Saturday, August 4, 2012

habitat ~ 08/04/12 ~ Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The only reason why we were up at Henry Cowell, about an hour away from home, was so Andy could volunteer for the relatively new Inside Trail Racing group. For his time, he'll get free admission to another race. I'm glad he didn't run this race, because invariably people get stung by yellowjackets anytime an organized trail run goes through redwoods. Sure enough there were a handful of people who had stings by the finish line. We believe the repeated disturbance by runners agitates nests in the soft ground. Andy once had to cut short a 50K to "only" 30K at nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park since he was stung a couple dozen times within the first half hour of his run and was quite uncomfortable. Yet, given a choice of trail mischief, he would rather have stings over poison-oak. Um, no thanks to both.

The last time we were here was 7 years ago when we took our nieces to ride a train in the adjacent Roaring Camp Railroads. It was an enjoyable visit with a staged train robbery and a short jaunt through the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This time I wanted to explore other parts of the park on my own. It's definitely a family friendly place with a carnival-like atmosphere at the railroad, shallow and wadeable San Lorenzo River, car camping up the hill, and a great nature center. Thanks to the nature center, I learned about stump sprouts, which explains why redwoods are often found growing in a circular pattern even if the stump is no longer present. It also had a nice presentation of the lime kiln and logging history of the area. Once I got away from the kiddie crowds and the race trails, I enjoyed my hike a little more. Near the observation deck at 800 ft, I was surprised to find the burned area of the Santa Cruz Sandhill Chaparral considering all the houses in the area. I'll be curious to see if their winter/spring fires will actually achieve their goal of preserving rare plants and animals. Overall, unless we have kids in tow, I doubt we'll return to Henry Cowell, because its habitat is so similar to several nearby parks with fewer visitors.


camissonia said...

Wow - I had no idea that yellowjackets inhabit the redwoods. We have them in abundance here in our drier chaparral (especially in the fall), so it never occurred to me that they could possibly thrive in lusher, forested habitat.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hi, Arleen. Glad you learned something new. We have only ever been stung by yellowjackets under the redwoods, even though the nests are easier to spot without the forest duff.