Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tolowa Dunes State Park

Egret, off to the side of Alder Marsh Trail

I left home this morning with the intention of hiking in the redwoods, on the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  I hiked this trail over 13 years ago, and remember that it was a nice walk.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas for me today: a tree fell over the gravel access road yesterday and the road was closed from both ends.  So much for that idea!

Since it was a beautiful day and I was almost in Crescent City, I drove into town and stopped at the Parks Information office -- and ended up going for a nice walk in Tolowa Dunes State Park.  This lightly-developed park covers about 5000 acres of prime Pacific Ocean shoreline and houses "some of the finest wetlands habitat on the California coast" according to the brochure.  The area is an ancient sand dune complex that has evolved into many different ecological communities including ocean beach, river, open and vegetated sand dunes, wooded ridges and wetlands, according to the brochure.  It's an important birding habitat, and while I heard a wide variety of birdsong everywhere I went, I didn't see very many. The fellow above was roosting in a tree along a side trail.  That's almost full zoom on my 24x zoom lens, so forgive the hand-held lack of total focus. I find it really hard to hold it perfectly still at that focal length.

A small, unnamed marsh/lake on the west side of the loop trail.  Very peaceful.

I only touched a small fraction of the park.  A woman in the visitor's center directed me to the Lake Earl Wildlife Area, at the southern tip.  From here, I took the Cadre Point Loop Trail through meadows and wetlands and forests, although I never actually saw Lake Earl.  The loop trail follows the edge of it for some distance, but too far inland to actually see any of the lake.    I'd like to return someday, try a different section.  The loop trail is well-marked, but most side trails are not.  Most simply have a sign that says 'trail'.  I did take one trail that was marked "Alder Marsh Trail, 0.4 Miles'.  I'd been hiking for a couple of hours at this point, and was hoping for a log or rock to sit in the sunshine and have a snack -- but there's literally nothing out there but marsh grasses and plants and birds.  Very nice side trail, however.

Alder Marsh

The trail followed open meadows....

Wooded lanes....

and the occasional wetland area....

Although there were no signs, I'm fairly certain this is Lake Tolowa.  I'm guessing there's far more water here during other seasons.  In the distance are the dunes and the ocean.

Those of you in colder climes can eat your heart out -- you can see the sunshine, and I was hiking in lightweight cotton capris and t-shirt.  On the first of December.  And I'm not one with a lot of cold tolerance.   When I returned to my car around noon, after walking for about 2.5  hours, the temp was 58 -- and it felt much warmer because of all that sunshine and lack of wind. It's days like this when I know why I moved to this area!

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