24 August 2017

Nickerson Ranch

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Click for map.

We are heading for the coast and thus I am back to see some big trees in the form of coastal redwoods. There is very little parking at the Nickerson Ranch Trailhead, but we find a spot to tuck in by the side. It is practically just across the road from the large parking area for the Boy Scout Tree Trail that I hiked in February, so that is a possible parking area. Although so close, this is a little different. For starters, I cannot hear the city and we will not be hiking down toward it. The season is now dry and the potholes that somehow formed in the dirt road have vanished. Now everything around it is a uniform tan color matching the dry dirt.

trailhead sign for Nickerson Ranch
The start of the Nickerson Ranch Trail. It goes 0.6 miles to Mill Creek or a little shorter to Mill Creek Trail for a loop.

Our immediate quest is to make it out of the land of dust that rises high into the trees and coats the ferns. It is made somewhat difficult by finding that a bridge has been built just a few feet in to cross a creek and it has itself been crossed in the middle by a small tree. Well, it is at least small for the area at nearly a foot in diameter. It has smashed the bridge down into the small creek below leaving steep ends to navigate. I select a route along side trail and tree to get over the mess. Martha uses even more side trail to make her way.

bridge snapped in two
Broken bridge for crossing.

After that obstacle, everything becomes very easy. First, we get a bench with dedications on it to rest up from our ordeal. Next we get rather flat, wide trail through the trees. All the while, the dust coating is thinning out so that the forest turns from tan to green.

wide trail through the trees
Still some dust along the wide trail through the trees.

trees above
Now we can get on with the important business of looking up.

The old forest is nice and open and there definitely are a few big trees along the way. We try not to look up constantly, though. We would keep tripping if we did that. There are interesting details to be had closer at hand. Some trees have mushroom and one with blobs all over it interests me. Touching one is startling. They look like sap, but are a liquid with such low viscosity that I almost cannot feel it when in contact.

three layers of oozing mushroom
About three layers of mushroom shelves that are oozing thin liquid.

up the trunk of a double tree
A tree pair.

leafy tree in a break
Smaller trees reach for the sun where broken trees have relinquished their hold.

more wide trail
Trees big and small beside the trail.

orange blobs hanging from a leafy thing
Bright orange fruit keep catching my eye.

log cut turning green in spots
A log cut to let the trail through is showing some interesting growth patterns as the moss and lichen only grows in the most recently living wood.

We get to a junction. My map certainly shows nothing like that, just trail looping out and back around. The trail sign at the start gave some hint. We continue outward on Nickerson Ranch to see what it gets to. It is not that long. I am in the lead as the trail thins to a few inches and starts steeply down the creek bank, and I am sure I missed a turn. Going back, there is no turn. The trail gets to a cut log way too big for the average saw someone might be carrying, then just dwindles down to an obvious use trail. We follow it down to the creek, where it splits and generally hangs out by a good watering hole.

large wading spot for play
The turn of the creek has somewhat deep water and is probably occupied on hot days.

The map seems to indicate the ranch was on the far side. There does seem to be a little trail on the other side, but not for going anywhere, just from creek play. There are some old pictures online of the ranch, including an access bridge that might have been just downstream and the Nickersons, but I have no idea what might be there now. We will not be finding out today, either, as we turn back to take the other trail back.

triple tree
More time to look up.

The redwoods thin out near the creek. The trail gets narrower going this way, too. We follow it faithfully though it requires some hopping over downed trees and pushing aside the brush, and come out with bigger trail beside a better used water hole. It is becoming clear what this trail is mostly used for: cooling off in the creek.

A-frame style bridge
Many more bridges can be found on the trail, but all after the first seem to be in good shape.

narrow trail with encroaching vegetation
Pushing through the low trees of the understory.

ropes hanging from the trees above over the water
This looks like a well used swimming hole.

After the swimming hole, the trail is wide and easy again. This means we can get back to looking up with instances of looking around so we do not trip.

tree on legs
This one must have started with a couple logs to reach over.

twisting trunk
Three trees start close at the ground and most take the traditional direct route to the sky, but not the closest one.

Mill Creek
A look through lichen covered trees of other sorts to the creek.

wide and easy path
Back in the land of easy trail.

red fungus
Another bright color catches my eye, this time it is another mushroom.

There has been some destruction along the trail. A large tree has fallen into the creek and taken a big wad of dirt out of the trail. This part of trail without a bridge seems to be bouncing back a bit better. We continue on, finding a couple more benches.

broken root system
Another fallen tree, this one not so big. The roots look rather broken off.

creek in the trees
One more little glimpse of water.

Gradually, the vegetation seems to take on something that is not exactly a pallor, but certainly a change in color in that direction. A couple more turns and we are at the road again. This side has mileage sign and a couple parking spaces. We turn to walk the dusty road back to the other trailhead. Happily, no cars come by as we do so.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 7 September 2017

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