By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
You don't need a time machine on the Northcoast to walk though a prehistoric world.
A bicycle or car will do in getting you to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, just south of Klamath. Hiking trails through the park take you past redwoods and ferns and other species that existed when dinosaurs walked the Earth.
In fact, parts of the movie "Jurassic Park" were filmed there.
"Our pick for a good all-around trail at Redwood," raves a travel section on Gorp's Website that reviews national parks. "You get your old growth forest, you get your views, you get your wild coastline. You get a little bit of heaven."
Only part of the loop remains open right now, but the Miner's Ridge and James Irvine trails remain worth a hike even without crossing through Fern Canyon and ending up at the Pacific Ocean.
Downed trees from a new year's windstorm have closed the trails' western sections, along with Fern Canyon.
The area could reopen in May, as park crews continue removing wood and repairing a bridge in time for the visitors who arrive with the drier weather.
In the meantime, hikers can still escape into old growth redwood forest along the Miner's Ridge and James Irvine trails by taking Clintonia Trail that connects the two about halfway to Gold Bluffs Beach.
A different world'
From the Prairie Creek Visitor Center, head for Miner's Ridge and its steep incline that's easier to finish at the start of a hike.
The dirt trail will lead into a dark, cool, prehistoric landscape. The giant redwoods let in patches of sunlight for the lush ferns, but muffle the wind to create a quiet, insulated world that absorbs visitors.
Hang a right at Clintonia Trail after more than two miles. Named for a bright red flower that blooms in the spring, the approximately one-mile stretch levels out to the James Irvine Trail.
Go right again for another two-mile walk back to the visitor center. This path dips into marshes with thriving skunk cabbage, a small plant that smells just like the animal and sprouts a little corn cob-like stem covered by a bright yellow shell.
The trails offer some of the park's longer stretches among old redwoods.
"That truly takes you into a different world," said Redwood National and State Parks chief interpreter Rick Nolan. "Totally away from any kind of human intervention."
They date back to the 1850s, when miners cut routes to reach Gold Bluff Beach. That site provided some gold but fooled prospectors who expected a greater bounty.
God's first temples'
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park formed in the 1920s with land donations and acquisitions by such groups as Save the Redwoods League, Sierra Club and National Geographic Society.
"Thank goodness people had the foresight back then to grab some of the largest blocks," Nolan said, referring to Elk Prairie, the old redwood forest, fern valley and beach. "That setting down there is almost classic."
In 1961, environmental groups revived the idea of a redwood national park. In 1965, the league acquired Gold Bluff Beach and Fern Canyon for Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and three years later, Congress would establish the national entity.
Sierra Club founder John Muir once described forests as sacred ground, a view that hikers can share on the James Irvine, Clintonia and Miner's Ridge trails.
"No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself."
Hiking trails: Miner's Ridge, Clintonia and
James Irvine loop
Getting there: From Crescent City, take
U.S. Hwy. 101 south. Then take Newton B.
Drury Scenic Parkway to the Prairie Creek
Visitor Center and follow signs for the hike
Parking: Spaces available at visitor center
Visitor's Center: Civilian Conservation
Corps crews built the Prairie Creek Visitor
Center in 1934 as the state park
custodian's lodge, with wooden floors and
a stone fireplace. It now welcomes the
public with books, maps, information, elk
antlers, bones of local animals and stuffed
wildlife including a small brown bear, fox
Trail length: About 6 miles
Climate: Summer temperatures range from
40 to 75 degrees. It's even cooler along the
coast. Morning and evening fog is
common. Winter temperatures range from
35 to 55 degrees. Dress for rain from
November to May.
Wildlife you may see: Park wildlife is both
abundant and varied including such
animals as black bear, Roosevelt elk, deer,
coyote, mountain lion, bobcat, skunk, fox,
squirrel, chipmunk and many others.
Flora you may see: The park is mostly old
growth forest of coast redwood, western
hemlock and Douglas fir with Sitka spruce
and red alder near the 10 miles of sandy
coast line. Tanoak, cascara, big leaf and
vine maple and California bay can be found
on edges of prairies. Ground cover is
dense with a wide range of species and
varieties of shrubs, bushes, flowers, ferns,
mosses, and lichens common to the coast