Yesterday I went on a ~10 mile hike at Fall Creek, which is in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton, CA (near Santa Cruz). It lives up to its namesake as it’s home to a lot of old growth redwoods, including a particularly ancient tree that is affectionately (and quite officially) named Big Ben.
This a good park for warmer days: the thick redwood canopy keeps a good majority of the sunlight out, so the forest floor stays comfortably cool.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that Fall Creek hasn’t dried up, though it was apparent many times during the hike that it has lost a lot of volume.
We came across a couple of different fungi: one of which was an amazingly large, fluorescent orange shelf fungus (potentially a sulfur shelf fungus). The other fungus we came across were likely small artist’s conk fungi.
About half way through the hike, we came across a small area that was teeming with ladybugs. They were everywhere, skittering over branches, leaves, and the forest floor. I’d never seen anything like it!
For one, there are limestone kiln ruins. Like the kilns in Limekiln State Park, these helped refine limestone into lime for use in mortars and plaster in the 1800s.
They were closed in 1919, after 70 years of operation, as lime processing became obsolete and the public became increasingly concerned about its effects on the environment.
Also along the trail was a powder magazine, or a former gunpowder storage cave.
It may be hard to tell from this photo, but this cave is quite small. You’d have to be pretty nimble to get in and out of it.
A little bit off the trail we visited a locally known pond that is home to a group of apparently naturally thriving goldfish. Each fish was about 4-5″ long. No one really knows where they came from. They probably survive on water skippers and other insects. It was too dark and the fish were darting about too quickly for me to get a good shot, but they basically look like any other goldfish you may see at a pet store.
Next up was Big Ben, one of the oldest trees in the park. It was quite a grueling ascent to reach it! The rest of the hike was mostly downhill.
It seemed to stretch upwards forever.
Towards the end of our hike, we came across this barrel mill.
This water-powered barrel mill was used to create barrels of lime so that it could be shipped.
According to the Mountain Parks Foundation:
“The lime produced from the IXL quarry was high-grade and bore the brand name IXL Diamond Lime. During its peak years, the quarry produced 50,000 barrels of lime a year, over 1/3 of the total production of lime in Santa Cruz County. IXL Diamond Lime was used extensively throughout California. Large quantities were used in rebuilding San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.”
After visiting the barrel mill, we continued our loop and arrived back at the parking lot. I’m throwing in a few extra photos here that I thought were interesting. They somehow capture the spirit of Santa Cruz:
And lastly, here are a few last minute shots of Fall River.
It was a good day!