I recently took a trip to Northern California, which is always a nice way to escape fast-paced Southern California. I stayed in the Silicon Valley area and quickly sought out the nearby forests. I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that most of my beloved redwoods were burned last year. I must have been too busy escaping fires in SoCal to realize exactly where the fires were happening in NorCal. Alas, I found a redwood park that managed to escape total obliteration — the Portola Redwoods State Park.
Portola Redwoods State Park is tucked away from Silicon Valley, between the South Bay and Santa Cruz, over a ridge that provides amazing views of the Pacific Ocean on a clear day. While it is only about twenty miles from the city of Mountain View, it takes over an hour to get to the park, as the road is very narrow and winding. I didn’t mind the time it took to get to the park because I was enjoying the spectacular view on the way there.
After a quick trip to Portola Redwoods State Park Visitor Center for a day pass and a map (the website is pretty accurate about no cell service there!), I found a nearby trail tucked away behind the group campgrounds, leading through the beautiful redwood forest and to Tiptoe “Falls”.
What I love about trails in redwood forests is that there is usually plenty of shade and the trails are smooth — unlike the desert trails I am accustomed to hiking. The Tiptoe Falls trail was definitely shaded with a lot of lush foliage and gigantic redwood trees, which provided a naturally peaceful hike.
Tiptoe Falls trail took me down to what was left of a creek. The bridge had already been removed for the season, but it was easy to cross (I had hiking boots on). The water was not deep, so if I had stepped off the rocks in my waterproof boots, I would have been ok.
During the hike, I noticed that the forest, while not crowded with people, was full of life. I could hear small birds chirping, ravens cawing, and silly squirrels laughing all around us — unless a hawk started screeching above the forest canopy, and then the other animals went silent. I think the canopy provided decent protection for most of the forest animals, especially the squirrels. (I have a lot of tree squirrels in my yard, but they rarely make noises and do not laugh like the ones in the redwoods — probably something to do with the hawks, owls and lack of canopy coverage near my house.)
After taking my time to enjoy the animals, I really started to notice the redwoods. These trees are very old (up to two thousand years old!) and are the tallest trees on Earth. I think that the age of the redwoods indicates that they can survive a lot, including fires, but I did see fire damage on some of these beauties, and some trails were closed off.
The canopy of the redwoods was amazing to look up at. I tried to take time to just breathe and be surrounded by the trees. Light was filtering through the canopy, and I was amazed by the serenity of the forest.
The redwood canopy provided shelter for other plants and animals. When I wasn’t staring up at the tops of these enormous trees, I spied banana slugs amongst the ferns and sorrels. Of course, I immediately understood the fascination with the slugs and why they are UC Santa Cruz’s mascot.
This particular redwood forest is also home to other plants and trees, giving it a lush escape from city life. I noticed there were many types of ferns, remnants of huckleberries, and horsetails.
I think I am obsessed with trees after visiting the redwoods. These trees grow in very strange directions, in clumps, at angles to each other, and with other trees. Some of the redwoods appeared to be sprouting additional trunks.
After exploring the breathtaking flora and fauna along the trail, I came across Tiptoe Falls. Falls should be used loosely at this time of year (or perhaps, as long as we are contributing to climate change and are in a drought). The falls might be running after the upcoming rains, but during my trip, it was just a mossy, wet rock. Still pretty!
Being among the redwoods is surreal, and to be able to enjoy their uniqueness is a gift. I hope you are able to experience the redwoods in their peaceful and serene state as I have been able to do.
Here is the link to Portola Redwoods State Park Trails and Hiking Page, which is important to check before heading out on any trails, due to the fire closures:
Want to learn more about redwoods? This is an awesome source: Coast Redwoods.