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Muir Woods as Muir knew it.

The forest has been protected and restored. And it's easier to get there

WHEN JOHN MUIR learned in 1908 that his name would grace a new redwood preserve in Marin County, he wrote, "This is the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world."

Thanks to changes in management practices, Muir Woods National Monument, 12 miles north of San Francisco, now resembles the ancient forest of Muir's era more closely than it did just over a decade ago. Getting to the woods, however, is much easier than in Muir's time, particularly on a new boat and van tour.

Absent the crush of tourists that descends on the woods in summer, winter is arguably the best time to walk among these massive coast redwoods.

GOOD OLD DAYS ARE BACK IN ANCIENT FOREST

Not all that long ago, picnic tables dotted the groves and visitors wandered freely among the big trees, endangering them by compacting the soil. To protect the redwoods, forest managers narrowed the main trail, removed the tables, and fenced off the trees. They also stopped removing deadwood and duff, allowing insects and forest floor creatures to multiply and plants such as yerba buena and wild ginger to return. In time, predators like the spotted owl moved back in. (The owls are tough to find during the day, though. You're more likely to spot ravens, wrens, and jays.)

Redwood Creek, which flows through the monument, has seen ongoing habitat restoration, too. Once again you can see salmon (November through January) and steel-head trout (January through March) fighting their way upstream to spawn after heavy rains raise the creek's level. The fish are most visible a couple of days after a storm, when the stream has been cleared of silt.

Two new guides may enhance your visit. Both are published by the nonprofit Golden Gate National Park Association and are available at the visitor center in Muir Woods. An attractive foldout map called Muir Woods: Guide to the Park's Trails ($1) covers hikes ranging from a 1/2-mile nature trail to a 6-mile trek up Mount Tamalpais. Also look for Muir Woods: Redwood Refuge, by John Hart ($7.95); with the help of more than 50 photographs and illustrations, the 48-page book details the varieties of redwoods (coast redwood, giant sequoia, dawn redwood), explains the ecology of fire in the redwood forest, and recounts the history of the park since it was saved from logging in 1905 by William Kent.

OVER THE WATER AND TO THE WOODS

To avoid the twisty drive from San Francisco to the woods (via State Highway 1, Panoramic Highway, and Muir Woods Road), take advantage of Red & White Fleet's Muir Woods and Tiburon tour, which combines a ferry ride to Tiburon and a van trip to the woods. The trip, which takes about 5 hours, gives you about 2 hours to roam the redwoods and another hour or so in Tiburon. Through February, the ferry departs San Francisco's Pier 43 1/2 at 11 weekdays, 10:40 and 12:25 weekends. Tickets cost $24 ($12 ages 5 through 11); to reserve, call (415) 546-2700.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:John Muir
Author:Finnegan, Lora J.
Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Words:525
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