For the first time in my state park travels, I was caught off guard by a park being closed upon my arrival. The gates were locked, the orange cones up and the closed signs were clearly displayed at the campground of Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
The hiking trail across the street was still accessible, so it was just a matter of finding a place to park. We found a turnout about a quarter mile up the road, parked and walked onto the campground.
As it turns out, on May 23 - the day after Patty and I visited Grizzly Creek Red-woods - the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted to take on this State Park for at least one year. The county's public works department has a plan to operate the park in partnership with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Save the Redwoods League.
State parks' staff will retain some responsibilities, but county staff will conduct day-to-day operations like trail maintenance and fee collection. The county will chip in an estimated $95,000. Save the Redwoods is tossing in $20,000, plus $40,000 in settlement funds with the county to develop a plan for keeping the park open beyond 12 months.
There are several short trails. We took the one and a half mile nature walk directly across the highway from the campgrounds. Signposts describe the various plant life along the path. On this day I chose to photograph the informa-tion rather than read it on site. With increasing frequency I sometimes find that too much "information" distracts from my enjoyment of the environment, especially at the outdoor parks. Photo-graphing allows me to go back and read at a later time if I so choose.
Aside from the enjoyment of my sur-roundings, two things caught my atten-tion about this hike. First, while many Redwood trails are soft and easy on the feet, this one was particularly like walk-ing on nature's most plush carpeting. It was heavenly.
Second, although a short trail, benches and stairways throughout made the walk even easier, making it family friendly for both the little ones and the elderly. Wherever there was a bit of an elevation gain, a stairway was offered. At least half a dozen benches were placed under these gentle Redwood giants to rest - or on a quiet day like this one - to sit and listen to their secrets.
It is a bit off the beaten path and furthest inland (30 miles) of California’s Coastal Redwood parks. Grizzly Creek may be a bit remote, but ﬁlmmaker George Lucas found the park’s 460 acres of virgin redwood groves so appealing he used the location in his film Return of the Jedi.
During summer, the low water level permits installation of a footbridge across the Van Duzen River, giving access to 1.25 mile long Memorial Trail which loops through the forest. It's a drought year in California and to my eyes it looked like the river was already quite low.
Back at the campgrounds, the Visitor Center was closed, but the picnic tables and a few small educational displays of local minerals and history were available to view once we walked onto the site.
Being inland, the plant life, such as Redwood Sorrel and Sword Fern, was a little dryer and not quite as abundant as it would be in a true coastal environment. Nonetheless, a few small clumps of the colorful Horsetail Fern Stalks were displaying them-selves for our close-up photograph-ing pleasure.
I took the obligatory overhead shot of the Redwoods. Every Redwood grove demands it! I love the way that even dead Redwood stumps offer a place where other new life forms can begin.
The redwoods in the Grizzly Creek area were what inspired Owen R. Cheatham, founder of Georgia-Pacific Corporation - a lumber, pulp and paper company - to preserve this site in perpetuity. As someone who prospered from products made from the trees, he too found something intangibly grand about the old Redwoods. The virgin Cheatham Grove is three miles up the road from the camp.
The expression "a day late and a dollar short" didn't apply on the day of our visit.
Rather, we were a day early and as always, willing to deposit our day-use money into the self-registration box. Soon the empty "Camp-ground Host" chair will be filled again.
It's fun to imagine that maybe our magical presence the day before Humboldt County voted to keep the park open, affected the positive outcome.
Just as likely though, it was the spirit of the silhouetted man in a hat, living in the burned out trunk of a giant Redwood, that is the forest's guardian, keeping his precious home safe.
I hope to see you at the state parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012