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Mill Creek

Mill Creek trail

August 25/Day 39. I’m off to a slow start this morning since Ranger Debi doesn’t go on duty until 10:00 a.m. At ten o’clock I’m at her door; she hands me the poles and I’m off for a hike on the Mill Creek Trail.

Actually, it isn’t so much a hike as it is a stroll. The easy path runs 2.8 miles through old-growth timber to intersect Howland Hill Road, a one lane packed-earth road that winds through the heart of the woods, ending in Crescent City, ten miles away. I say it was a stroll because I take it at a slow pace, marveling every step of the way at the forest and stopping frequently to take pictures and/or change camera lenses. Reaching Howland Hill Road, I loop back via the road to the Stout grove near the campground. About 5.5 miles in all.

Good pictures are technically difficult to take because of the intense chiaroscuro of light and shadow in the forest. Nor do other photos I’ve taken fail so utterly to convey the sense of scale necessary to appreciate the size of these trees. In photographs, the trees could be in almost any forest. In person, they’re colossal to the point of disbelief. I may have overstated the forest at Beverly Beach, but there’s no overstating this one. It puts the “prime” back in primeval.

Looking up

Dozens of fern species carpet the forest floor, along with patches of redwood sorrel. Then, among the Douglas fir and white oak at the mid-story, the titans rise up, up—straight as soldiers. The most ancient are around 1500 years old and 325 feet tall. They each consume about 500 gallons of water every day, which takes a month to be pumped from the roots up to the crown of the tree. The ranger says there’s more biomass per acre (about 2,000 tons) in this temperate rain forest than there is in the deepest reaches of the Amazon jungle.

My plan for tomorrow, if my heel permits it, is to hike to Boy Scout Tree. At 30 feet in diameter (not circumference!) it’s one of the largest trees in the park.

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