Standish - Hickey State Recreation Area
Featuring the Taber Nature Trail
Northbound Highway 101 passes through three small redwood parks, each with more impressive trees than the last, before reaching the most impressive redwoods of all in Humboldt Redwoods. Standish-Hickey is the first of these parks and, when seen from the highway, is the least scenic of the three. Driving through, you wouldn't guess that there's an old-growth grove here. However, a half-mile trail leads to a small upland redwood grove that, despite a somewhat unusual look, is undoubtedly old growth.
The grove looks unusual because it has a lot of really young conifer trees growing among the redwoods, and because it lacks foliage on the trees near ground level. There is, though a groundcover of huckleberry shrubs. Scattered here and there among all the little trees, especially around the 3-way intersection where the access trail meets the loop, are a few dozen pretty good-sized redwoods. Many of the redwoods are blackened, so the grove's appearance could be the result of a fire. It could also be due to logging, since there are a few stumps in the grove. Nonetheless, the remaining big redwoods have the stately appearance characteristic of old growth, with perfectly straight trunks uninterrupted by branches.
Just east of the loop part of the trail is a dirt service road that's not connected to the trail. The dirt road runs from an employee residence to a water tank. Interestingly, although it's only about ten yards from the trail, the old-growth forest along the dirt road has a lusher and much more normal redwood upland look than the loop trail.
The main section of the park is across Highway 101 from the old-growth grove. There are three campgrounds here. Two are right next to the highway, but the much quieter Redwood Campground is among second-growth redwoods down by the river. The Eel River flows in a gorge a hundred feet or so below Highway 101, and the bottom of the gorge is mostly shielded from the traffic noise. The river features a swimming hole, one of the park's more popular features. The park also has some well-designed and well-maintained trails that wind though the (mostly) non-redwood forest on the hillside opposite the highway. These trails all get some traffic noise, but are otherwise very enjoyable to hike. They as well as the Redwood Campground are only accessible in the summer via a seasonal footbridge.
Driving north on Highway 101, just after Legett you'll see the entrance to Standish-Hickey on your left. Ignore this entrance and continue a few yards, pass the old police car parked on your right, and then turn onto the second dirt road to your right. The road is partly hidden by some trees. There's a well-marked trailhead and a small dirt parking lot.
There's quite a bit of traffic noise from Highway 101 as the trail sets out. The trail entering a mixed-species wood, winds around a house, and begins a gentle climb. The traffic noise fades out, although it never completely disappears. The trail follows a little ravine where a few mid-sized redwoods grow, then enters the real old-growth forest just before reaching an intersection with the loop portion of the trail. Turn left onto the loop.
At the north end of the loop, next to the Petronelle Majer memorial sign, is an especially large redwood that actually consists of several trunks fused into one at the ground.
At the end of the loop, turn left to return to the parking area.
© 2009 David Baselt