A First Encounter with Redwood Grandeur

Butano State Park. Photo by Patricia VanEyll
Butano State Park. Photo by Patricia VanEyll
Since childhood, I have had a fascination with nature. There was little that I enjoyed as much as rooting around in leaf litter, poking at creepy-crawly things. Many an afternoon was whiled away laying on my stomach, watching the busy building of anthills, in awe of these mighty masters of industriousness. From newts to earthworms, hours could slip by unnoticed, but my fascination didn’t end with the creepy-crawlies. In fact, these on-hands-and-knees expeditions provided my first lessons into the interconnectedness that exists within nature.

Many years later, I learned of the magnificence of giant redwoods and the impact that they have upon the ecological niche in which they exist. Of course, when we decided to relocate from North Carolina to California, my husband and I promptly made plans to visit as many of the redwood forests in the area as we could. I have some physical limitations, so I was quite happy to learn that there are many easy trails in forests throughout the region, and some parks even offer handicap accessible trails.

Our first redwood outing was to Butano State Park, which is a 4,600-acre park located in Pescadero. We chose this park due to its proximity to Hwy. 1 so that after our hike, we could drive up the coast to Pacifica to have dinner, thereby making a full day of our adventure.

Although I saw no trails at the park that were specifically wheelchair accessible, they do offer a dozen trails that cater to many levels of hiking experience. These trails vary in length from roughly 0.75 to 2.76 miles and are different degrees of difficulty. Along with this multitude of hiking trails, there are also both bike and horseback trails to enjoy.

Campsites are available by reservation, some of which are hike-in while others are drive-up. This allows you to spend more time at the park so that you can take advantage of the diversity of the trails offered. You can even bring Fido, as long as he or she is leashed and stays on the paved areas of the park. This is to help ensure that the forest stays as pristine as possible.

We chose one of the easier hiking routes, the Little Butano Creek Trail (external link). We decided to use the fire road on our way back which was a bit difficult for me as it has many uphill and downhill grades throughout its length. It took us about two hours total for our hike, but we stopped to take photographs, study bark patterns, and sometimes just stopped to stare in awe. I confess that on one brief stop, I really did hug a tree. I also felt compelled to gently touch the trees as I passed, each boasting thick, gnarly bark as unique as a fingerprint.

This was a wonderful place to have our first encounter with these majestic behemoths. Even though we were told that these are “not the big ones,” there is a 315-acre pocket of protected old-growth near Little Butano Creek. Some of the trees along the trail bear the ebony scars of past conflagrations and stumps abound in the younger forest due to timber harvests prior to the park’s founding. Look closely, however, and you will be amazed at their resiliency. Each deadfall contains entirely new ecosystems of their own. Stumps are festooned in mosses, fungi, and lichen; scorched giants continue to reach for the life-giving fog; and tender green sprigs sprout from the bases of their stoic ancestors. These redwoods continue to persevere, and the more that we learn of their unique, positive impacts on the environment, the more essential it becomes to protect them.

If you would like to learn more about Butano State Park or contribute to preserving nature’s monoliths, please explore the park profile.

To learn more about park amenities, accessibility, and how to reserve a campsite at Butano State Park, check out the California State Parks website.(external link)

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About the author

Patricia is a seasoned writer who relocated to the Bay Area from North Carolina. She currently volunteers with Save the Redwoods League and strives to explore all the diversity that this region as to offer.

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