Another Hike Through Jed Smith

7 March 2012 in Trails/Hiking, Traveling


Fern Baby, Fern With the end of days upon us—or at least the end of big tree days for the time being— we took advantage of another warm and sunny day and headed to Jed Smith. Lindsay drove for the first time down the rutted, bumpy dirt road to where the Mill Creek Trail crosses and we parked.

Departing the road, but vaguely shadowing from above we hiked along a ridge of trail that zigged back and forth through old growth Redwoods. We had hiked this portion before and found it peppered with abundant varieties of fungi, but this time through they had but for a few here and there all vanished. I’m not sure if there’s a season to some varieties or particular weather necessary, but we haven’t seen the wealth of mushroom growth we originally encountered in the last few months.

Beam Me Up ScottieThe absence of this tiny wonders released our eyes to wander elsewhere. It’s funny how the massive and towering patriarchs of these forests can hide in plain sight amongst smaller specimen and ferns. Just twenty feet away might stand a tree of awe inspiring proportions in both height and width, but amongst the dense pattern of the forest you can easily miss these ancient monuments to time. The last time we had come through we had literally walked by one of the largest trees along this particular trail and completely missed it. This Redwood sits next to a fallen brethren of equal scale. The fallen tree forms a wall which runs next to the colossal tower and you are forced to walk between the two via a narrow tunnel. The wall and the fungal contents of the tunnel led our eyes astray and we completely missed the giant we could have touched we were so close.

Boris the SpiderPassing back through this time Lindsay spotted the large tree from afar and when we approached it we couldn’t believe where it stood and that we had missed it the last time through. This intersection is striking in many ways. Besides the standing giant and the fallen giant, the tunnel between the two is oozing with life. The branches set at the base of the standing giant were filled with perfectly formed and near identical spider webs. Each contained a small spider situated in the center. To the left, along the wall formed by the fallen giant are moss and fungus filled with droplets of water and highlighted by beams of sun breaking through the canopy and holes in the tunnel. It’s staggeringly magical and brimming with whimsy.

Exiting the tunnel, we approached the creek and followed it amongst an unknown species of tree so encased in thick, fuzzy moss it’s a wonder they’re still standing. One of these trees arcs a long branch down to the forest floor. Lindsay remarked on how it resembled the long neck of a Brontosaurus. I had to agree. These trees have the whimsical appearance of a fantastical nature often found in movies of the eighties like The Never Ending Story or Labrynth. I’m always partially expecting some of the furry, green branches to move and some wondrous monster to strike up a conversation.

As we approached a portion of the trail bordering the creek we were bathed in rich, warm sunlight. Though it was a nice day the floor of the dense forest gets very little direct sunlight and at times can be much cooler. Here the creek cut a path where sunlight reached down to us in a pleasant and gentle warmth.

I Gave Him the SquigglesWe continued on discovering what would be the only banana slug of the day. Stretching five inches across the trail the yellow mass quickly pulled in its antennas. Lindsay must have taken this for an invitation to an extended photo shoot, but I don’t think that is what the banana slug intended. As she shot more pictures the slug shrank and shrank. A hood formed folding over most of its head and the once smooth surface of its back was now wavy with wrinkles. Eventually the slug, who was initially roughly five inches became a stubby lump of perhaps two and a half.

We departed to leave him or her alone and continued down the trail. Along the way to the point where we would turn around and on the way back we took long pauses to attempt to commit to memory these wondrous trees and forests. Anytime either of us spotted an old growth of spectacular stature we stopped and peered from bottom to top, craning our necks all the way to the crown and then back down again. We will miss these prehistoric forests. No trees will ever be the same. Much like a mountain diminishes the height of a hill and forever changes the mind’s idea of perspective and scale, a Redwood will forever alter the appearance and reverence of any other tree.

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7 March 2012 Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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