Rainshadow Redwoods

I’m not sure what you think of when you think of a redwood forest, but for me, it’s the lush, Pacific Northwest version where Ewoks could plausibly roam between the six foot tall sword ferns. For a change of hiking scenery, we left the lush Endor redwoods of the north and went down to the alien landscape of the central redwood world.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park is redwood forest, but not the redwood forest like the one that lies to the north. For one, it’s warm. And compared to the hide-and-seek the tree behemoths play in the dense northern forests, these redwoods are in plain sight, no guessing as to what might be hiding 3 feet from you, or up in the canopy.  Especially along the Bull Creek terrace, uniformly straight redwoods create a visual wall of wood, sparsely broken by the few understory plants around. While the majority of tallest redwoods are found here, only two of the 20 biggest by volume call this place home. And if you’re keeping track of redwood growth patterns at home, generally speaking, redwoods grow up first, then eventually focus on getting wider both at the base and in the canopy.

No complex canopy here.

Walking the trails, we debated why these redwoods, sheltered from the brutal winds of winter storms, couldn’t be as massive and old as the redwoods to the north. Considering the drier environment, they could be decently old, but just not as wide at the base or in the crown due to smaller growth rings that come with less precipitation.  But there’s also the fact that so many of them are nearly identical in diameter, likely being close to the same age.

I have a theory, but nothing to back it up with besides observations. It seems that something took out all the redwoods along the creek maybe 700 or so years ago. Flood? Fire? Not sure, but the only flood references I could find were from the ’50s and ’60s. On the hillsides, it almost seems as if large fires ate away the larger redwoods, leaving the young burl sprouts that grow after the fire as markers of the massive tree that once stood. Fire and flood perhaps currently keep the largest trees from growing in this area. Considering we didn’t see any Ewoks on our hike, I guess they didn’t like living in this area either. Probably too much fur for how warm it is down there!

Maybe a cathedral ring? If so the parent tree, from which the smaller side trees sprouted, might have been nearly the same size as the current largest redwood. Husband used for scale.

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6 thoughts on “Rainshadow Redwoods

  1. Hubbies come in handy for scale. Very nice shots!
    I’m a bit confused. Not sure where the northern edge of the redwoods lies. Thought it was pretty much at the OR/CA border?

    • You are right, it is just over the ORCA border. The northern population of redwoods is considered to be that area south to just east of Humboldt Bay. The central population starts from there south to the Bay Area. I mislabel them the “southern” redwoods often since they are two hours south of my parks.

  2. Have you hiked the River Trail toward Grasshopper Road? That has a lot of burn evidence, some looking like it was relatively recent, and some older that looked like it might have been total devastation. I like this park better (I know you don’t) because it looks more uniform and neat. :)

    • I haven’t done that one yet, but there was a lot of old fire evidence on the Johnson Camp trail on the other side of Bull Creek, so definitely interesting that it’s on the upper slopes of both sides of the creek.

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