On the northern end of Del Norte State Park is another fine tract hosting some of the most pristine old growth redwood habitat on earth. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is almost completely undeveloped, with its watershed well protected, thanks to the efforts of Newton B. Drury and his Save the Redwoods League . The only roads going in are a couple of narrow, winding, unpaved scenic roads which are not recommended for large vehicles. Turning off of highway 101 at Elk Valley Road near the southern end of Crescent City brought us to Howland Hill Road. The section near town is paved, but as soon as you roll past some country homes and agricultural lands, the road begins climbing and winding. Soon, as you round a bend, the pavement abruptly ends, and the road narrows as you enter the forest. Further on the trees become very dense and the canopy thicker. The deep shade feels much more cool and moist, and the fragrance of the air is laden with barky aroma. This road could be a really great nature all trail by itself. The forest is awesome with thick populations comprised of both old and new growth mixed together exactly how it should be for untouched wild tree habitat. I don’t believe my pictures are going to do justice to this area. The old growth trees, their surrounding undergrowth, the high canopy, the lifting fog, and filtered sunbeams, were simply amazing; and we hadn’t even got out of the car yet. We were looking for the trail head that was recommended to us very highly. Jedediah Smith has two groves that are rated 5 out of 5, but we only had enough time to visit one. The Stout Grove is very popular with visitors, but we opted for the more remote of the two, which according to the map, included a little fall area. It’s called the Boy Scout Tree Trail , and it’s right in the very heart of Jed Smith Park. After slowly negotiating the road, and being profoundly impressed with surrounding area, we easily found the signed trail head along the road which provides a pullout for about 10 cars.
When we got there a forestry department truck was waiting along the road. We did not know this, but there was some trail work scheduled that day to be performed by a supervised team of low risk inmates from the local jail system, whom would arrive by bus later on. Good to know they’re earning their keep, and by helping to protect the parks, they earn bonus points toward good behavior status. Santa Clara County often does the same type of thing. They were working far enough away that we did not hear them until we came back to the trail head; otherwise their noise would have been a definite bother.
We began hiking wasting no time being captivated by the “spirit” of these timeless forest lands. The delicate color and texture variations are impossible for me to describe, or even photograph properly. My little compact camera, although arguably best in class, is simply not up to this kind of a challenge. And of course I’m not a pro. I’m not even an accomplished amateur. I found myself behaving a bit strangely; removing my hat so as not to obstruct any peripheral vision, and craning my neck up a lot to see, then down to make sure of my footing. I was also stopping to turn around frequently so I could see in all directions, not wanting to miss any perspectives. By the end of the hike my neck was actually a bit sore from so much movement. Hopefully that description can better convey the grandeur of this trail without me having to wear out most of my best adjectives and qualitative phrases attempting to do so, and likely failing. After about 2 miles, you arrive at an unmarked junction of what looks like a spur trail. This is the little loop trail to view the Boy Scout Tree. The BST is a very large, and very tall, double trunked redwood, which is obviously thousands of years old. The knarly, fibrous, bark near its base is infused with green lichens, and it even has small plants growing in pockets of soil trapped within the cracks and crevasses of its weathered trunk. The soil all around is the color of mulched redwood debris, and soft and moist, almost like potting soil from a nursery.
After enjoying the BST, we continued on to see Fern Falls. The trail passes through a section of mixed conifers with maples and a few alders along a pretty little winding creek. The fall is not a big one, and there are fallen logs blocking the view along the trail. Fern fall is really more of a little stepped cascade, but this time of year is not the best flow anyway. But there were some nice trickling sounds, and a picturesque little spot to have some lunch sitting on a fallen log. I even found some seep monkey flower exploring along the creek below the fall. We saw a few other hikers, but not enough to detract from our hike. We could also hear fog horns way off in the distance much of the way, but that didn’t really spoil anything for us either. The hike is an out-and-back, so we headed back by the same trail. We only hiked a total of 5 miles or so, but this trail is well worth spending some time to enjoy. You can’t see this kind of fairy tail like habitat just anywhere.