Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stout Grove: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Stout Grove

After travelling almost all through the day, with at least 8 of which just of driving, my friend Andrew and I rolled into the campground at Jedediah Smith exhausted and not really up for much. We'd left San Jose at 7:30am and finally pulled into the parking lot around 6:30. The host helped us make sure we correctly paid for the campsite which was simply beautiful and quickly recommended we hike the Stout Grove if we did nothing else in the park. Indicating these were the most ancient redwoods on earth and that a trip to the grove would not be wasted. In the summer only a hop over the footbridge would be needed to get to the grove, but in late spring the bridge was down and we had to take a dirt road over to the grove itself. The drive in itself is beautiful passing through several deep and narrow canyons over the north and south forks of the smith river.

Directions:
From Hwy 199
Right on Douglas Park Dr.
Continue on to Howland Hills Road (dirt road)
Enter Stout Grove parking lot

Stout Grove viewed from the opposite side of the Smith River

Immediately we agreed that the visit to the grove was worth the energy and the potential axle repairs to poor Andrew's Toyota Carolla (it would take much more abuse before the trip was over). The trail descends slightly along a short paved section offering up some unique views down on the fern covered forest floor (though still well below the canopy). The trail turns to dirt after a few hundred feet entering the grove proper. Every tree in the grove has a mammoth circumference, little can grow down on the dimly lit forest floor besides ferns which only enhances the scale of the grove. Stout Grove offers views right across it with little to break up line of sight besides the huge redwoods. The grove is simply the oldest and most impressive redwood grove on the north coast.

Peering down on the forest floor at the start of the trail

The age of the trees is shown in the deep cracks of the bark, size bulbous wood burls, as well as tremendous circumference of the trees. The hiking itself is a fairly easy loop on totally level ground which may have ended up being the slowest half mile I've ever hiked. A few wood benches have been constructed (but are well obscured) to allow rest, and contemplation. The silence among the titans is broken only by the call of the rare Marbled Murlette (an endangered bird that lives only in the tops of old growth redwoods) found in abundance in the grove.

Gnarled Redwood Bark

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