Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I thought of “Trees” as we hiked around the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. It seemed quite appropriate. It was written by Joyce Kilmer, a writer and poet who was killed in action while serving in France during World War I. Today he’s honored by the 3800-acre Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest located in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness of North Carolina.

Although Kilmer may never have been aware of the magnificent redwoods of California, I’m sure he would be just as impressed as modern day travelers. Arguably, one of the best hikes in Redwood National Park for enjoying the grandeur of the tallest trees on Earth is the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail. The 1.4-mile loop trail takes hikers through an old-growth forest of ancient redwoods. While the trees tower more than 300 feet above, the forest floor is lush green from ferns, evergreen huckleberry and rhododendron.

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove is a little unusual in that it stands at a higher elevation than most other redwood groves. As a result, the old-growth stand gets far more fog than the lowland groves.

The grove was named in honor of the former first lady in recognition of her conservation efforts, and was dedicated on the same day as the park. The bill creating Redwood National Park was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 2, 1968. The following year, both the park and the grove were dedicated at this site. A plaque near the half-way point on the loop trail now commemorates the ceremony.

In 1980 Redwood National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site. In 1994 the park combined with Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks to create a cooperative management effort that is now known as the Redwood National and State Parks. The combined parks contain almost 132,000 acres, and protect roughly 45% of all the remaining coast redwoods.

Coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Dense forest stands grow on nutrient-rich river bars and flood plains that are protected from the wind. Heavy winter rains and fog from the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. Coast redwoods can be found along the coastal regions of Northern California and southern Oregon.

The oldest coast redwoods are more than 2000 years old, and have base diameters of roughly 22 feet. The tallest redwood, at almost 380 feet, is known as Hyperion. The location of this giant is kept secret.

Photos just don’t do justice for the grandeur or the immensity in size of these trees – they must be seen in person:

Although Lady Bird Johnson Grove was extremely impressive, I thought Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was even more remarkable. If you have time for only one short hike, I would probably go with Stout Grove.

To reach the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trailhead requires an extremely steep drive up Bald Hills Road. On Highway 101, just north of Orick, look for a large sign marking the Lady Bird Johnson Grove / Bald Hills Road turnoff. After 2.5 miles of what seems like an endless climb you’ll pass under a footbridge. A parking lot will be on the right, just past the footbridge, which also marks the beginning of the trail.

Trail: Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail
RT Distance: 1.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Max Elevation: 1290 feet
TH Location: Near Orick, CA
Map: Redwood National and State Parks Trails Illustrated Map

Best Short Hikes in Redwood National and State Parks offers details on more than 60 hikes in five renowned northern California parks - from half-hour to half-day, with camping and park facilities information. This guide is devoted to the best hikes in Redwood National Park as well as Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Humbolt Redwoods State Parks. The book also includes a handy quick-guide for selecting hikes by difficulty, mileage and features (flowers, water, views, etc.).

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