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Walking the Wild Trees Pt. 9: Cathedral Trees Trail, the Big Tree, Prairie Creek Redwoods


Saturday October 15

Curley’s Motel

Crescent City CA

This is the intersection I write about. It's hard to capture the immensity of the trees at this junction. Click to enlarge.

Well, once again we didn’t quite know where we going once we started this. We had another hearty breakfast at the Golden Harvest, and we drove back down not far from Fern Canyon to walk this trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods Park that began at the Big Tree and then took us through an almost surreal atmosphere.

For a photo album I made for Facebook, with many more pictures of this walk, click here.

After admiring the Big Tree itself, another one of those that lives up to its name, we walked a short bit to a place that I can only describe as Middle-Earthian. Today, it’s a place where two trails divide, but over the centuries, it was a place where a great cataclysm, or a series of cataclysms, occurred. Giant trees fell in some kind of succession, creating a place where, years later, we can only stand in awe.

Sometimes you can only just stare dumbfounded at these goddam trees. Try and take in their enormity. Their age. Their wisdom.  Oh, the stories they could tell. Some of the trees seem like Ents, and we climbed up inside one of them there at the crossroads. There was plenty of room for both of us. Like in Fern Canyon, this was one of those places where I got completely lost in time and place, even though we were less than a hundred yards from the parking lot.

Taking the Catheral trail, we climbed higher along the trail, farther from the parking lot, and for awhile it was like we were walking in a theme park, with tableau, in this case, tree scenes, scattered along the way. We marveled at two fallen giants, side by side, both ripped from the roots at the side of the trail and fallen downward into a maze of ferns. Who knows how tall they were? Their roots are twenty feet high.

Gnarly, twisted roots. Redwood root systems are generally more horizontal than vertical.

The trail sometimes ran along fallen trees that, even on their sides, towered above us as we passed, at other times through patches of gnarly root systems that looked positively medieval or science-fiction film. As we climbed higher, I could use the binocs to see the tops of the highest trees, but you couldn’t see exactly which trees they were because you couldn’t see the bottoms. We had to watch our footing in place where the roots, like giant gnarly bony knuckles, had been exposed by erosion along the trail. They seemed like they might grab us at any time, and they hurt when you had to walk on them.

The trees here seem to be taller than any others we have seen, but honestly, it’s hard to tell. We finally dropped into a deciduous forest thick and deep, with giant leaves coating the entire path a foot or more thick in places. We stopped beneath this majestic tree at the edge of one forested area, sat on a bench looking at the tops of another grove across the meadow topped with some neat clouds. A unigue chance to look at the tops of trees and the canopy created by intertwining crowns.

We didn’t take one turn we probably should have and wound up walking the last half mile along the Parkway. It took a bit longer than we expected, but like Fern Canyon, for that much pleasure a little extra walking doesn’t hurt, and the scenery along the park way was incredible.

These volunteers have rescued a couple of seals and taking them back to their rehabilitation facility.

Later, near sunset, we drove back out to the beach north of town. It’s part of the Castle Rock Wildlife Refuge, and we pass the impressive Castle Rock as we head toward the parking lot. There are about twenty people coming up from the beach, some of them toting a large cage. As it turns out, it’s the rescue group that we visited in town yesterday, and they have two seals, abandoned or lost by parent seals, which they’re crating up and taking back to the rehabilitation facility. The one seal now there will no doubt be grateful for the company.

Then we walk out to the beach, and it’s worth the walk, the last part over a literal sea of small pieces of beached wood, and we spend a half hour watching the sun go down and the waves pressing relentlessly across the beach.

Dinner with the seals.

Dinner once again at the Chart House with the seals. My shrimp alfredo dish was fine, but my only reget of the trip is that I didn’t have the fish and chips a third night in a row. Damn, those were good.

Next: Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park

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