Saturday, March 18, 2006

Taking a closer look at Redwood National Park
by Betsy Husband, 3/17/2006

Part of an elite group of 20 properties within the United States and 812 properties worldwide, Redwood National Park is a World Heritage Site, putting it on par with Yellowstone, Yosemite, Carlsbad Caverns, and the Grand Canyon. And because it is part of the California Coastal Range it has also been designated an International Biosphere Reserve, in good company with Denali, the Everglades, the Virgin Islands and Olympic National Park. People travel thousands of miles to enjoy its beauty and diversity. A 1993 visitor use survey showed that 15 percent of the visitors came from foreign countries. And it’s right here in our back yard.Lyons Ranch is located within the park. About a mile north of Orick a sign to Tall Trees Grove will direct you east onto Bald Hills Road. The road is well-maintained and paved for the first 10 miles, but with a 17 percent grade trailers and motor homes are not advised. The Lyons Ranch trailhead is 17 miles up the road. Remember to bring water and a snack.A moderate-to-strenuous round trip 4.65 mile hike meanders along gentle slopes in the quiet solitude of open prairies and oak woodlands. The trail leads you past the Long Ridge sheep shed, which had been used for feeding sheep in the winter and winds up at the homestead of Jonathon and Amelia Lyons who settled there in the 1860s. The old barn and bunkhouse create a picturesque landscape and stir fantasies of living there 140 years ago. Wander around to find rusty farm tools and the ancient-looking tricycle hanging in the barn. Picnic tables, both inside and out, offer shelter from the elements if needed.Throughout our hike we saw very little wildlife until the end. The vision of a mother bear leading her cub through a golden meadow was worth the wait. Once the mother became aware of our presence, she started heading toward shelter, calling to her cub to follow. Typical of any youngster, the cub had its own agenda. We listened to the bears growling in communication and watched the mother go back and forth, trying to get her cub to go with her. Eventually the cub decided to go, giving them a sense of security and giving us clear passage to our car.The meadows on Bald Hill have a reputation for becoming a carpet of wildflowers in the spring, with the lupine turning the hillsides a luscious purple. This is not only appealing to humans, but the elk love it as well. As we drove a bit farther along the road we saw over a hundred elk basking in the sun.Thoughts of Redwood National Park usually conjure up visions of tall trees, ferns and rhododendrons. It’s that, and much more.For more information:Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center(707) 464-6101, ext. 5265Along U.S. Highway 101 just south of OrickRedwood National Parkwww.redwood.national-park.comPets are not allowed on any Redwood National Park trails.

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