Friday, December 18, 2015
Monday, December 7, 2015
Samual P Taylor State Park is the closest campable state park to our house in Oakland. Its a deeply cut canyon off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd in Marin County. We snuck out of Diane's office party a wee bit early and headed here instead of back over the bridges and highway to Oakland.
The campsite was mostly deserted when we arrived after 10:30 pm, so we had a pick of spots by the river ($20/night )
In the morning we headed out for a short 2.2 mile hike on the Pioneer Tree trail - suitable for hikers of all ages and conditioning. The trail weaves in and out of a variety of redwood groves on a side slope of the park.
The forest floor is covered on every inch with thick ferns and moss. There is a heavy fog in the air as we stride through the forest. The mist forms water droplets on the waxy needles that fall to the forest floor when a slight breeze ruffles the foliage. This moisture is absorbed by the broad, shallow roots of the giant redwood trees and ferns. Branches sprout canopy roots that take in more water from the air. 30-40% of the water supply for these incredible trees comes from this self watering system.
The ancient stumps of the massive redwoods remain as evidence to the early logging of this area. Many large redwood trees remain still with diameters of over 5-7 feet. These giants tend to dwarf the smaller bay and oak trees which grow up in rings around the ghosts of the ancient ones.
The coast redwoods ability to resist forest fire is remarkable. Thick bark contains tanins that resist fire, insects and diseases. Redwoods can even heal themselves after a fire. Fire benefits redwoods in many ways - they burn away debris on the forest floor, while allowing sunlight to reach the ground, improving the chances for new plants to grow. Bay laurel, tan oak, mardrone, hazelnut and huckleberry provide forage for the foxes, squirrel, stellar jays, and woodpeckers who have made this habitat their home.
This hike is best taken early in the morning when the birds are active and the cars along Sir Francis Drake Highway are not. This winding ribbon of asphalt which connects the metropolitan 101 corridor in Marin to the quieter coastal communities of Olema and Pt. Reyes Station carries a steady stream of traffic once daylight burns away the dark shadows of the curving and tree lined road. This bend in the road is perpetually enshrouded in fog and mist, held by the large trees and steep ravines on its way inland from the coast.
As the trail climbs out of the narrow canyons, and sunlight can more easily reach the forest floor, the floral changes to meadow grasses and harder wooded trees. Poison oak, and wild rasberries begin to encroach upon the trail from both sides.