Whoops! The Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area almost slipped through a crack in my blog. My friend Patty and I visited the park for a few hours on a hot August day last summer.
Standish-Hickey began as a campground acquired by the Save-the-Redwoods League in 1922. In the late 1950’s, the Standish family donated over five hundred acres, and additional acquisitions through the years has increased the park’s total acreage.
The park was named to honor Edward Ritter Hickey, son of a local lumberman who died of influenza while caring for the victims of the epidemic of 1918, and of course for Mayflower Pilgrim Miles Standish and his descen-dants.
I always wonder how the families of those who donated acreage to the state (country, city, county) feel when those lands come up for closure. I would think sadness, anger and betrayal might be part of the emotions involved, as well as a caution to others before considering doing the same. That's how I would feel, anyway.
The area offered three campgrounds, picnicking, hiking, fishing, and swimming on the South Fork of the Eel River which winds through the park for almost two miles. The Redwood Campground has been closed for a couple of years already, and as of last Labor Day the remaining campgrounds are closed as well, although it is unclear from their website if this is a seasonal or a permanent closure.
Patty and I had hoped to hike the The Lookout Trail, a three mile loop with great views of the Eel River. But mostly what we wanted to see was the Miles Standish Giant Redwood, 1200 years old, 225-foot tall and 13 feet in diameter. But the gates were already up and the way blocked to that portion of the park.
There were only a couple of RVs in the campground today. Patty and I had a chat with a camper named Genny. "I'm so disappointed," she said. "I've been coming here every summer with my family since I was a little girl. I'm here this week with my kids and my grandchildren." Standish-Hickey does not have a full-time ranger, nor anyone collecting fees at the gate. Our Day-Use fee was on the honor system. After bemoaning the plight of the parks, we joined Genny and her family at a fabulous little swimming hole. The Eel River ﬂoods often, so its banks, bottom and swimming holes change each year. The footbridges are removed during the winter (and were still down on our visit), making most hiking trails inaccessible.
While I trudged down the trail to the water hole, my dog Roxy chose the water route, walking in the now shallow Eel. It was still running clear, and as she walked she drank and drank and drank until I was sure she would pop! No doubt the water had a refreshing taste that had been missing from her chlorinated Motel 6 water bowls of the past few days.
We played in the swimming hole and walked around for awhile, cooling off before the long drive home. I went into the water fully clothed, knowing it would only take a few minutes to dry in this inland heat.
Once refreshed we walked up the steep trail back to our car. Genny had informed us they enjoy coming here in the second half of August, because in Northern California all the kids are already back in school and they practically have the place - and the swimming hole - to themselves.
Next year if the park campground is open, I think I may just have to plop my tent there for a few days to swim, read, swim, walk, swim, nap, swim...
Hope to see you at the parks.