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.
The immense redwoods at Montgomery Woods
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.
Serena in the lush setting
The fifth park we visited was the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. We parked near the visitor center and took the half mile walk down through meadows and wind-shaped vegetation to the lighthouse located on a protrusion of the coastal terrace into the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse was built in 1909 and has provided light to countless ships navigating the treacherous (often foggy) waters off the coast. The lighthouse and accompanying buildings have since been rehabilitated providing a great opportunity to see a historic site as it was a hundred years ago. View complete web album.
Point Cabrillo Light Station
Serena with the lighthouse
The lighthouse protected ships from running into the rugged coastline
The fourth park we visited was Russian Gulch State Park for a Saturday morning run. We took the Fern Canyon Trail and then the Waterfall Loop Trail to a beautiful 36 foot tall waterfall in a very lush setting. We then continued to the North Boundary Trail where we saw an area of famous pygmy pine forest where mature, full size trees only reach six feet tall! Total mileage was about 6.5 miles. Be sure to check out the complete web album.
Waterfall in lush setting
Later on that day we visited the headlands portion of Russian Gulch to see the Blow Hole and the iconic Fredrick W. Panhorst bridge.
Famous Hwy 1 bridge crossing Russian Gulch
The outlet of the Blow Hole
The third park we visited on our trip to Mendocino was the Mendocino Headlands State Park. I was amazed by the beauty of the this park – the intricate and rugged rock formations chiseled by the powerful Pacific Ocean are a gorgeous site to see. We were expecting it to be cold (and we heard it was very cold the day before), but were treated to light winds, clear skies, fresh air, and perfect afternoon light for photography. We spent a couple hours exploring the paths of the headlands in the late afternoon soaking in the sun and the views. View complete web album.
Rugged coastal scene
Evening light through the sea arch
The second park we visited on the trip to Mendocino was Van Damme State Park, located a couple miles south of Mendocino on Highway 1. We did a run up the Fern Trail along Little River. The trail is aptly named as a carpet of ferns covers under thick stands of second growth redwoods and mossy maples covers the canyon. The lushness reminded me of the forests in Western Washington. The pathway is wide for the first 2.5 miles and features eight beautifully constructed bridges spanning Little River. Then, it turns to single track as you continue up the canyon. The Fern Trail is always within earshot of Little River and much of the way it travels right along the stream with numerous cascades and small waterfalls.
One of the eight sweet bridges
On Friday and Saturday Serena and I took a trip to Mendocino on the northern California coast. We lucked out with some great weather and were able to visit numerous state parks. Since there were so many great photographs, I will have a series of blog posts featuring a different park each time. The first park is Hendy Woods State Park along Highway 128. It had just rained the previous night so the forest was vibrant and filtered sunshine provided the perfect light for some awesome photography. Also, be sure to check out the complete Hendy Woods Web Album. Enjoy!
Vibrant old-growth redwoods
Serena enjoys the redwoods
I had a super fun time horseback riding with Serena at Garrod Farms and Fremont-Older Open Space Preserve last Sunday morning. Serena rode a dark brown horse named Tonto and I rode a brown horse named Kid. There were a total of seven horses in our group. The loop we rode included the Bay Tree Trail and the Seven Springs Loop. The weather was perfect with clear blue skies and comfortable temps as we trotted down the trails. The views of the Silicon Valley were sweet and we enjoyed the single track sections with meadows, views, and oak forest in the wonderful hills above Saratoga.