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Hiking: Northern California

View of Trees Is Always Nice--Knock on Wood

September 21, 1997|JOHN McKINNEY

Something in the collective national character is drawn to the highest, deepest, widest . . . and our national parks collect and reflect what is extraordinary in the American landscape. Not surprisingly, it was the discovery of "the world's tallest tree" by a 1963 National Geographic expedition that provided an impetus for Redwood National Park.

The popular Lady Bird Johnson Loop Trail and the seldom-used Lost Creek Trail offer fine introductions to the national park. Trail heads for both paths are a short drive from the park visitor center.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

During her 1960s stint as first lady, Lady Bird Johnson promoted many beautification and conservation projects, and was a staunch advocate for the creation of Redwood National Park. With her help, conservationists prevailed upon a recalcitrant Congress to acquire land for the new park.

In 1968, the first lady attended a park dedication ceremony in what is now named Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Ironically, it was husband Lyndon Johnson's successor and longtime political foe Richard Nixon who dedicated the grove to Lady Bird Johnson the following year.

An easy, self-guiding nature trail (pamphlet available at the trail head) loops through the redwoods that crown Bald Hills Ridge. Numerous benches en route offer a chance to rest. While hiking the trail, you emerge from the redwoods to gaze past an ugly clear-cut to the coast. Much of the vista is now protected state and national park domain; it would no doubt all be stump land if conservationists of the 1960s and after had failed in their efforts.

Begin this walk by crossing Bald Hills Road on a handsome wooden pedestrian bridge. The path leads through a forest of redwood, Douglas fir and western hemlock. A quarter-mile out, the trail forks. Bear left to begin a clockwise loop of the grove, treading past a lush undergrowth of sword ferns, salal, salmonberry, redwood sorrel and rhododendrons.

At about the halfway point, the trail makes a hairpin turn and returns along the forested north side of Bald Hills Ridge.

Access: From Redwood Information Center, travel three miles north on U.S. 101 to Bald Hills Road. Turn right and drive 2.7 miles to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove parking area on the right side of the road.

Lost Man Creek

A lovely tumbling creek, rocky pools and a lush forest are highlights of Lost Man Creek, one of the less discovered gems of Redwood National Park. You'll keep company with some impressive redwoods.

In 1982, when Redwood National Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) the ceremony was held at Lost Man Creek. Such a designation is extended to natural and cultural sites around the world that are judged to have international significance.

As the story goes, the "lost man" was a timber locater who never returned from scouting for tall trees in the remote forested canyon of upper Lost Man Creek. Obviously other timber locaters were more successful. The slopes in the upper canyon of Lost Man Creek, as well as surrounding slopes, were heavily logged.

Lost Man Creek Trail is, in fact, an old logging road. It continues for a considerable distance past the old-growth redwoods through logged land all the way to Bald Hills Road. I can't think of any reason why a sane hiker would want to take this 18-mile round-trip trek.

To begin this walk, slip past a hiker's stile, pass the picnic ground and begin a gentle climb through the forest. A quarter-mile out, the path crosses an old bridge over Lost Man Creek.

You'll ascend through a mixed forest of redwoods and Douglas fir until the road begins to climb uphill toward a logged area. This is the trail's end for the pretty part of the path and the usual turnaround point.

Access: From U.S. 101, about four miles north of the hamlet of Orick, Calif., turn east and follow a gravel road two miles to Lost Man Creek Picnic Area.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Lady Bird Johnson Grove Loop, Lost Man Creek Trails

WHERE: Redwood National Park.

DISTANCE: Loop around Lady Bird Johnson Grove is 1.3 miles round trip; along Lost Man Creek is 2 miles round trip.

TERRAIN: Old-growth redwoods, park vistas.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Easy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Redwood National Park, 1111 2nd St., Crescent City, CA 95531, tel. (707) 464-6101.

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