The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Salt Point State Park Again, Part One of Two – Pygmy trees and Elusive Blooms

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Before I take you up to the Pacific Northwest, I’d like to share July’s trip to my favorite (relatively close) road-trip spot, Salt Point State Park. I frequent it.  Just a couple hours away, solitude can often be found, especially mid-week.  My third time there (?) it still feels fresh.  Here’s why:

The Cazadero Hwy. forks north off the Russian River, making for a pretty departure off Hwy 116. There’s a sweet little stop in Cazadero I recommend called Raymond’s Bakery.   Shortly after this landmark, King’s Ridge Road departs to the right and the Cazadero Hwy becomes Fort Ross Rd.  to the left. Santa Rosa Cycling Club describes a loop ride involving King’s Ridge Rd I aspire to.  It’s burly…I’m not.  They call it the “crown jewel of North Bay cycling roads.”  There are some remote places out here, huge ranches, 2200′ peaks.  Obscure enough, Googlemaps wouldn’t map this route for me to link to.

A happy girl I was as I lolly-gagged along the twisty roads, through tunnels of oaks:

Past summer’s crispy, yellow hills:

Fort Ross Rd. eventually bisects Meyer Grade Rd/Seaview Rd.  Here it slopes steeply to the sea, passing land once used by the Russian settlers of Fort Ross for farming.  I’ve walked through their orchard with you in a past post.  This visit the old trees bore fruit.

Made it to the shore in time for sunset. A must.  Woke the next day with two goals in mind:  The Rhododendron Preserve and the Pygmy Forest.

The Kruse Rhododendron Preserve is just up the road from SPSP.  Five miles of hiking trails wind through second-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, tanoaks and oodles of rhododendrons (in spring). It’s lush, quiet, and peaceful, almost eerily so.  Greens of every hue flood the eyes.  The park service has pruned the under story extensively to allow the profusion of rhododendrons.  Unable to make it this spring, with held breath I entered the preserve.

Cathedrals of Redwoods loomed above:

The best of the three (yep..three…I was thankful for them) blooms I spotted:

Not sure of this plant but I’ve seen it around. So delicate, so pretty!

I must return in April or May next year.

Next adventure of the day took me through SPSP’s PYGMY FOREST.   Much of Northern CA’s coast marches up in steps called Marine Terraces.  Uplift and changes in sea level formed an “ecological staircase.”  Each terrace is about 100,000 years older than the one below it.  Distinctly varied soils, plants, microbes and animals inhabit the different terraces.  Some have clay and iron-rich, thin layers of soil which starve plants of nutrients, stunting growth.  Add in poor drainage, resulting in pooling tannins from the trees, and you have a recipe for wee-trees.

Logging’s destroyed many Pygmy Forests.  Some I’ve found mentioned are: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve near Fort Bragg, Russian Gulch State Park, and Van Damme State Park near Mendocino.

The 5 mile loop I chose heads uphill through damp redwoods, ferns and a pungent litter.  That all changes. Seemingly suddenly I stepped into a bonsai shop filled with dry, stunted trees.  Mostly bishop pine and cypress, the forest appears barely attached to the thin, rock-hard buff colored soil.

Miniature Bishop Pine:

Further up the trail/hill, the terraces become more familiar, with thick undergrowth and tall trees.

Looping downhill, the trail a former road, one can see how the road slices through deposition of sands, forming some of the terraces.

Salt Point State Park’s Pygmy forest is a fascinating walk through layers of time.  Being my favorite local road trip, a winter’s foray will surely happen soon.

The following day, the water’s edge I explored. More on that next post.

One thought on “Salt Point State Park Again, Part One of Two – Pygmy trees and Elusive Blooms

  1. Those berries sure look like choke cherries to me!

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