I had just finished walking to â€œThe Big Treeâ€ from the campground at Prairie Creek State Park.Â Â It was an easy hike, 3.75 miles round trip through some of the tallest and most beautiful redwoods.Â Â Outside the now-closed visitorâ€™s center, a young woman with a few brochures in her hands approached me. With a look of frustration on her face she asked, â€œIs there anything to do here besides walk around and look at trees?â€
I tried not to chuckle while allowing only my rolling eyes to be my laughter. I responded: â€œBasically that is what people from all over the world come here to do.Â Â But, if you want to see something else, there are a few herds of Roosevelt elk around the park – and lots of banana slugs once you start looking for them.â€Â Â As I suspected, that was not quite what she was looking for.
â€œOh yes,â€ I continued, â€œthat sound that you are hearing is a Murrelet, which is an ocean bird that flies here to nest way up in the top of these redwoods.Â Â They need lots of ocean to take off, running for quite a while on top of the water before becoming airborne.Â Â Here they find the tallest tree so when they leave the nest they just drop out hoping to get up enough flapping speed before they hit the ground.â€
The young woman didnâ€™t seem very impressed although she perked up when I said the word â€œocean.â€Â Â So I explained how to get to Gold Bluffs Beach and that there were other accessible beaches on the way to Crescent City. Then I added, â€œAnd just 18 miles north at Klamath you will find a Casino.â€ She finally smiled.
I continued, â€œDown the road you might see the newborn elk calf,â€ but before I could give her the directions she was already heading out.Â Â â€œDonâ€™t forget to look at the trees,â€ I yelled after her, “that is what most people come to see.”Â And no wonder: the Redwood National and State Parks encompass 106,000 acres of forest, prairies and coastal lands.
Many of the people in the campground were returning from their hikes of 10 â€“ 15 miles.Â Â But I was proud of my 3.75 miles that day because I also took the time to look at the trees.Â Â Old growth redwoods have been growing here before recorded history.Â Â Awesome!Â Â Plants and animals have established intricate communities among the redwoods and formed interdependent relationships with the trees.
Even the snails and slugs are important.Â Â They are the decomposers who dispose of everything from bear poop to fallen limbs.Â Â Without them the forest would become one impassible heap of forest debris.
I didnâ€™t get a chance to tell the young woman that Prairie Creek Redwood State Park has it all — roaming elk, towering redwoods, banana slugs, blooming Rhododendrons, fern-lined canyons and beaches galore.Â Â Maybe, instead of trying to find something to do, we need to simply stop and look and wonder.
(Don’t tell anyone – I go to the North Coast first of all for the smokedÂ salmon!)