Hiouchi Hamlet
Jedediah Smith National Park

Hiouchi, Ca.

October 10th, 2000

Our first week in the sunny warm beautiful state of California, (:-) Sure. We were greeted at the border by gas prices above $2.00 a gallon, some 15 to 20 cents higher than a hundred yards behind us in Oregon. We wandered down Highway 101 for a while, until we reached the Smith River in majestic Redwood country then went east on Highway 199 to the little community of Hiouchi Hamlet. Hiouchi Hamlet's big claim to fame is that, according to local Indian lore, it is "the center of the earth." Well be that as it may, it is right in the middle of the Jedediah Smith National, and State park. Old Jedediah was an adventurer and explorer who might have come this way but the park is named after him anyway. The attraction is the giant Redwood trees reaching hundreds of feet into the air just a few miles from the coast. It is truly the best of both worlds. The giant redwood is a native of California and for years was one of the main sources of timber for the West Coast Many a timber baron made his fortune cutting the behemoths to build everything from ships to homes. Even today you can still get a redwood deck for your house as the trees have not been exhausted yet. Some of these specimens are estimated to be hundreds of years old. Their small cones and fine leaflets cover the forest floor in a mat that silences most sounds, creating an uncommon quiet. On occasion you might come across what is known as a "tree circle". A large mature tree on occasion will shoot up sucker limbs off its roots completely around the circumference of the tree. In time, the mother tree dies and deteriorates. These rings were often used as meeting and ceremonial places for the local Indians long before the white man sailed on the California shores. This was not the only way the trees reproduced. The older trees develop what is called a "burl" which is a knotty growth on the base of the tree. When the tree falls, the cells in the burl are somehow activated and begin to grow creating a new tree out of the wood of the old tree. An interesting relatively recent discovery is that the DNA structure of the tree that grows out of the burl, is identical to that of the mother tree. Genetically speaking that would make some of the redwoods having DNA that is over 6,000 years old. Under this definition, the Redwood is the oldest living organism on earth, not to mention the oldest tree. After the first few days, I swapped my 2 mile walk for a 40 minute bike ride through the forest. When there are no cars, which is quite often, it is so quiet. The trees are monstrous and right up against the side of the road, blocking out much of the sunlight. It's not like any other place I have been in. We spent a lot of time in the woods, and then when we were not there we were along the road looking at other interesting things, such as a Redwood that we could drive our truck through. We also stopped at the "Trees of Mystery" gift shop and nature walk. The Mystery walk was kind of a come-on. There was no charge to go in and no gate keeper but they charged you $6.50 to get out at the end. The signs were quite clear as to their intentions but still, I always question operations like that. The nature trail was not what had brought us to this commercial place. The sight we wanted to see was right out front for all to witness. A 50 foot tall wooden Paul Bunyan and his faithful friend and companion Babe the great blue ox. Laura has affectionately named the blue dodge truck we drive, "Babe" so we were looking for some pictures to tie the story together. Another activity which is always an attraction, was to go to the local docks in Crescent City and watch the Sea Lions dominate the walkways. The bulls are in the process of moving south to find their mates and are practicing their posturing which is quite noisy at times. In the evening and again in the morning there were great walls of fog that rolled in off the sea and blanketed everything. It changed the entire feeling in the woods near the shore.

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