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Golden Gate Park




What was once wind-swept dunes has been transformed into the world’s largest ornamental park during the past 140 years. With a dozen small lakes and ponds scattered throughout, there are areas for flycasters to practice, model boat builders to run their newest creations, and romantics to rowboats. A polo field, walking trails, an archery field, and a small golf course add to the opportunities for recreation. Golden Gate Park also features beautiful gardens and some of San Francisco’s best art and natural history museums.

The Japanese Tea Garden began as part of the 1894 Exposition, but has now become a permanent fixture, with paths that wind through Japanese gardens that include groves of bamboo, koi ponds, and beautiful pagodas. There is a small fee. Other gardens within Golden Gate Park, such as the Queen Wilhelmena Tulip Garden on the west end and the Fuchsia Garden on the east end, charge no fees.

Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is 55 acres of gardens within Golden Gate Park featuring plants from around the world. Plants range from those growing in a Mexican cloud forest to the succulents that survive in the world’s deserts. Other themed specimen areas include a fragrance garden, a Biblical garden, and a California redwood grove. Strybing is open daily and admission is free, although a donation is requested. The main entrance is at 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way. Phone (415) 661-1316 for more information.


Directions: Golden Gate Park is located in northwest San Francisco, so it’s best to obtain a city street map, as there are many possible approaches. From the east, Interstate 80 merges into US 101 near downtown San Francisco. Take the Fell/Laguna Streets Exit and stay on one-way Fell Street for about 2 miles. Fell Street finally splits at the park. Stay to the right into the park on John F. Kennedy Drive. (Portions of John F. Kennedy Drive are closed on Sundays to give pedestrians and bicyclists an auto-free portion of the street.) Two primary roads, John F. Kennedy Drive on the north and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the south, run the inside length of the park.

Facilities: Museums, gardens, lakes, boat rentals, snack bars, polo field, tennis courts, walking paths, gardens, and public music venues.

Dates: Golden Gate Park is open daily. Park closes at night.

Fees: The park is free. There are fees for entry into the Japanese Gardens.


For more information: City of San Francisco, phone (415) 666-7200.


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Humboldt Redwoods

State Park



For two centuries writers have attempted to adequately describe the ancient redwood forests. Most nineteenth century readers scoffed at the earliest writers’ obviously exaggerated claims about the size and age of these trees, believing that nothing of such proportions could possibly exist. Even today, books, travel articles, and photographs fail to do justice to the old-growth forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Of the park’s 51,000 acres of forest and rivers, 17,000 acres are covered with old-growth forest. The trees must be experienced in person, at least by driving along the Avenue of the Giants, the meandering, two-lane road that passes near some of the largest and oldest trees. Much better than driving is to walk among trees that top 300 feet in height and range from 500 years to 2,000 years of age. Wandering among the ancient forests is like entering a magnificent, centuries-old cathedral.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park lies in the center of prime redwood country. Plenty of water and moderate temperatures are the keys to creating thriving redwood forests. The giant trees have very shallow root systems, requiring significant amounts of surface water, which comes primarily in the form of winter rains. The trees survive California’s dry summers as banks of fog form along the coast, keeping the tree needles moist and the air humid.

The best place to begin any visit is on the Avenue of the Giants. The visitor center and park headquarters provides exhibits, publications, and lots of great information about camping, hiking, and backpacking in the park. Its hours are limited during winter when nearly constant rain brings visitation to the park, except by fishermen, to a trickle.

The first people to live here among the great trees and along the shores of the Eel River were the Sinkyone Indians. They used the redwoods for shelter, fashioning plank-like strips of the heavy, stringy bark into lodges for protection from rain, as well as for their religious ceremonies. Considering the massive size of a mature redwood, the tiny seeds found in its cones, which are not much larger than golf balls, did not serve as a food source. For that the Indians depended on the salmon and steelhead that ran up the rivers and streams throughout the area. Redwood logs did provide the raw material for their canoes. Using fire and mostly stone and antler tools, the great logs were hollowed and formed into very serviceable boats.

It was California’s gold that lured the first outsiders into the remote rivers and forests of the Humboldt area. In 1850, a group of miners chose the Eel River route from the Trinity gold fields when they headed back to San Francisco. The group’s leader had the unfortunate experience of running into a grizzly bear. He barely survived the encounter, but when he finally reached civilization, the secret of the redwoods was out. Fortunately, it was another 25 years before the first settler, Tosaldo Johnson, homesteaded 160 acres near today’s Albee Creek campground.

Even the first few American settlers could do little to harm much of the great redwood forests. It took the expansion of roads and railroads into the area to open the great forests for exploitation. In 1914, a railroad was constructed into the area, and eight years later the original Redwood Highway was completed. Thus began the era of large-scale commercial logging. It wasn’t long before technology was clearing entire mountainsides of the ancient redwoods and shipping the trees to mills. While some of the more visionary lumber companies could see that there was indeed an end to the supply of old-growth trees and began replanting their harvested acres, other companies ignored warnings that they were courting ecological disaster and a certain end to their own livelihoods.

During the winters of 1955, and again in 1964, heavy rains washed untold tons of sand and gravel down bare hillsides, filling rivers and streams, flooding cities and highways, and toppling hundreds of ancient redwoods that once grew on the rich alluvial soils near the Eel River. The gravel beds that salmon and steelhead needed for spawning were clogged with silt, preventing the fish eggs from hatching and the fry from surviving and returning the ocean. To this day, restoration work continues, not only in the stream beds but also on the timber-harvested lands, especially in the Bull Creek watershed that now lies within the park.

Redwood forests are often distinguished by the obvious absence of other trees and shrubs, especially in the largest groves found along the alluvial flats near rivers. The thick redwood canopy tends to shade out competition, allowing only an occasional tall and spindly white alder (Alnus rhombifolia), tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), or big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) to grow. Periodic flooding tends to deposit silt along the forest floor, causing the redwoods to develop new lateral root systems closer to the surface, while further discouraging understory plant competition. Wander on most of the forest trails beneath the great trees where sword ferns (Polystichum sp.) are generally the most conspicuous plant; but wildflowers also have their moments. The three white petals of trillium (Trillium ovatum) and the flower clusters of red clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana) offer special surprises for hikers.

Avenue of the Giants is a US 101 bypass road that provides an up-close look at the redwoods for those who may be unable to spend too much time wandering on foot among the giants. Depending upon the starting location, the Avenue of the Giants is 32 miles long. It begins on the south, about 6 miles north of Garberville. There’s a marked exit off US 101. At the north end, heading south, the first exit is about 4 miles south of the old lumbering community of Scotia. The grandest portion of the drive is found between the towns of Myers Flat and Dyerville. As the Avenue of the Giants meanders through the forest and along the South Fork of the Eel River, there are numerous pullouts and short trails that lead into the trees or to the river.

Rockefeller Forest is in the densely forested and less traveled northwestern portion of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The dirt and gravel Mattole Road passes through the forest, which received its name from John D. Rockefeller, who in 1930 provided the Save-the-Redwoods League with its largest donation up to that time. His gift of $2 million allowed the league and the State of California to purchase 10,000 acres along Bull Creek that Pacific Lumber Company had earmarked for harvesting. It was a major addition to the fledgling California State Park System. Rockefeller Forest holds some of the most magnificent of the park’s old-growth trees.

The Williams Grove is located about 1 mile north of Myers Flat, adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants. The Garden Club of America Grove is another mile farther north, and the Federation Grove is located near where Bull Creek enters the South Fork of the Eel River. One of the most popular stops is the Founders Grove, located another mile north at the end of a short road off the Avenue of the Giant. The groves are identified along the Avenue of the Giants and are easy to find.

The Eel River and the South Fork of the Eel River combine their flows in the park, and generally, following the first rains in October, salmon and steelhead are the reasons most fall and winter visitors flock here. Drift boats by the dozens are in the more popular areas of the river, while shore anglers often have just as much good luck. Fishing success can be even more unpredictable on the Eel River as flows can change quickly, going from too little water for the salmon to high, unfishable, silt-laden waters, to perfect conditions within a couple of days. During low water conditions that sometimes accompany California’s periodic droughts, fishing may be prohibited temporarily. Before fishing, it’s always a good idea to check the regulations and to call the California Department of Fish and Game’s north coast information center. Phone (707) 442-4502.

Most of the thousands of people who stay at Humboldt Redwoods State Park each year camp in one of the several campgrounds found in the park. While Burlington Campground seems to be very popular, perhaps because of its central location in the park, its nearness to the visitor center, and the fact that it has only 56 campsites, Hidden Springs Campground is equally attractive. It’s much larger, with 154 campsites.

Albee Campground, located on Mattole Road, 5 miles west of US 101 and the Avenue of the Giants, has 38 campsites. There are also hike and bike, group, and equestrian campsites, along with several trail camps in the park. During summer, reservations are generally needed at Hidden Springs Campground (phone 800-444-7275), while the other campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Directions: Humboldt Redwoods State Park is located 30 miles south of Eureka and 6 miles north of Garberville, on the Avenue of the Giants, just off one of several marked exits along US 101.

Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, nature study, ranger-led hikes.

Facilities: Campgrounds, visitor center, picnic areas.

Dates: Park is open year-round. Some campgrounds closed during winter.

Fees: There are moderate camping fees.

Closest town: Garberville, 6 miles from park’s southern boundary; Scotia, 3 miles from northern boundary.

For more information: Humboldt Redwoods State Park, PO Box 100, Weott, CA 95571. Phone (707) 946-2409.



With over 100 miles of trails in the park, there is something for everybody. Some trails, primarily those at least 5 feet wide, are open to mountain bike use, and many are also open for horseback riding. Stop in the visitor center or park office and get a copy of the park map to find out which trails are open for what kinds of uses.

Big Tree Trail [Fig. 13(1)] provides a bit more adventure for park visitors. The trail begins at Founders Grove and follows Bull Creek for 4.5 miles to the Big Tree Area, which includes the Giant Tree and the Flat Iron Tree. Grasshopper Trail [Fig. 13(2)] connects the Garden Club of America Grove, one of many redwood groves adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants, with the Grasshopper Trail Camp. The camp is about 5 miles away, and the trail has a 3,000-foot elevation gain. The Burlington-Bull Creek Trail [Fig. 13(3)] offers a popular and relatively level hike that follows the South Fork of the Eel River, connecting the heavily used Burlington Campground with Decker Creek to its north and Canoe Creek to the south. The trail is 4 miles long.

For those who are unable to enjoy long hikes, there are short trails that lead through several of the named redwood groves, many of which have small picnic areas and are located directly adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants.


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Jack London

State Historic Park



Most people come here lured by a curiosity to visit the home of one of America’s most prolific and best-loved writers. But, even if you have no interest in Jack London’s life or his work, wandering the trails among oaks and pines is a great way to spend a day exploring this 800-acre park. There’s a 0.75 mile walk that leads to a dam, lake, and bathhouse built by London, and bicycling and horseback riding are permitted on some of the park’s trails.

Jack London’s adventure novels, Call of the Wild (1903) and The Sea Wolf (1904), made him famous and provided the income for him to begin living life as he wanted. But his output did not stop with those two novels. London tried to write at least 1,000 words each day, a feat that allowed him to complete more than 50 fiction and nonfiction books from 1900 to 1916, along with hundreds of magazine articles and short stories. Some of his works have been translated into more than 70 different languages.

One of Jack London’s dreams was to sail around the world in his custom-built sailing ship, the Snark. While he and his second wife, Charmain, made it only to Australia, the 1906-07 voyage provided background material for years to come. Another dream was to operate a modern farm. Seeking an escape from his home in Oakland, he purchased land just outside the small community of Glen Ellen, near Sonoma. Here, living in a small ranch house on what he called his Beauty Ranch, he continued his writing to support himself and his wife, operated his modern farm, and began construction of his new home, Wolf House. He also managed to spend two tours as a war correspondent, travel extensively, and entertain a near constant stream of guests, all in addition to spending plenty of time in local bars, drinking and debating other locals.

London’s Wolf House, a mansion that cost more than $80,000 in 1913, burned to the ground just a few days before he and Charmain were planning to move in. Some of the stone and concrete walls are all that remained following the fire and still remain today. Even after his depression eased over the loss of his house, London did not remain healthy. He worked longer hours writing, trying to make the money he needed to support his farm and other projects. Finally, on November 22, 1916, London’s lifestyle caught up with him and he died at the age of 40 from gastrointestinal uremic poisoning. Jack London’s ashes were scattered on a hill not far from Wolf House, next to the graves of two pioneer children.

Today, the ranch house where he did much of his writing has been restored and is open to the public. Many of the other structures, including the remnant stone walls of his Wolf House, can be seen. His widow, Charmain, had another house built in 1919-20, somewhat similar to the nearby Wolf House. Following her death in 1955 at age 84, it became a visitor center and museum dedicated to her late husband. It houses photographs and mementos of their world travels, as well as many of Jack London’s personal possessions, including his roll-top desk and dictaphone.

There are several miles of trails that lead to London’s sherry barn, stone manure pit, the winery ruins, distillery building, pig palace, the 40-foot tall concrete silos, and the 5-acre lake.


Directions: From Sonoma, take Highway 12 to London Ranch Road, just outside the town of Glen Ellen.

Activities: Hiking, picnicking.

Facilities: Museum, visitor center, trails.

Dates: Open year-round.

Fees: There is a day-use fee.

Closest town: Glen Ellen.

For more information: Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442. Phone (707) 938-5216.


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Jedediah Smith Redwoods

State Park



 Giant, ancient redwoods, a lazy flowing river, and trails that wind through waist-tall forests of ferns make this park extremely popular. It’s a combination of isolation, good fishing, and the opportunity to be well away from civilization that attracts most people. Many families have been coming here each year, some for generations.

This most northern of California’s major redwood state parks was named after a famous early American explorer who traveled through this area. In 1822, a time when America’s frontier West began at the banks of the Missouri River, Jedediah Strong Smith was 23 years old and just beginning his fur trapping career that would soon bring him to California. Five years later, Smith and 19 other men were herding 250 horses from Red Bluff in the northern Sacramento Valley over the mountains to the coast near Crescent City, and then on to Oregon. By this time, Smith had experience surviving violent encounters with Indians. On this trip, several weeks after the group had camped on Elk Creek, in what is now a part of Jedediah Smith State Park, Smith’s party moved north and soon clashed with the Kelawatset Indians near Oregon’s Umpqua River. Only Smith and three of his men survived. Three years later, Smith’s luck ran out. Comanches killed him while he was trapping on the Cimarron River in Kansas.

During his short lifetime Jedediah Smith was credited with being the first Euro-American to visit the redwood coast; he rediscovered South Pass, one of the easier and more popular routes over the Rockies; and he was the first to reach the Mexican settlements in California via the Great Salt Lake, a trip that got him tossed in jail for having entered the country illegally. He was the first to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains and to travel the length of California and he was the first to reach the Pacific Ocean from the upper Sacramento Valley.

While the history attributed to Jedediah Smith is certainly fascinating, it’s the redwoods and his namesake river that attract most people to this secluded redwood park. The Smith River begins life in the Siskiyou Mountains to the east and flows freely all the way to the ocean, bisecting the park. It is the largest California river to run its entire natural course without at least one man-made diversion dam used either for water storage, flood control, or hydroelectric power, or all three.

For the geological origins of the Smith River, wander back in time some 200 million years to when erosion was washing sediments into the Pacific Ocean that settled on what was known as the Gorda plate. The Gorda plate, like the much larger Pacific plate, slid under the North American plate. The North American plate scraped the thick, ancient sediments off the top of the diving Gorda plate, leaving them back on shore once again as mountains to be eroded and carried back to the sea. The Smith River Basin resulted from all of this tectonic activity.

As the Smith River drops down through the Klamath Mountains, it enters what is called the Franciscan Assemblage, an area made up of those ancient, softer, ocean sediment scrapings. It’s within these more easily erodible rocks that the river channel widens into the alluvial flats that support the park’s giant redwoods.

The gravel bars at the edges of the river are great places to relax on inner tubes and air mattresses or to wet a fishing line. The Smith River also supports fall runs of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and salmon (Oncorhynchus sp.), while Mill Creek, a major tributary, provides valuable gravel spawning beds for both species.

The Smith River’s riparian zone is home for willows (Silex sp.) that grow quickly and profusely. Big leaf maples (Acer macrophyllum) and red alders (Alnus ruba) thrive in the shade created by the redwood forest. In addition to the extensive groves of old-growth redwoods, the park’s 10,000 acres also support sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla).

While wandering through the forest and along the river, it’s always exciting to spot some of the less commonly seen birds such as the bald eagle, pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), endangered spotted owl (Strix occidentalis), and marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), the last two being small birds that have brought huge changes to the timber harvesting industry throughout the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a chance of running into black bears (Ursus americanus), coyotes (Canis latrans), and black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionius columbianus).


Directions: From Crescent City and US 101, take Highway 199 east, 9 miles to the park.

Activities: Fishing, camping, hiking, swimming (no lifeguard).

Facilities: Campground, picnic facilities, group campground.

Dates: Open year-round.

Fees: There are fees for camping and day-use.

Closest town: Crescent City, 9 miles.

For more information: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, 1375 Elk Valley Road, Crescent City, CA 95531. Phone (707) 464-6101 ext. 5112 during summer (ext. 5101 off-season). For camping reservations phone (800) 444-7275.


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Tucked into the hillside above the Russian River, Jenner is a good place to stop along Highway 1 and view wildlife, mostly birds, but occasionally harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). Near the middle of the small, coastal community, a state park visitor center juts out into the edge of the river. Even if the center is closed, it has interpretive panels outside that tell a little about the natural history of the area. At the north end of Jenner, there’s a parking area on the ocean side of Highway 1, soon after the road begins to climb and head north out of town. This promontory provides a panoramic view of the Russian River’s mouth and the Pacific Ocean.

The town was originally known as Jenner Gulch and was settled primarily by workers from the nearby lumber mills. During the mid-nineteenth century a ferry operated across the Russian River. It ran until the early twentieth century, transporting passenger vehicles between the ends of the coast highway that stopped on either side of the river.

The river’s mouth, like many of California coastal rivers, does not always flow into the ocean. During the summer months, large sand accumulations can block or severely restrict the river’s ability to reach the Pacific. Winter storms generally change that. High, crashing waves and significant increases in river runoff tend to scour out its mouth. During spring and early summer this promontory is a great place to view harbor seals and their newly born pups that bask on the sandy beach and frolic in the water near the river’s mouth.

This portion of the California coast is also free of the San Andreas fault, which lies offshore. The coast between Bodega Bay to the south and Fort Ross to the north is made up of nearly all Franciscan rocks, the result of the scraping off of the ocean’s surface at the subduction zone. The relatively rare blueschist is found combined with serpentinites in road cuts south of Jenner. Blueschist is one of those rocks found only in subduction zones. It is created under high pressure, but at relatively cool temperatures, being expelled upward before its temperature can be raised to that of the adjoining minerals and its content metamorphosed into a different form.


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Jughandle State Reserve


by Ken McKowen


When most people pull off Highway 1 and into the small parking lot located about halfway between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, their intent is most often to take the short walk out to Caspar Point and view the craggy cliffs and pounding surf. During winter this is a great place to watch for gray whales spouting as they pass near just offshore. Visitors are often surprised by the small, secluded beach that is tucked into those same cliffs at the mouth of Jughandle Creek. But the real treat here is the trail that ducks back under the highway bridge and heads up the forested hillsides to the east.

One of the most prominent, yet unrecognized geological features along much of California’s coast is the terracing that has taken place over the past 500,000 years. The combination of a rising land mass, forced upward by the collision of the Pacific and North American plates, and the changing ocean level, caused by the combination of warming temperatures and melting ice caps, has created coastal shelves that are quite obvious in some places, especially once they are pointed out. Jughandle State Reserve is one of those places where the terraces are easily identified, in spite of the covering forest and tens of thousands of years of erosion and change.

The park’s Ecological Staircase is a 2.5-mile trail (5 miles round-trip) that heads out from the parking lot, travels up five distinct terraces, which you’ll feel as you hike, stopping finally at what is termed a Pygmy forest because of the severely stunted trees that fight to survive in the poor, thin soils. Approximately 150 feet in height and 100,000 years separate the tops of each of the terraces.

As the trail leads from the bottom of the canyon of Jughandle Creek it passes through thick walls of willows (Salix sp.), alders (Alnus sp.), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), blackberry (Rubus ursinus), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and the unsuspecting hiker’s nemesis, stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Approaching the first terrace, the riparian habitat changes to bishop pine (Pinus muricata) and Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), which was introduced here from its native central California habitat.

Hiking between some of the terraces, many of the changes that the pioneer farmers made are difficult to identify, as nature has slowly reclaimed the cleared, tilled, and grazed land. By the second terrace, grand fir, sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) have added their presence to the growing collection of conifers. This terrace is also a good place to begin noticing the soil. The grayish podsol, Russian for “ash soil,” has been leached of all its alkaline nutrients, making it highly acidic.

Still higher up the hillside, Douglas fir (Pseudotsugo menziesii) and redwoods begin to be seen in growing numbers and many of the shrubs, such as rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) and tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflora), begin to appear. But what most people hike this trail for is the Pygmy forest, which lies just ahead. As the soil becomes poorer, the final stage of podsolization occurs when the leached acids mix with quartz below the surface and form into an impervious hardpan. The result is that plants are severely stunted because their roots are unable to reach the nutrients and water they need.

On the upper terrace, the State Reserve merges with the Jackson State Forest. The trail first connects with a wider road that quickly crosses another road serving as a fire break. Perhaps 100 yards past the “fire break” road, there is a boardwalk trail that cuts into the Pygmy forest on the right. The boardwalk, along with interpretive panels, leads through a portion of the trees in a short loop trail. It’s the perfect way to see these Bolander pines (Pinus bolanderi ssp.) and rare pygmy cypresses that may be 50 years old, but are only from 2- to 5-feet tall.

There is no other trail back to the parking lot, but the return hike provides a perfect opportunity to see some of the park’s wildlife, such as yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and if it’s been raining much, an incredible assortment of mushrooms can sprout, seemingly overnight.


Directions: The park is located just off Highway 1, about 6 miles south of Fort Bragg.

Activities: Hiking, bird watching, whale watching, fishing.

Facilities: None.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: None.

Closest town: Fort Bragg, 6 miles north.

For more information: Mendocino Coast State Parks, Hwy. 1, PO Box 440, Mendocino, CA 95460. Phone (707) 937-5804.


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Lost Coast &

Shelter Cover



California’s Lost Coast is an area of only a few, narrow paved roads, a few more miles of dirt roads that in places create challenges for anything less than four-wheel-drive vehicles, and many more miles of hiking trails. It includes the incredibly rugged King Mountains, essentially isolated on a piece of coastline that bulges out into the Pacific, west of Garberville and US 101. The San Andreas fault lies just offshore, marking the rift that separates the Pacific plate and the North American plate. The ancient and continuing tectonic movements also make the Lost Coast’s mountains some of the most geologically active in the country. During the past 6,000 years the King Range has risen 66 feet.

The mountains aren’t the only things active here. The Lost Coast can receive 100 inches of rain during “dry” winters and twice that amount during “wet” winters. All this rain running down streams and rivers has severely cut the mountains, creating steep cliffs, lots of sliding slopes, and thick forests.

There is little private property, especially within the thousands of acres that stretch down the coast. The most notable nonpublic land is the small town of Shelter Cove, which effectively separates the King Range National Conservation Area on the north from Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and 3,800 acres of Trust for Public Land property on the south.

But, even though the Lost Coast is a relatively wild area free of human inhabitants today, this has not always been the case. In the 1850s, probably 6,000 years after the first Indians arrived here, American settlers entered the mountains, bringing sheep and cattle to graze in the meadows and forests. They were soon followed by men looking for oil and who were successful in finding it. Although not a high-profit operation, they drilled California’s first oil well here in 1865.

During this same period, the centers of industry required a continuous supply of leather belts needed to run steam-powered factory equipment. Harvesters came to the mountains of the Lost Coast to strip the bark from tanoaks, which was needed in the leather harvesting process. Commercial fishing, based in Shelter Cove, followed, and then the loggers came. Even though logging continued in some areas of the Lost Coast as late as the 1960s, scattered forests of old-growth Douglas fir and redwoods remain.

For a few years, a railroad was operated from Bear Harbor. The rugged mountains of the Lost Coast were not the best choice for such a venture. The Bear Harbor and Eel River Railroad was designed to transport logs from the coastal mountains to Piercy, which lies on the Eel River. The beginning portion of the route from Bear Harbor was so steep that a winch was required to raise and lower the locomotive and cars during the initial leg of the trip. A storm destroyed the harbor’s pier in 1899, hampering the rail operation, and the railroad’s owner died in an accident in 1905. One year later, the great San Francisco earthquake severely damaged trestles and stretches of track, ending the railroad’s use. A few of the old rails remain today, rusting in the damp, salt air.



The easiest and fastest route into the Lost Coast is to drive west out of Garberville, through Redway to Shelter Cove. Shelter Cove Road is paved but narrow as it winds through the forest and over the coastal mountains. Dropping down from the summit into the surprisingly large community of Shelter Cove, it offers wonderful views of the rugged mountains that surround the aptly named town. There is a miniature maze of subdivision-like streets that wind around the area and a substantial number of mostly vacation homes scattered along the hillsides and across the flat meadows that once fed cattle and sheep and served as staging areas for harvested timber.

In the main cove at the end of Machi Road, there is a public beach with restrooms and a boat launch facility. Little Black Sand Beach is another popular spot and is located on the north side of the Shelter Cover community, off Beach Road. But many people who come to the Lost Coast are looking for more of a wilderness experience, and that’s easy enough to find in both the King Range National Conservation Area and in Sinkyone Wilderness.


Directions: From Garberville/Redway follow the signs west to the Shelter Cove/King Range National Conservation Area. Although the road is paved, it is narrow and twisting. Expect the 22-mile trip to take about 45 minutes.

Activities: Hiking, camping, fishing, boating, backpacking, beach exploration.

Facilities: Boat launch, marina, store, picnic area.

Dates: Open daily.

Closest town: Garberville, about 22 miles.

For more information: Shelter Cove Information Bureau, phone (707) 986-7069



The conservation area ranges in elevation from sea level to the top of King’s Peak at 4,087 feet, the King Range’s highest mountain. The conservation area stretches for 35 miles, from the mouth of the Mattole River in the north to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park in the south, and ranges inland about 4 miles at its widest point.

Congress established the King Range National Conservation Area in 1970 and placed it under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. Within the conservation area’s 60,000 acres, old-growth Douglas fir forest serves as home to Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii) and bald eagles. Endangered spotted owls (Strix occidentalis) live in the canopy, while on the forest floor elk, black bears, and black-tailed deer feed on the grasses and shrubs.

In an earlier time, Mattole and Sinkyone Indians lived throughout the area, but they were forced to give up much of their traditional way of life when American settlers began arriving in relatively large numbers. During the 1850s, white settlers first came to graze cattle and sheep and were soon followed by the commercial fishing industry and finally by the timber harvesters. The lands were logged for decades, with some of the most intense logging activity occurring during the 1950s and 1960s. When the steep and unstable mountainsides were clear-cut, they eroded easily, creating massive land slides that choked the Mattole River and other waterways in the area. Now, major restoration programs are beginning to return forests to the once-stripped mountainsides.

The King Range offers an opportunity for both car camping and backpacking. There are campsites at the Mattole River mouth, which are the only drive-in sites on or near the beach. To reach the Mouth of the Mattole Recreation Site, from US 101, take the Ferndale Exit and drive 5 miles to the town of Ferndale. Continue on the same road through town and follow the signs to Petrolia. One mile past Petrolia, turn right on Lighthouse Road and follow it until it ends. It’s about 45 miles total, which will take about 1.25 hours to drive. The remaining car-accessible campsites are reachable via Mattole Road, which winds along the eastern side of the conservation area, generally following the Mattole River. They include A.W. Way County Park, which will accommodate tents and trailers along the Mattole River, and is located about 8 miles north of Honeydew, and Honeydew Creek, which has several creekside campsites for tents and trailers and is located about 1 mile south of Honeydew.

Most of the camping done in the King Range National Conservation Area is in trail camps or in the coast camps which are undesignated sites on or near the beach. Some of the more popular areas are near Cooksie Creek, Randall Creek, Big Creek, Big Flat Creek, Buck Creek, and Gitchell Creek. Each of the creeks crosses the Lost Coast Trail (see below) between the Mattole River in the north and Shelter Cove near the south end of the conservation area.


Directions: There are three access routes into the King Range National Conservation Area. From US 101, take the Ferndale Exit, and continue driving through Ferndale, following the signs to Petrolia. Lighthouse Road, which leads to the mouth of the Mattole River (5 miles), is 1 mile past Petrolia. Honeydew can be reached by taking the South Fork/Honeydew Exit from US 101. Follow the signs for about 23 miles to Honeydew, then bear left 1 mile to the Honeydew Creek Recreation Site. Plan on it taking at least 1 hour to travel the 24 miles. The southern access is from Garberville/Redway to Shelter Cove. Although the road is paved, the 22-mile trip will take about 45 minutes.

Activities: Hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, beach exploration.

Facilities: Some campsites with picnic tables and pit toilets, trails.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: There are camping fees.

Closest town: Ferndale, about 32 miles to the north and Garberville, 22 miles to the southeast, and Shelter Cove, which lies on the coast, adjacent to the conservation area in the south.

For more information: Bureau of Land Management Office, Arcata Field Office, 1695 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521-4573. Phone (707) 825-2300.



There are more than 70 miles of trails lacing this mostly roadless land. With so many interconnecting trails, it is critical to have a topographic trail map of the area. An excellent map is available from Wilderness Press, 2440 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704. Phone (800) 443-7227, fax (510) 548-1355. The map also is sold at numerous stores and visitor centers throughout the north coast, including Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, PO Box 245, Whitethorn, CA 95489 (phone 707-986-7711), and Arcata Resource Area, US Bureau of Land Management, 1695 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521. Phone (707) 824-2300.

The Lost Coast Trail begins near the mouth of the Mattole River, then meanders inland and south for 3.2 miles, reaching the coast at the Punta Gorda lighthouse. From Punta Gorda the trail follows the beach reaching Spanish Flat after 5.2 miles and Big Flat in 7.5 additional miles. It’s another 14.1 miles before the conservation area portion of the trail connects with the Sinkyone Wilderness trail at Whale Gulch.

The King Crest Trail is 10.5 miles long, with the top of King’s Peak located at about the midway point. The trail begins in the north at the Smith Etter Jeep Road and North Slide Peak Trail It passes the Saddle Mountain Trailhead [Fig. 14(3)] near the south end, which leads back to Honeydew Creek tent camping area. The King Crest Trail’s southernmost trailhead begins at the King Peak Road, which leads to Shelter Cove.


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Carmel Mission



One of California’s most visited missions is San Carlos Borromeo, better known as the Carmel Mission. As Padre Presidentes of California’s missions, it became Father Serra’s headquarters for most of his last years. On June 3, 1770, Father Serra arrived in Monterey and founded his second mission, the first having been San Diego the previous year. Feeling that he had located his Monterey mission too close to the newly established Monterey Presidio (fort), the following year Serra moved it to where it remains today in Carmel. The mission’s primary goal was to convert local Indians to Christianity and, ultimately, into Spanish citizens. Unfortunately, Spain’s plans were implemented at the expense of the Indians’ native cultures.

There is a certain charm that attracts people from all over the world to the Carmel Mission. Its place in California’s history certainly plays a part in that attraction, but there is much more. Wander through the restored, yet remarkably old-appearing complex, and enjoy its beautiful gardens, the awe-inspiring church, and the rooms filled with the history of this two century-old house of worship. Artists often try to capture its physical beauty on canvas, and photographers, amateur and professional alike, have taken untold millions of photographs.

Maybe part of the attraction is the fact that Father Serra died here in 1784, and was buried with his friend and fellow padre, Father Crespi, before the main altar. Perhaps part of the attraction is the memory of the 4,000 neophytes, as the Indians were called, who were baptized during the mission’s most active years, between 1770 and 1836. Maybe it’s that so many of those same Indians died here of European diseases to which they had no natural immunities.

It was more than a decade after Serra’s death that one of his predecessors began construction of the present stone church, but it fell into disrepair following Mexico’s secularization of the missions in 1834. With the church’s lands divided and gone, the buildings disintegrated, many into nothing more than partial walls. Finally, in 1931, local residents began a major effort to restore the mission to what it is today.


Directions: From Highway 1 in Carmel turn west on Rio Road and drive approximately 0.5 mile. The mission is on the left at Lasuen Drive.

Facilities: Gardens, courtyard, church, small gift shop.

Dates: Open daily, with extended hours into the early evening during summer.

Fees: A small donation is requested.


For more information: Carmel Mission Gift Shop, 3880 Rio Road, Carmel, CA 93921. Phone (831) 624-3600.


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State Park



The park’s main entrance is quite intriguing. Near the entrance kiosk and a small visitor center and store, there is a skeleton of a moderately sized gray whale pieced together. Inside the visitor center, several additional skeletons, including those of a sea otter and a sea lion, hang from the ceiling.

It is Scottish immigrant Duncan MacKerricher whose name is attached to the park. In 1868 he purchased what had been an Indian reservation for $1.25 per acre. MacKerricher and his heirs worked the former El Rancho de la Laguna until 1949, when it became a state park. Over the years, most of the area was heavily logged, especially the north end of the ranch, near Ten Mile River. The remnants of an old railway that transported logs from Ten Mile River to the Union Lumber Company in Fort Bragg still remain. Today, a road passes between the ocean and Lake Cleone, once a tidal lagoon that was cutoff from the ocean waters. The far north end of the park, which is about 5 miles from Lake Cleone, includes a long stretch of dunes.


Directions: The park is located on the west side of Highway 1, about 3 miles north of Fort Bragg.

Activities: Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking, bird-watching, beach and tidepool exploration, and coastal whale watching.

Facilities: Visitor center with small gift shop, campground, day-use facilities.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: Camping fee.

Closest town: Fort Bragg, 3 miles north.

For more information: Russian River/Mendocino State Parks, PO Box 123, CA 95430. Phone (707) 865-2391 or (707) 937-5804.



Ten Mile River Beach Trail: The 10-mile round-trip hike along Ten Mile Beach follows an old logging road part of the way. Ten Mile River got its name not because it’s a 10-mile round-trip hike from Lake Cleone, but because it’s located 10 miles south of the Noyo River in Fort Bragg.

The trail passes dunes and two wet, marshy areas, Sand Hill Lake and Inglenook Fen, that are off limits to all but researchers. They support such rare and intriguing plants as marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata) and bog orchid (Platanthera leucostachys). The trail heads inland as it approaches the marshy mouth of Ten Mile River. There is an opportunity to see other wildflowers such as columbine (Aquilegia sp.) and larkspur (Delphinium sp.), and to watch belted

kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) dive into the calm river waters and come out with small minnows.

Laguna Point Trail: The trail begins just past Lake Cleone on a coastal terrace, 20 to 30 feet above the ocean and the narrow strip of beach and rocky shoreline. The 0.3-mile boardwalk trail is located at the northwest corner of the parking lot that is located a short distance past the lake. The level boardwalk trail leads through the woods and along the coast to Laguna Point, where there is a great view of the rocky coast.


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Azalea State Reserve



As winter’s rains finally ease bringing us the longer, warmer days of spring, wildflowers begin their annual explosion of life, spreading their incredible display of brilliant colors and sweet fragrances across most of California’s State Parks. In the northern reaches of the state, in an area perhaps better known for ancient, 300-foot tall redwoods, a relatively small, 30-acre state reserve dedicted to a single flower species has been carved from the primal forest.

Azalea State Reserve is one of those out-of-the-way State Parks, little visited, a bit difficult to find the first time out, but one which is well worth the search. For those with a desire to know such scientific things, Rhododendron occidentale  is a lush green bush that grows to well over head height and produces thick clusters of amazingly fragrant, pink and white flowers at the ends of its branches. Take a closer look at the individual blossoms, and you’ll be able to see the smear of bright yellow that paints part of the flower’s upper lobed petal. The other petals range from the deepest pink to pure white, with none seemingly exactly the same.

There’s a relatively level, mile-long trail that meanders through the maze of azaleas, offering plenty of opportunities to view the flowers. This is one of those times when even non-photography buffs should arrive with plenty of film and hopefully with a camera that allows one to get up close and personal with the pink and white blossoms. The opportunities for making great photos are remarkably abundant.

There’s a small picnic area at the edge of the reserve, so bring a lunch, maybe a little bread, cheese and wine, and enjoy the view. It’s also a good idea to bring rain gear, because April and May, when the blossoms are generally at their flamboyant peak, still offer plenty of chances for rain.

In an area where rain is generally overly abundant, this is the only state reserve in California that is not being managed for a return to its natural state, in this case as redwood forest. Given enough time for nature to take its natural course, the open slopes required by the azaleas would soon return to a dense forest. Redwoods have a propensity for filling open space in this part of the country, when given the opportunity.



Azalea State Reserve is located about five miles north of Arcata. From Highway 101, take the McKinleyville exit and then head east on North Bank Road for two miles. Turn left into the reserve, which is free. If you end up on Highway 299, you’ve gone a little too far and in the wrong direction, so try again. The reward is well worth the effort.


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