Walk Amongst Ancient Trees
Once upon a time, huge swaths of California were covered with Earth's tallest living organisms. Generations of old growth redwoods existed for thousands of years, undisturbed, basking in the cool coastal fogs and clean ocean air. The industrial age induced modern man to the ancient trees, and man shook the forests' limbs with a hack saw. Over 90% of the forests that industrial man met are now completely gone from this world, and that fact makes the visit to the diminutive Stout Grove all the more poignant. It is this little 1.0 mile trail that bridges the gap of the world once inhabited by ancient forests as it stands in contrast with the modern era.
To get to the trail head, it is necessary to take the Howland Hill Road, which, as I discovered, is apparently closed for the greater portion of the spring. One need not fear. Park your car at the mockingly closed road gate and walk 0.5 miles to the River Trail / Stout Grove Trail sign.
The first 0.5 miles follows the Smith River Trail, which is your introduction to the upcoming explosion of redwood trees. The redwoods are interspersed with various other moss laden trees, making the walk to Stout Grove charming. The Smith River gurgles in the background, yet the forest cover obscures any decent views of it. It is soothing to just know that it is there and makes its presence heard. The river trail drops you off the the loop for Stout Grove, and you can choose to to left or right.
These redwoods greet your presence with a hushed silence. This forest is very quiet. The hiker is thus invited to embark on a most somber and contemplative trail.
The silence is often broken by talkative ravens that are heard, but not seen for the forest canopy reaches higher than one's eyes can reach. The other noise that is heard is the creaking sounds of the tall trees swaying and rubbing against each other, again, so high, that no one can actually see the event happening. Waist high ferns carpet the forest floor. Fallen trees strewn across the landscape that one can see the base and has to hike a distance to see where the top of the giant tree ends. The trees are not so much wide and they are just overwhelmingly tall. As you walk, slowly, the cool ocean air fills the space you breathe. There is a freshness to this forest. There is a knowledge that these trees represent time immortal. This forest is old.
There are not many old growth forests left in America, so when you come across one, no matter how puny the trail might be, it is a road that one has to take. These old trees impart a knowledge, a religion, that young forests lack. Their quiet voices are our teachers. One must go to this forest to learn.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.