The sixth park we visited was Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve in the heart of the coast range. It’s located about one hour from Mendocino on windy roads, or alternatively, the reserve can be reached by the equally windy Orr Springs Road from Ukiah in 13 miles. We decied to see this reserve and then continue on to Ukiah and highway 101 for a one-way trip. This is the best way to access this reserve and you get the added bonus of seeing the scenic views and meadows along the Orr Springs Road, which follows a high ridge. Either way, this is a long way to travel for a redwood grove, but for the true redwood aficionado this place is heaven. According to Redwood Hikes author David Baselt, Montgomery Woods is “one of the most scenic redwood groves in existence.” The sheltered and narrow alluvial flat with giant redwood “pillars” feels like a cathedral. Redwood sorrel and ferns cover the ground providing an especially lush setting.
This is a historic year to visit Montgomery Woods: the June 21st lightning fires burned surrounding hillsides and moved into the grove. Fortunately, the fire moved slowly and the redwood grove is still almost entirely intact. The evidence of the fire is most visible on the south slopes while the northern side was not impacted. However, exactly six months after the fire, even the burned areas are already beginning to recuperate. Fresh fern and redwood sorrel sprouts were bursting through the charred earth. We even spotted new redwood sapplings. This is further confirmation that periodic fires are beneficial to the forest ecosystem and it was amazing to see the regenerative properties of a slow-moving natural fire in action. The entire 2 mile walk is now open as areas of downed logs have been cleared.