Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, CA
I don’t know how many times I have sat down to write about Henry Cowell State Park. It has become one of my special places and a must-visit for every guest we have. After every trip, I vow to complete this entry and every time it is left abandoned as I struggle to capture the spirit as well as include our latest adventure in this corner of the world.
I was blessed to discover this awesome park. Last Spring Highway 1 to Big Sur washed out and was closed for a couple months. At the time I was really disappointed, but looking for other hiking opportunities, I ordered a Santa Cruz Mountain Trail Book and learned of the these redwood covered mountains. Just outside of Santa Cruz, this park and the town of Felton offer ample opportunities to explore my beloved trees. The easiest and most spectacular hike is the Redwood Grove Trail, an .8 mile hike through an old Redwood Grove boasting 1400-1800 year old trees. Every time I enter this grove a calmness settles in me. The crowns of the glorious trees tower above. The duff covered path is soft beneath my feet. Large clovers that taste like granny smith apples provide an emerald carpet around the trees. Some of the trees display the scars of past fires reminding me of their strength and perseverance. I pet the now familiar creatures saying hello as the now appear to me as old friends. The tallest tree in the grove stands soars as high as the Statue of Liberty. By slowly walking around the base, alternating by looking up to the top and examining its enormous width, I try to comprehend its size. Every time I do this I am no less amazed than my first visit.
My absolute favorite tree is the Freemont tree and I always pack a flashlight just for this tree (although I recently discovered you can check out flashlights from the visitor center). A small opening, like that of an elfin door in a fairy tale, allows one to crawl inside the giant and study its girth from the inside out. Once inside even the tallest man can stand comfortably with several of his friends. Burnt bark explains how the tree was once hollowed by a fire. A shelf had been carved into the bark at some distant time perhaps when Captain Freemont himself camped here. It is impossible to venture inside this redwood and not hear childhood whispering at my soul. Reminding me of those days when living in a tree in a magical forest would be a dream come true.
This short walk always grounds me and awakens my appreciation for life on this earth. Yet I love continuing further into this park. It’s always fun to walk across a hundred year old rail bridge. Other trails wander to the Cathedral Redwoods Old Grove then to a wonderful swimming hole which is the perfect spot for a picnic with an old friend. A hike up the mountain to the observation deck reveals views all the way to Monterey. Next door to the park, Roaring Camp Railroad ventures over old trestles, up the mountain and through the woods on an original logging train. At the top in another old grove, the ancient tour guides gives a conservation speech so impassioned that I have to resist from enveloping him in a giant bear hug. For a different perspective, we spent one afternoon zip-lining our way through a Redwood Canopy Tour at Mount Hernon. Here I had my only opportunity to be in the trees themselves, marveling in their size by looking down instead of up.
There are so many ways to enjoy this area, truly something for everyone. I love this area. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. One day driving just outside the park, I passed a man who had set up his full drum set on the side of the road was playing his soul out. And although it’s not how I would celebrate the beauty of Henry Cowell, I respected the passion as I felt it myself.