Printer Friendly

Where a three-year-old is eye-level with the pines...Mendocino's pygmy forest.

Where a three-year-old is eye-level with the pines . . . Mendocino's pygmy forest

Wild and sublime, the coastal cliffs and beaches of Mendocino capture the visitor's eye first. But if you turn to look toward the neighboring forest, you can discover equally compelling beauty; here, two gentle hikes take you back through a half-million years of natural history.

Now, when the forests are humming with summer, you'll enjoy the woodland wildflowers and clear, swift creeks. Both hikes take you through pygmy forests, where pines and cypress trees sometimes grow a mere 18 inches tall.

Jug Handle State Reserve, 3 miles south of Fort Bragg and 5 miles north of Mendocino on State Highway 1, offers a 5-mile round-trip hike up an "ecological staircase.' On the hike, you encounter five wave-cut terraces, each 100 feet higher and 100,000 years older than the next. You begin at ocean's edge on a breezy bluff--now in bloom with lupine and seaside daisy. Wending your way eastward and upward, you encounter a conifer forest of Bishop pine, grand fir, and western hemlock. As you enter the third terrace of redwood forest, you begin to see evidence of the pygmy forest--the characteristic gray hardpan soil.

The fourth terrace, which 400,000 years ago was ocean floor along the coastline, is dominated by Bishop pine. Continuing to trail's end, you'll be amidst the tiny trees of the pygmy forest. Some interesting residents include the 3- to 5-foot-tall Bolander pine, which grows only along the Mendocino coast, and the Mendocino cypress, which may stand only a foot high and be 60 years old.

Return to the parking lot the way you came. Pick up a detailed trail guide at the trailhead. Reserve entrance is free.

Van Damme State Park, 3 1/2 miles south of Mendocino, offers a lovely walk up Fern Canyon. Get a map at the entrance (day-use fee $2). Following a briskly flowing creek, the broad, gentle road is walled with hundreds of ferns. Columbines and iris light up the trail.

Fern Canyon trail divides in 2 1/2 miles; take the Old Logging Road Trail a mile to the Pygmy Forest trail. The contrast from the lush redwood forest to the stunted cypress and Bolander pine is almost alarming. Return the way you came or loop back on the Fern Canyon trail for another 2 1/2 miles.

If you want to see only Van Damme's pygmy forest, drive 3 1/2 miles up Little River Airport Road (1/4 mile south of Van Damme) to the forest's parking lot.

Photo: Walkers measure up to pygmy forest in Van Damme State Park; stunted trees result from highly acid soil, shallow root penetration, and lack of nutrients

Photo: Young nature-lover delights in the delicate dancing of a columbine along Van Damme's Fern Canyon trail

Photo: Breezy bluff over the Pacific is home to a half dozen wildflowers this month at Jug Handle State Reserve
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Van Danne State Park, California
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1986
Words:488
Previous Article:Northwest of Yellowstone, Nevada City recalls Montana's 1863 gold rush.
Next Article:Northeast of Quebec, you may feel you're in 17th-century France.
Topics:


Related Articles
Whale-watching for landlubbers.
The September-glorious Mendocino-Sonoma coast.
The smallest national forest.
Mendocino's beaches, bluffs, forests ... by bike.
Window on the West.
PINE FUNGUS MAKES ITS WAY TO BAY AREA : GOLDEN GATE PARK TREES AT RISK.
PYGMY FOREST THREATENED BY TOURISM.
STATE MAKES BIG PUSH FOR TINY TREES : TOURISTS THREATEN PYGMY FOREST.
'Miracle' Dog Corky Recovers From After 44 Days Lost in Forest.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters