to grow in groups.  There are specific areas with the best soil, sufficient moisture, protection from wind, and the right mix of sun and fog to promote tall tree growth.  I recently spent a few days in the redwood parks hiking to tall trees along or near trails but still a little bit away from areas where most visitors hike.  These areas with tall trees are nature’s cathedrals, with the trunks serving as pillars and the crowns serving as rounded ceilings hundreds of feet off the forest floor.

2      Humboldt Redwoods

 

Day one hiking was in the Bull Creek Flats area in Humboldt.   I wanted to get some pictures from the “101 Big Cut” near Founders Grove.   On the way to that location there is a spectacular new tree fall at the Dyerville Giant location.   The Dyerville Giant was a tall redwood that fell in 1991 and its big log remains in Founders Grove.   Sometime in the early Spring an adjacent redwood fell across that big log and split in several sections.

Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove
Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove

 

Then on to the Big Cut Trail.  It is a moderately difficult twisting hike up to the top but the reward is a really nice view of the Bull Creek redwoods as well as some interesting civil engineering where the Avenue of the Giants crosses over US 101.

Looking up Bull Creek from Big Cut
Looking up Eel River South Fork from Big Cut

 

I spent some time in the Harper Flats area near Giant tree.  This area is thick with very tall even aged redwoods.  It is indeed a tall trees cathedral.

Harper Flat tall redwood
Harper Flat tall redwood
Harper Flat Cathedral
Harper Flat Cathedral

 

Another nice area visited was along Bull Creek a couple miles upstream from the Eel River South Fork.  I located a beautiful very tall round domed redwood right along Bull Creek.  Across the creek from this tree there are two tree trunks rubbing against each other in the wind, this makes a loud screeching sound which kind of sounds like whales singing.

Tall redwood along Bull Creek
Tall redwood along Bull Creek

 

Then in the flats above Bull Creek in this area is a scenic somewhat open forest area with big and tall redwoods.

Nice redwood mid Bull Creek Flats south side
Nice redwood mid Bull Creek Flats south side
Patriarch Forest Cathedral
Patriarch Forest Cathedral

 

3      Redwood National Park Tall Trees Grove to Forty Four Creek

 

On another day I hiked the Tall Trees Grove trail, crossed Redwood Creek on a seasonal footbridge which had just been put in that day, then hiked Redwood Creek trail north to Forty Four creek.  I had hoped to get a good view of the remnant redwood grove along Forty Four creek but did not have clear views of the crowns from the trail.   However the bridge and Forty Four creek are both scenic.  Be very careful on the bridge as some sections of the side rails are missing.

Forty four creek bridge
Forty four creek bridge
Forty Four Creek
Forty Four Creek

 

On the way back up and out I stopped at the Redwood Creek overlook and watched the evening fog roll up Redwood Creek valley from the Pacific Oean. It comes in at a pretty quick pace, maybe ten miles per hour on this day.

 

4      Redwood National Park Redwood Creek Trailhead to Elam Creek

 

The northern portions of Redwood Creek trail provide nice views of the redwoods along Redwood Creek in several areas, particularly where the trail crosses Redwood Creek just a little north of McArthur Creek.   Just north of the Elam Creek Bridge there is a side trail that goes up to the Elam Horse Camp and then intersects with one of the horse trails.  This horse trail follows Elam Creek upstream for about half a mile, then there is a single file bridge where the riders and horses cross Elam Creek.   This bridge affords a spectacular view of very tall redwood trees that surround Elam Creek at this point.  It is a real back country redwood tree cathedral.

Elam Creek half mile up north slope redwood
Elam Creek half mile up north slope redwood
Elam creek half mile up another tall redwood on the north slope
Elam creek half mile up another tall redwood on the north slope
Elam Creek half mile up tall redwoods on south slope
Elam Creek half mile up tall redwoods on south slope

 

5      Redwood National Park Trillium Falls Trail

 

The Trillium Falls trail forms a nice loop through old growth redwoods.  The first part of the trail up to Trillium Falls is pretty busy but after that point the trail is less busy.  This is probably due to the steep climb to the upland redwoods and the overall length of the loop (about 3 miles).

Trillium Falls itself is very scenic.  There are also very nice redwoods around these falls.  Then past the falls there are some areas with really big and ancient redwoods.

Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls trail big trees grove
Trillium Falls trail big trees grove

6      Redwood National Park Flint Ridge Trail

 

There are big redwoods on the climb up Flint Ridge from the Klamath River.   On this day I wasn’t able to get to this area due to trail conditions.  But reading about the 1964 flood and viewing what remains of the original Klamath River coastal highway bridge was very interesting.  This old bridge has bear statues too, just like the new one.

Old Klamath River bridge
Old Klamath River bridge

7      Jedediah Smith Redwoods Trails

 

One up side from missing Flint Ridge was it provided some time to get up to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  Road repairs had just been completed and the park was accessible from the south all the way up to Stout Grove.  I did some hiking in the big trees area and enjoyed trail side views of some big redwoods.

Distant view of Del Norte Titan crown
Distant view of Del Norte Titan crown
Sacajawea
Sacajawea

8      Montgomery Woods

 

On another day I met my friends Jerry and Teri Beranek for a hike through Montgomery Woods.  The many tall redwoods in the flats above the earthen dam and below the surrounding steep hillsides form a continuous redwood cathedral.   I get a lot of insights and plant identifications when hiking with Jerry and Teri.  Jerry has a couple new books, one on Humboldt and one on Prairie Creek.  They are very good, providing interesting background and perspective and many great photos and maps.  Look for them in the gift shops along the Avenue of the Giants and the Humboldt Visitors Center.

All three pieces entered ground at same angle
All three pieces entered ground at same angle
Montgomery Woods Cathedral
Montgomery Woods Cathedral

 

Thanks for reading.

Record Breaking Redwoods Outside the Redwood National and State Parks?

1      Tall Forests – NASA Canopy Height Mapping

 

NASA maintains a global canopy height map on its website. This map is comprised of airplane based LIDAR mapping (2.4% of land mapped for canopy height) and satellite based “spectroradiometer” equipment (97.6% of land area mapped for canopy height). The canopy height is appropriately in shades of progressively darker green with the darkest green indicating at least eighty percent of the tree canopy in the area is over 70 meters (230 feet).   All the dark green areas in northern California are old growth redwood stands.   The average tree height in old growth stands in northern California is 250-300 feet, with maximum demonstrated individual tree height at 380 feet.   To see more on this subject see my posting on “Distribution of Tree Height in an Old Growth Redwood Forest”.

Below is a portion of the Global Canopy Height map that includes the area from Fortuna to Klamath. The dark green (old growth redwood) forests have been noted from north to south.   The old growth forests include Prairie Creek Redwoods and Redwood National Parks. No surprises there. However there are five additional areas with large enough tracts of old growth redwoods to be discernable on the global canopy height map.

You can click on the map to see a larger version.

 

NASA Global Canopy height map - Eureka to Klamath
NASA Global Canopy height map – Eureka to Klamath

2      Lesser Known Areas With Old Growth Redwood Forests

 

From north to south here are some comments on the lesser known areas with old growth redwoods forests.

Six Rivers National Forest High Prairie Creek Section and Yurok Redwood Experimental Forest

This area is low elevation and is protected from the ocean by a large ridge and has riparian zones along High Prairie Creek.   These are perfect conditions for large and tall redwoods and indeed there are many large tree crowns in this area as seen on Google Earth.

This area does not have any public access and most requests for special access will be declined.

This could be the best area for old growth redwoods between Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and the trees in this forest are representative of the redwoods found in those parks.

Yurok Experimental Forest and Six Rivers NF near Klamath
Yurok Experimental Forest and Six Rivers NF near Klamath (Google Earth view)

 

Private Holdings – GDRC and HRC

The GDRC dominates timber holdings north of Eureka while HRC has extensive holdings around Eureka and south.   Both these companies provide detailed publicly available management plans and holdings maps. Most of their holdings are managed second growth but they do have some old growth forests. Any old growth areas of three acres or more are voluntarily and permanently protected from harvesting and road construction by both of these companies.

I am not familiar with the access requirements for these areas but certainly written permission would be required from the respective company.

 

Headwaters Reserve

Some folks call this the “mysterious Headwaters Reserve”.   It was the scene of some famous forest protection protests in the 1990’s and culminated in 1999 with a $380 million purchase of 7,000 acres from the owning lumber company, of which 3,000 acres are old growth redwoods. The purchase was 100% taxpayer funded, $250 million from the Federal government and $130 million from the state of California. The Reserve is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Reserve does have public access though it is limited.   There is a north approach which requires a five mile hike or bike from a parking area to reach the heart of the reserve.   Then there is a south approach from near Fortuna that requires a reservation and meeting up with a representative of the reserve.

This reserve contains a few redwoods in the 360 feet height range. This is exceptionally tall, there are less than sixty redwoods throughout their range that are over 360 feet in height. Undoubtedly there are exceptionally large diameter and volume trees in this reserve as well.

Headwaters Reserve low elevation north section (close in Google Earth view)
Headwaters Reserve low elevation north section (close in Google Earth view)

 

3      Record Breaking Redwoods Outside the Redwood State and National Parks?

 

Any of the lesser known areas highlighted above could hold a record breaking tall redwood tree. It is not likely but there is a chance. As one well known redwood explorer writes – “chance has potential”.

Based on the existing information on tallest redwoods, a super tall redwood can grow anywhere from near sea level to around 900 feet in elevation.   That covers a lot of ground. As long as the soil is good, there is some protection from wind from surrounding trees and hills, and there are year round water sources (nearby creeks, springs, and fog drip) a very tall redwood is a possibility.

Then to increase the possibility there needs to be a forest of trees growing in conditions for super tall redwoods. Each of the lesser known areas outlined above contains such a forest, as confirmed by the NASA global canopy height map.

For the same reasons there could also be very large (over 20,000 cubic feet) redwoods in these areas as well.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Distribution of Tree Height in an Old Growth Redwood Forest

1      Old Growth Redwoods

 

Old growth redwoods – that phrase invokes a lot of different feelings in people. Certainly in the present the phrase describes the large never cut forests in the redwood parks. Forests full of giant trees, some by rivers or streams and others along hillsides. Forests covered with needles and sorrel and forests covered with ferns. Forests with deer moving through them to reach the creeks, all the while shadowed by mountain lions. Forests with black bear dens. Remote and rugged but never more than a few miles from a highway.

Two parks with many acres of old growth redwoods as well as the ten tallest trees in the world are Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.   Each parks contains hundreds of thousands of old growth redwood trees.   Here is the math:

Park Acres Old Growth Redwoods # Redwood Trees > 100 cm per Hectare # Acres per Hectare # Old Growth Redwood Trees
HRSP                    17,000 50 2.47                            344,130
RNP                    19,640 50 2.47                            397,571

 

The redwood density figure is a general rounding of the findings in a redwood plots study underway at Humboldt State University.

If that number seems too high, well…. Here are two pictures.   These are from the Redwood Creek Overlook on Bald Hills Road in Redwood National Park.   The old growth forests and patches are very distinctive.   If you go to that overlook and put a strong pair of binoculars on those forests it is an impressive site.   Many big and tall trees all growing along Redwood Creek and the surrounding feeder creeks and hillsides. I can’t imagine a more spectacular forest. It is kind of intimidating.

Redwood Creek Overlook looking west northwest.
Redwood Creek Overlook looking west northwest.

 

Redwood Creek Overlook west southwest view
Redwood Creek Overlook west southwest view

 

2      Height Distribution for the Tallest Trees

 

Thorough ground based searches combined with LiDAR technology have given a pretty complete picture of tree height in all parks with the exception of the Headwaters Reserve. The tallest redwoods, those over 365 feet, are all in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park, with the exception of two trees in the exceptional Montgomery Woods Reserve. Then all the trees over 370 feet (there are only ten or so) are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.

 

Trees over 350 feet.  Each line represents a tree.
Trees over 350 feet. Each line represents a tree.

 

There are two things that are apparent when viewing these graphs. First, the distribution patterns are very similar between the parks. And second, there are a lot more tall trees in HRSP than in RNP. Based on this data paired with the history of each park the explanation is certainly this: In Humboldt most of the forests with the tallest trees are intact. In Redwood National Park most of the forests with the tallest trees have been thinned or removed.

 

3      Height Distribution for Old Growth Redwood Trees

 

Noting the steepness of the curve on the tall trees graph it is evident there is some type of “bell shaped” distribution where there are many trees of a certain height, say 350 feet, then the trees get fewer and fewer at 360 feet and even more scarce at 370 feet.

Using this information and the total number of old growth redwoods we can infer the number of trees of certain heights:

Std Deviations Expected Pct of Trees Less Than HRSP Expected Trees RNP Expected Trees HRSP + RNP Expected Trees
2 97.725%                      7,829                      9,045                              16,874
3 99.865%                          465                          537                                1,001
4 99.997%                            11                            13                                      23
4.5 99.99966%                              1                              1                                        3
5 99.99997% 0.0981 0.1133 0.21

Looking at the results of expected trees versus actual tree populations, it is evident four standard deviations describes 368 feet or so redwoods, while 4.5 standard deviations describes the very tallest redwoods (380 feet).

Then with some calculations and interpolation, we can arrive at three standard deviations corresponding to a 338 foot redwood tree.   This then results with the following very approximate distribution of tree height in old growth redwood forests in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwood National Park.

Std Dev Height Feet
4.5 383
4 368
3 338
2 308
1 278
0 248
-1 218
-2 188
-3 158
-4 128
-4.5 113

 

So the average old growth redwood in Humboldt and Redwood NP is 250 feet tall.  Remember this covers all old growth trees at all elevations that are at least 3.28 feet in diameter.

Then there are 1,000 trees over 338 feet in height.

What do you think?

 

4      Old Growth Redwood Groves Close Ups

 

For some closer in views of old growth, here are pictures from two of my favorite areas in the redwood parks.   There are views like this all over the redwood parks.

 

Humboldt Bull Creek outflow
Humboldt Bull Creek outflow

 

Redwood NP Lost Man Creek area
Redwood NP Lost Man Creek area

 

Thanks for viewing and reading.

 

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.