Alarm blasting, the sun was just beginning to rise and I was shivering in my sleeping bag. I put on my sweatpants and tried to get warm. I was parked up on Bald Hills Road, a ridgeline overlooking the Redwood National Park. Down in the bottom of the valley below, far from my eyes or ears, the Redwood Creek raged, giving much needed nourishment to the tallest trees in the world. The sun rose over the valley which was soaked in a fog that sat like a blanket over the riverbed. It was an incredible sight to see.
Despite the cold, I grabbed my things and started moving. I suited up with the normal cold weather gear…wool socks, pants, boots, and a wool long sleeve shirt. After layering up and kicking my stove on to cook a little oatmeal and coffee, I finally started to thaw. I had never been to this part of CA before, but shooting from the hip with what limited information I had and a little luck I found one of the best hikes in the entire park! I finished packing and, with the van warm, headed down the road a few miles from where I camped to the actual trailhead.
The air was brisk. I strapped up and took a few shots of the sunrise and the valley below, still in awe as I stepped foot onto the trail. An open prairie led me to a small thicket of trees. I noshed on my Cliff bar as I trekked, amazed how green everything was. High on the ridge there weren’t any redwoods yet, only a few pines and firs. I dove down through the thicket of trees before getting spit back onto the prairie and eventually onto a forest road. I followed the forest road for a short jaunt before once again being tossed downward into another thicket of trees towards the bottom of the valley. Gorgeous view after gorgeous view rolled by and I hadn’t even reached a mile in.
The trees themselves had their own beauty. The canopy was so thick I couldn’t see through in some areas, and only small beams of light would snake through to make it through to the forest floor… it was magnificent. At the end of the next thicket I emerged to an open field faced with a 100 year old barn. It was called the Dolason barn, built in 1914 on the Sherman Lyons-Ranch where sheep were herded to feed on the surrounding hayfield meadows. After all the years of battling the elements, it still stood strong as an ox. I paused to take it in with the sun rising over the foggy valley below.
The trail once again entered the woods, and dark and deep it was. The high canopies blocked out all sunlight, with only a faint glow coming through to guide me down the trail. I pushed along the vacant trail…it was just me and the woods, the ferns, and the dew. The tall redwoods finally came into sight, littered amongst the others, and I was really into the tall beasts. The woods were eerily quiet as I hiked further down, and I realized after some time that I was down in the fog I had admired that morning. I pressed on until I came across a bridge not far from the Tall Trees trailhead which would lead me to the river. The sign read “Emerald Creek”, and immediately the song “10,000 Emerald Pools” popped into my head. Why not, it accompanied me the rest of the way to the Tall Trees trail head.
There was only one car in the parking lot and an older fella with a handlebar mustache was sitting in the front seat getting his things together. I waved and headed down the trail. Although the trail was only one canyon over from Emerald Creek, it seemed much wetter. Everything had dew on it, which only amplified how lush and green it all looked. Small creeks trickled across the trail, moss clung to everything from rocks to trees, and ferns covered the forest floor…it was truly a different kind of paradise.
About half a mile in a huge tree lay across the trail, but luckily a nice symmetric hole had been cut directly through the middle for hikers to pass. I took time to admire it all and continued to hike on. Finally I reached the loop at the bottom of the bank that circled the tallest trees in the world. This was The Grove of the Giants, I was excited! I had expected to see signs at the bases of the trees with their names and heights but there was nothing. Only the one sign in front of “The Tall Tree” (Howard Libby Tree), which was the tallest tree in the world until overgrown by Hyperion (current tallest tree in the world at 380.3 ft) in 1988.
I took a moment to walk around and appreciate the massive tree. Far up into the sky it reached, so high I couldn’t see the very top where it was 350+ feet, but I could see the branches at the top being bathed in the sunlight. It was incredible! I kept trekking along and finished the loop. Of course my curiously had gotten the best of me, and I still had to reach the tallest tree which resided on the other side of Redwood Creek. I walked out onto the stone beach to find a raging river. The water was cold and quick, and there was no rock jump or downed tree where I could safely cross. Regrettably I realized this was most definitely a summer hike, so I snapped some pictures and turned back to the trail.
The trek out was quite different than the way in. I started running into other hikers taking on the Tall Trees trail, but once I got back onto the Dolason Prairie trail there was no one. The woods were quiet, I had expected by this time of day that they would be more awake with birds, bugs, and other sounds… but there was nothing. I whistled to myself to fill the silence and pushed back up the large hill I had descended that morning.
I hiked on through with ease all the way up past the old sheep barn to find cold overcast skies greeting me. I finally reached the van, ready to be fed and get back on the road headed south. What an incredible day, the hike was like nothing I had ever seen and all it took was a little curiosity to get me there. I will definitely be returning to touch the tallest tree… until then redwoods!
- Weather: Hi 60s, Low 30s, Foggy, Sunny, Overcast
- Water: 2.5 liters
- Food: 2 Protien Bars, 1 bag of granola, 1 Cliff Bar, 1 orange, 1 powerbar, bag of salt and vennigar chips
- Time: 9 hours
- Distance: 16 miles Round Trip
- Accumulated Gain: 2,400 feet
- Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
- SPOT Tracker
- Cotton Handkerchief
- Smart Wool Long sleeve shirt 195
- Smart Wool beanie
- Smart Wool glove liners
- Patagonia pants
- Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
- Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
- Patagonia rain jacket
- Arcteryx Atom hoody