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Fall Creek

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park Links:

August 27th, 2000

8.0 miles
1905 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:54

Rating: 6/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

Jean, Jennie, Renault and I arrived at the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods around noon. The dirt parking lot was almost completely full, but some people were already beginning to leave, so we managed to find a good parking space.

The trail descends immediately toward Fall Creek, which was running fairly strong even though it was late August. The entire trail is under the canopy of a thick forest of redwoods, firs, maples, and other trees. The maple trees may merit a return trip sometime in the fall.

We followed the trail along the rushing creek before heading left toward the old lime kilns. There's not much to see here -- just some old stone remains with wire fences protecting some of the entrances.

The trail then climbs up sharply and curves around counterclockwise. We soon found ourselves a couple hundred feet above the creek. Around the corner there's a large trail sign at an intersection. We took the left fork, which heads up steeply along the Lost Empire Trail. After some switchbacks, the trail heads up an extremely steep, narrow, dusty gully. It's straight up, no switchbacks to speak of, and not much fun. We emerged several minutes later and continued a mild ascent.

The trail is supposed to top out around 1800 feet. The trail started leveling off and we were getting hungry, so we found a pleasant trailside lunch stop with a couple of logs perfect for sitting. Only a handful of people passed us while we ate. Despite the fact that the parking lot was full, we saw relatively few people on the trails. An added bonus for hikers is that mountain bikers are not allowed here.

Some mushrooms growing on a tree

After lunch we continued up the trail, which shortly resumed its steep climb. At a small creek crossing we passed a sign which said "Lost Camp". After climbing some more we ran into a group of 3 somewhat lost hikers. I showed them the map I was carrying and pointed them in the right direction, which was the same direction we were heading. It's always good to carry a map, even in parks such as this where the trail signs are very well-marked.

Jean in the forest

Shortly after meeting them, we arrived at the Big Ben tree -- a virgin redwood tree which towers at least 100 feet above the ground. It was impossible to tell how tall it was because the canopy prevented us from seeing all the way to the top of the tree. From here, it's mostly downhill all the way. We kept to the right and took the Big Ben trail down to the intersection with the Fall Creek Trail. From there, we just followed the creek downstream.

We passed the remains of the Barrel Mill, which was used to create barrels to transport the lime. There are several stream crossings, but certainly none of them difficult in late August. Perhaps they'd be more interesting in peak runoff time in the spring. Certainly winter would be an interesting time to be here. Strewn throughout the canyon are dozens, maybe hundreds of downed trees, ripped from ground by some past winter's storm. Some large trees even spanned the canyon, providing a precarious 50 foot walkway.

The trail grew very dark even though it was only 5pm. The hills and tree cover made sure of that. As soon as we rounded the corner close to the lime kilns, we saw the light of day. Soon after that we were back at the parking lot in bright sunlight, one of the last few cars in the lot and ready for a good dinner back in Los Gatos.

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