On friday afternoon I met Steve Chaney, the superintendent of Redwood National Park, in the small visitor center at Hiouchi in Del Norte county. After 39 years with the National Park Service and five years at Redwood National Park, Steve is retiring and we’d arranged to go on one last walk through the redwoods before he heads to Colorado to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Steve chose the Little Bald Hills trail for our adventure. The trail takes off from Howland Hills Road on the eastern edge of the park and climbs up through the gnarly old redwoods of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park — part of the national park. After a few miles we crested a ridge that divides Mill Creek to the west from the South Fork of the Smith River to the east. Up on the ridge, redwood give way to knobcone pine and wind beaten Douglas-fir covered with moss and lichen. We even scared a rough grouse that beat and flapped off down the ridge. This little visited corner of the park feels remote and so very different from the primordial groves that envelop the trails further west near the coast. We turned around at a remote horse camp and swatted mosquitoes while we chatted.
As we walked back down the hill I asked Steve what his favorite places in the park were. He chose not to speak of places, but rather moments. He described walking along the fog-shrouded coast earlier this year. Leaving the forest behind and coming across an elk on the beach while off in the distance the fog lifted to reveal an off-shore rock with a golden eagle perched — commanding the scene and drawing the eye. Listening to Steve sent shivers down my spine and reminded me of similar experiences I have been fortunate to have in my 15 years among the redwoods. It was a good reminder to me that although the League’s day-to-day work is about saving land, promoting research, and supporting educators, our higher goal is about enabling these types of moments and memories. Its those moments that make it all worth while. I’d love to hear a few of yours.
[originally posted on Save the Redwoods League “Giant Thoughts” Blog, 8/26/2012]