Thursday, March 03, 2005

Redwood Regional Park

Another bahiker walk yesterday, in Redwood Regional Park — one of the string of parks in the Berkeley hills which include Wildcat, Tilden, Sibley, and Huckleberry.

Redwood is at the same time a sad story of destruction and one of regeneration. There are few redwoods in the East Bay now, but the forest here used to be immense. Some of the trees so large that ships entering the bay, 16 miles away, used them to navigate by. The park booklet quotes a Royal Navy log: " order to miss treacherous Blossom Rock between Alcatraz Island and San Francisco, one should line the northern tip of Yerba Buena Island with two trees south of Palos Colorados, over San Antonio, too conspicuous to be missed."

The forest was logged clean in the 1840s–1860s, leaving a sea of stumps. Malcolm Margolin, in The East Bay Out, claims that one stump measured 33 feet in diameter, larger than any redwood alive today. The stumps themselves were chopped up for firewood in the following decades; and any trees which had regrown were logged again to help rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. The land was used for farming and ranching before, in 1939, becoming dedicated as the fourth EBRPD regional park.

But still: the redwoods regrew. The trees here are young (by redwood standards, at least) but still majestic. There's evidence of earlier abuse in the patterns of growth: it's very common to see redwoods growing in circles, around where the trunks of their ancestors once stood.

The bahiker walk follows the West Ridge Trail from the Skyline Gate trailhead (free parking here) before descending into the redwoods on the Tres Sendas trail. This section of the hike is beautiful: it's quiet in the forest, the redwoods are tall, straining towards the sun, and after the rains the creek running alongside the trail is full. We continue on the Stream Trail; wider and more developed, with a fence alongside the creek protecting the native rainbow trout habitat.

And then a pull up Prince Road to the East Ridge Trail and back to the car park; the trail is nice enough, but after the beauty of the redwoods feels a little like "just another California hillside trail".

We both really enjoyed this hike, but really wanted more of it to be in the forest and less of it on the hillsides; next time we might extend it by taking the French Trail from Tres Sendas deeper into the forest and by returning all the way on the Stream Trail.

Categories: Hiking