As Patty and I pulled up to the kiosk at Hendy Woods State Park we overheard the ranger tell the folks in the car ahead of us, "We're taking camping reservations for summer now. We're staying open." Yes!
Hendy Woods is 20 miles in-land from the coast, south of Mendocino. The road follows the Navarro River in the heart of the emerging Anderson Valley wine country. Vine-yards, one-pump gas stations and the occasional quirky art gallery dot Highway 128.
Hendy Woods SP boasts two old-growth redwood groves, Big Hendy and Little Hendy. This land was originally bought a century ago by iron foundry owner Joshua P. Hendy. For as long as he owned the land he vowed to protect the gentle giants residing in his domain.
He sold the land to the Masonite Corporation at a time when California's popula-tion was growing and needed lumber. When Hendy died, the groves were sold and many of the trees in the out-lying areas came down. But, the big Hendy Grove re-mained untouched and still stands today. Eventually Masonite Corp., in coopera-tion with the Save the Red-woods League, donated 405 acres to the State Parks in 1958.
The day-use parking lot is next to a large open meadow with twenty-five picnic sites. We dragged our ice chest to one of the picnic tables. From here you can enjoy lunch while viewing the Big Hendy Grove or listening to the low water gently lap up against the river rocks on the banks of the Navarro River.
Or you can sit by and watch helplessly as a brazen blue-jay makes off with your almond.
Most of the main trailheads start here as well. Several miles of hiking trails criss-cross each other frequently. The paved road is never far away in the event you get turned around.
We headed down Big Hendy trail. The Redwood Sorrel and Sword Ferns that I've now become accustomed to in a redwood forest were abundant. The path, as always, was just a slightly paler hue of red than the trees, and was as soft as carpeting to walk on.
While I love all Redwood forests, there is something especially exquisite in the spaciousness of the old-growth, virgin groves that the more clumped together second-growth trees don't provide.
We eventually walked all of the trails, including the short hike to a unique site where the "Hendy Hermit" used to reside.
Petrov Zailenko, better known as the Hendy Hermit, lived primitively in these woods for over eighteen years. Details of his life are sketchy. An illegal Russian immigrant, he entered the United States after World War II on a fishing boat. Untrusting of authority and fearful he would be returned to his homeland, he hid in this forest until a few days before his death on August 31, 1981.
The redwood tent structure that served as his home - the Hendy Hut - still remains. You can step inside and see where a plank that served as his bed protected him from the elements. Proper ventilation allowed him to have a fire inside during winter. Those precious few who he trusted enough to know him, found him to be a quiet, gentle soul.
Mythology about him deve-loped. It was said he had magic-like animal qualities. People claimed to spot him in the woods only to have him disappear in an instant.
Sadly, campfire-style horror stories were also told. Tales of the monster in the woods frightened youngsters, while teenage boys would seek him out and take pleasure in tormenting him.
Many local residents were not aware of his presence until he was admitted to the hospital a few days before his death.
In addition to the "regular" hikes, there is a half mile Discovery Trail, plus a wheel-chair accessible nature trail that explores the Redwoods. Canoes, kayaks and swim-mers may enjoy Navarro River, but only in late winter to early spring as it quickly becomes quite shallow. Fishing is not permitted in the park, but is allowed in the watershed down stream.
Okay, picnic lunch: check. Share almonds with Blue-jay: check. Hike all of the trails: check. See the Hendy Hermit Hut: check. Play in Navarro River: check.
Time to head back to the coast and spend some time at Greenwood State Beach.
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