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.

Church Ruins? Yep, We Have Those!

While watching a show about local churches on ETV, they showed shots of ruins. Doing just a tiny bit of research led us to three easily accessible churches, each with a unique personality. Oddly, the stories of all three are very similar.

Biggin Church Ruins

Parrish Church of Saint John’s, these ruins are just outside Moncks Corner. With only two walls standing, and bricks falling out of those, these ruins aren’t the most unique, but the surrounding cemetery adds some interest. As the historic marker says, this church was built in 1712, burned by a forest fire in 1755, by the British Army in 1781, and again by a forest fire in 1886.

Pon Pon Chapel

Though not a church, the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease is found near Round O. The National Register states that the Chapel was established in 1725 and rebuilt in brick in 1754.  Sometime around 1801 the Chapel burnt, was rebuilt between 1819 to 1822, and again was ruined in 1832. Further damage was done in the 1950s due to a hurricane, after which stabilization was required.  The area is heading toward being overgrown and ironically there is a new interpretive sign propped up against the rusting steel gate.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

This is by far the most impressive of the three ruins. Built sometime in the mid-1700s, it was burnt during the Revolutionary War. It is debated whether it was burnt by Sherman’s troops or just ransacked and later dismantled by nearby homes and plantations that were in desperate need of building materials after Sherman’s march. In contrast to the English bond style of Biggin and the Flemish bond of Pon Pon, these church ruins are in the Greek Revival style.  The grounds are well-kept, with large oaks looming. The graveyard surround the ruins are still used. There is a yearly service and a very large parking lot on the opposite side of the road.

Photo Gallery

If you visit:

Keep in mind that most of the cemeteries are still used or have members of families that still live nearby. Be respectful.

Mosquitoes are rampant.

The road to Pon Pon is not in best of shape. Drive carefully and watch for large trucks.

Leave everything where you found it. Even if there is a brick on the ground, it belongs on the ground where the church has stood for hundreds of years; not in your pocket or collection.

Driving Directions and More Information:

Biggin

Pon Pon Chapel

Sheldon

Stay tuned for the fourth ruin, St Helena!