Day 26 – A Faire & Hiking Big Trees Trails
Well, we did luck out for a 2-day extension at Big Trees State Park and though we had to move to a new campsite, it was a minor inconvenience and took only a matter of minutes. Today, we decided to tackle the South Grove Trail, but before we did, we needed a few supplies and we’d seen a poster for the tiny town of Arnold’s 40th Annual Peddler’s Faire and thought we should check it out.
It was definitely a small town affair, but well attended. We actually missed it the first time we drove by. We wandered through and chatted a bit with the vendors, but found nothing to buy and headed to the Big Pines market for supplies. On the way back, we noticed a sign for a book sale at the local library. Here we spent the money we didn’t spend at the Peddler’s Faire. I found Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charley’ for 50¢, a book on watercolors (something I’ve been meaning to try) and several travel guides. Well, we added weight to Blue and had to find a place to store the books, but we did support the local library … a good trade-off, I’d say.
Back at the campground, the park was mobbed with weekenders and daytrippers. Cars were parked haphazardly everywhere along the roadside and we decided it was a great time to head up the circuitous camp road to the South Grove Trail, described as a moderate 5-mile roundtrip loop through the redwoods. Where the North Grove has 158 Sequoias, the South Grove has 1,000 and we were looking forward to wandering through this forest of giants.
Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge them.
It was a terrific hiking trail and aptly described. We traveled over trees, through them, under them, around them, between them … through streams, over streams, up hills and down.
It was a sensory experience. We could hear the wind blow through the trees and rustle the limbs. The smell of the forest was clean and fresh sometimes and other times the smell of decay and trodden earth caught our attention. We touched the redwoods. Instead of the rough bark we imagined, it was soft and fibrous, a little bit spongy to the touch.
The trees are awesome … in the true sense of the word. The Palace Hotel, centuries old, had been burned during a forest fire, but survived and was slowly recouping. Some folks, a century ago or so, felt it resembled the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and thus it received its name.
The tallest tree in Big Trees is Agassiz ‘named for Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a Swiss zoologist who became one of America’s leading naturalists. He was the last great scientific creationist and a leader in the awakening interest in the natural sciences. His two major achievements were the development of the theory of ice ages and a monumental work on the classification and relationships of all fossil fishes.’ At 250 feet (76 m) tall and more than 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter 6 feet (1.8 m) above ground, this guy is the largest Sequoia in the park.
Along this path, we happened to meet a young couple, Graham and Charly. Both were botany enthusiasts and students and were more than happy to share their knowledge with us. Graham showed us what he termed as ‘secret flowers’… those flowers that aren’t readily noticeable and kind of hide from view from the casual observer. Hartweg’s wild ginger, for instance, hides a blossom beneath large striated leaves. And fairy bells are green blossoms on the bottom side of the plant’s leaves. The best, however, were the easy-to-ignore striped coralroot, tiny orchids that grew on slender stalks that we’d never noticed before, but were everywhere, once we learned to recognize and learn to look for them. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
Check out Graham’s Instagram page at the flower fiend … https://www.instagram.com/theflowerfiend/
It ended up being a fine 9-mile hiking day and by day’s end, we were tired, but exhilarated by what we’d seen and experienced.
Day 27 - Lava Bluffs Trail
This was the day for wildflowers. Oh, my, there were so many and so profuse. The Lava Bluffs Trail was reserved for us alone this day, it seemed. We met nary another hiker along this 2-1/2 mile moderate-difficult trail and we savored the fact that no one else was around. The trail led us up and down, up and down, following the rugged terrain. There were a few tricky spots to negotiate … crossing streams and slippery, steep inclines and descents, but we managed without difficulty.
It seems there’s always something unique to find and explore in every place we visit … not just this trip, but wherever we’ve been in the world. Sometimes, we have to search for it, but it’s always there. Today, it was the wildflowers. Though the trail was a bit more challenging, the views of the lava bluffs, the remains of volcanic activity millennia ago, were eye-opening.
We could hear the Stanislaus River rushing below us and we crossed several small streams that fed it. Early miners formed the Union Water Company to construct flumes and waterways to direct water into the mining sites for sluicing and slurrying purposes. The wooden flumes are long gone, but the canals are still evident.
Much of the trail was shady, a canopy of pine, oak and cedar with pine needles and oak leaves soft under our feet. When the canopy disappeared, a hot, penetrating sun warmed our backs. Sometimes we shared the path with streams that poked up from underground, making the path muddy and slippery.
The hillsides were covered in yellow monkey flowers, pink farewell-to-spring, purple harvest brodiaea and wild hyacinth. The shady areas were lined in mountain misery and bird’s foot ferns (and yes, I had to refer to my wildflowers book to identify them).
Back at the campsite, we relaxed by the camp fire. Grilled chicken and corn on the cob were on the evening’s menu along with fresh strawberries for dessert. An 8-mile day … we slept well and looked forward to more.