Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cathedral Trees Trail, Prairie Creek State Park in the Redwoods, California

We started the Cathedral Trees trail at the parking lot opposite the Prairie Creek visitor center in the open meadow. This trail follows a stream through a dense meadow. The first half of this trail, in additional to grand redwoods, contained many big leaf maples, alders and thick bushes that required us to practically bushwhack our way through. This section of the trail had the most diverse and dense vegetation that we've experienced so far on the hikes that we've done in this area. Elk are often found in this area but we had no luck seeing any. The second half of this trail begins with a series of switch-backs which take you on top of the ridge giving you the typical open views of the forest below. We followed the ridge until we came to Big Tree. Big Tree is one of the largest trees in this area of the park. Redwood trees tend to grow together to form what seems to be one tree until you look up and see the multiple trunks in the sky. Big Tree is unique because it is huge and it is one tree. From Big Tree we crossed the parkway road and proceeded on the Prairie Creek Trail heading back to the visitor center and parking lot. This trail follows the large Prairie Creek which has salmon and steel head at certain times of the year. This area was not as dense as the Cathedral Trees meadow but contained fields of ferns that totally cover the forest floor. If you are pressed for time but want to experience the diversity that the Redwood National and State Parks have to offer in a 2-3 mile hike then I would suggest this one.

Tip #1: Don't let the rain spoil your day of hiking. It was raining during this hike and found the thick canopy of this forest kept us reasonably dry. There was enough moisture though to really bring out the various earthy smells of the forest.

Tip #2: We treated ourselves to s'mores when we got back to rig. Cooking the marshmallows over the gas burner proved to be very effective. I don't know why we hadn't thought of this sooner!

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