As always, I was pleased to find that my Google Maps directions brought me right up to the kiosk for... Armstrong Redwoods! But, but... my destination was Austin Creak State Recreation Area.
As I sat in my car next to the dark booth, pondering what to do next, a ranger magically appeared from inside the kiosk. He informed me that both Austin Creek and Arm-strong Redwoods have the same entrance. The official Austin Creek day-use lot was two and a half miles up the road, with facilities (bath-rooms etc) currently closed.
My faith in Google restored, I paid the day-use fee and headed down the road.
Austin Creek offers twenty miles of both hiking and equestrian trails, panoramic wilderness views and back-country camping. The topography can be rugged, with elevations ranging from 150-1500 feet. If you desire to get away from civilization for a bit, Austin Creek SRA offers a sense of isolation from the crowds of the Russian River and Santa Rosa area wine country.
I didn't have to hike too far for some peace and quiet. In fact on this early June weekday, my short three mile hike found me in complete isolation. Perhaps the combination of having to take a 2-1/2 mile windy drive beyond Armstrong Redwoods, and the fact that it was a drizzly day gave me the trails to myself.
The overnight rain made the trail exceptionally soft on my feet, and accentuated that wonderful Redwood Forest aroma. Thanks to a cute little "pooper scooper" station, Horse droppings were not a part of that forest scent.
I did not stray too deeply into the wilderness today, but rather chose to enjoy the misty quiet. I sat on a log for about twenty minutes to absorb the environment, with Lizards, Birds and Squirrels as my only distraction.
Since I was already there, after my hike I drove back down to the Armstrong Redwoods parking lot where there was a short, markered nature walk amoungst some ancient "Standing People," (an expression sometimes used by Native Americans when referring to trees and other plant life.)
Armstrong Redwoods is a 700-acre tall tree preserve. It was set aside by logger Colonel James Armstrong, one of the few 19th-century timber barons who recognized both the beauty and the board feet in California’s Redwood groves.
The park has some excellent picnic grounds and features the Redwood Forest Theater, a 1,200-seat outdoor amphi-theater, a popular site for con-certs and plays. Paved walk-ways were being enjoyed by a few Segway Scooter enthusiasts.
A short, self-guided nature trail wanders among the virgin trees and past interpretive displays. The 310 foot Parson Jones tree and the 1,400 year old Colonel Armstrong tree are the grand highlights. I was baffled by the tourists - who with map in hand - stopped and wondered with exasperation how much further it was to the two iconic trees. Sigh! It seemed to be a chore. Gosh, another quarter mile still left for them to walk. Sheesh.
I, on the other hand, found myself thoroughly enchanted by each and every gentle giant. All of my life I have seen shapes - faces, animals and genitalia - in nature (and in art too, actually.) Sticks, stones, shrubs and trees have always had images jump out at me. I can understand why so many cultures have acknow-ledged nature spirits. When I see a fantasy film (like Snow White and the Hunts-man) where seemingly inanimate things in the forest become creatures, I am tickled, because I've always seen that.
So I'm posting a few photos of my favorite nature spirits from this park. I've restrained myself in my blogs up to this point. I hope you see some of what I see because it always brings me pure delight. Above, it is obviously an Elephant on the left, and a mooned faced Goddess on the right.
Below can you see the man in the cap, sitting down and enjoying a cigar on the left? Or, the Woman and the Wild Boar studying something of interest in the distance on the right?
Well, even if no one else saw what I did, it still made me sad to see so many people walk by, intent only on the destination of the Jones and Armstrong trees at the end of trail. With a kind of "museum glaze" in their eyes, they did not turn their heads to enjoy the many other trees, or for the matter the environment in general.
It reminded me of the time I visited The Louvre in Paris. Throngs followed the signs through a long maze of hallways to the Mona Lisa, so intent on viewing this tiny painting behind bullet proof glass, that they never even glanced at the dozens of Rembrandts and other masterpieces hanging on the walls en route.
Ah well, at least they have come to the park, and will perhaps take just a little bit of new appreciation for the forest with them.
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