14 April, 2007
We awoke early in the morning to pounding rain, which tapered off to a drizzle by the time we got up. Breakfast at our B&B was a tasty buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, and savory pastries, just my thing! By the time we finished eating the rain had stopped entirely, so we decided to go for a hike in Van Damme State Park, a couple of miles south of Mendocino on Highway 1.
Van Damme State Park
Upon arrival at the park, we paid the $6 entrance fee and drove to the end of the park road, which serves as the trailhead for the Fern Canyon Trail (not to be confused with a trail of the same name at Russian Gulch State Park, which is north of Mendocino), setting off under cloudy, but dry, skies at 10:00.
Fern Canyon Trail
The Fern Canyon Trail is very well-graded and nearly flat, following Little Creek upstream through redwood groves and lush fern-covered hillsides. Redwood Sorrel was blooming in patches under the redwoods, and we saw patches of Stream Violets and Bleeding Hearts as well. Winter Wrens sang us a lovely song as we hiked, but showed themselves only in glimpses.
The trail criss-crossed Little Creek at least seven times on nice arched bridges, and the redwoods were gorgeous in the morning mist. A bright yellow bird taunted us to identify it, perching just long enough for us to see it, then flying into the deep underbrush before we could get a good look. After a fair bit of stalking, I got a few fuzzy photos of it, nothing worth sharing, but enough to figure out what it was – Wilson’s Warbler (LIFER!)!
Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)
A little ways down the trail we heard a distinctive “peck peck peck” and a little craning our necks upward revealed a lovely Pileated Woodpecker, my first of the year. Unfortunately it was terribly back-lit, else I’d have gotten some good photos of it. Many large patches of lovely Western Trillium dotted the trailside, the most Trillium I’ve ever seen in one place, in fact! After a number of nice bridges crossing the creek, we were surprised when we came to a “DIY” bridge – a pile of 2x4s lay next to the creek, clearly intended for folks to lay across the water and walk across. Our feet stayed dry, and we soon walked into the walk-in campground, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead.
This campground looked like a fabulous place to camp, nestled deep in the redwoods, and next to a lovely creek. There were at least 10 sites in all, but you’d have to pack in or filter your own water. Something to keep in mind next time we’re in the area, as camping is a whole lot less expensive than B&B’ing!
Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)
Shortly after the camp, amid the redwood sorrel, I spied a different little pink flower, and closer inspection proved it to be the elusive Calypso Orchid (LIFER!), for which we’d looked in vain at Butano State Park a few weeks earlier. There were just 3 of them, all nestled deep in the redwood duff, but one was clearly visible for photographs. This is definitely the most lovely of the native orchids we’ve seen so far (although broadleaf helleborine is also a beaut).
Giant Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia)
Just a short ways past the orchids we came to a fork in the trail, our turnaround point (the intrepid can do a 3-mile loop from this point, for about 8 miles total, but we weren’t up for that today!). We turned around and walked back the way we came, enjoying how the forest was changing as the clouds broke up and sun shone through. We got back to the car at 12:40 and headed back to Mendocino.
Distance: ~5 miles
Total time: 2h 35m
– Common Raven
+ Pileated Woodpecker
– Steller’s Jay
* Wilson’s Warbler
– Winter Wren
* = life bird, + = year bird
– Bleeding Hearts
– Branched Solomon’s Seal
– California Manroot
* Calypso Orchid
– Creek Dogwood
– Redwood Sorrel
– Stream Violet
– Western Thimbleberry
– Western Trillium
* = life flower
Back in Mendocino, we walked around the art studios and galleries that we didn’t see on Friday, then mellowed out in our room and napped for a while.
Today was Sarah’s birthday, so I’d made reservations at Cafe Beaujolais, which proved to be an excellent choice for a fancy meal out. Great food (mostly local/organic), great service, and a nice intimate atmosphere. More on that later. Our bellies full of good food and wine, we slept very well this evening!