Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Armstrong Redwoods


the curly bark of madrone 

dessicated moss 

Hiking in the Armstrong Redwoods -- a state nature preserve.

The great groves of the valley floor are crowded with walkers on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  I've come once before, a few years ago at a time of year when all was soggy and drizzly and flooded.

Now all is parched and dusty.

bench graffiti
I take the East Ridge trail up and away from the crowds.  

Towering, ruler-straight coastal redwoods are mixed with California bay laurel and madrone.

I have no map, but strike up with a Brazilian woman and she guides me.  She hikes here often.  There are few people on the trail.  The breeze is languid and I am glad for the shade.  

The trail climbs more than a thousand feet in elevation.  Redwoods and laurel eventually give way to dry meadows with live oak and manzanita - until we can step out above the valleys and see for miles.

In hiking sandals my feet are streaked black with dust and sweat.

Buckeye butterfly
From the height you strike out across a saddle to the Gilliam Creek trailhead and down onto the Pool Ridge trail.  You make your winding descent along the deeply folded hillsides -- back among the redwoods and laurel.  These higher trees are not as vast as the giants upon the flat valley floor, but still magnificent.

Butterflies and grasshoppers are the main insects.

Acorn woodpeckers with clownish faces laugh their maniac laughs.  I look for a red-tailed hawk that is screaming - and finally spy the trickster Stellar's jay who is trying to disconcert me with perfect mimicry.

Wild turkeys
A flock of turkey crosses the trail in front of me -- 20 strong -- with reptilian eyes.  A squirrel barks somewhere.

Eventually I part from my guide and take the rest of a twisting trail down and down to the valley floor again, where thousand year old giants loom above the wreckage of the fallen.

Butterflies flicker in the spots of sunlight, and families stroll and marvel.