Thursday, February 11, 2021

Big Hendy

Big Hendy
1.5 miles loop, 20 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Hendy Woods State Park entrance fee required

The towering old growth redwoods of Hendy Woods offer a quiet woodland escape in the Coast Range of northern California. Located amidst the vineyards and apple orchards of Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, Hendy Woods is a beautiful and impressive redwood grove that sees fewer visitors than more famous groves to both the north and south. Big Hendy, a grove on a floodplain, showcases the most spectacular redwoods in the park and can be explored on a short and flat hike. There is a network of trails running through Big Hendy; the most scenic and rewarding hike is to start on the Discovery Loop and then explore the more remote corner of the grove on the Upper Loop Trail. Big Hendy is a good stop for travelers heading to Mendocino; if you're looking specifically to see redwoods, there are many groves closer to the Bay Area that are quiet and require less driving to access and there are far more extensive redwood forests further north in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

I visited Hendy Woods State Park with Anna during an October trip to the Mendocino Coast. Hendy Woods is just under an hour's drive from Mendocino and Fort Bragg and is about two and a half hours from San Francisco. To reach Hendy Woods State Park from the south, follow US 101 north from the Bay Area to exit 522 at the north end the town of Cloverdale. After exiting, turn left onto the North Redwood Highway and follow it south for a mile, then turn right onto CA Highway 128 heading west towards Mendocino and Fort Bragg. Follow windy Highway 128 northwest for an hour from Cloverdale past the towns of Boonville and Philo and turn left onto the Philo-Greenwood Road, following signs for Hendy Woods State Park. After crossing a narrow bridge on Greenwood Road, turn left at the sign indicating the entrance for Hendy Woods State Park; follow the state park road to its end at the picnic and day use area, stopping at the entrance station to pay the entrance fee along the way.

The parking lot lies just outside the redwood grove, so there were no redwoods visible when we started the hike at the trailhead. We headed out on the flat All Access Trail, a broad path that quickly brought us into the Big Hendy grove. After just a tenth of a mile of hiking, we crossed a bridge and arrived at a junction with the Discovery Trail. Here, we turned left and took the Discovery Trail into the heart of Big Hendy. The Discovery Trail quickly split into the two different directions of a loop; we took the right fork first to do the loop counterclockwise.

Big Hendy
The Discovery Trail was flat as it traveled through this 80 acre grove of soaring trees in the floodplain of the Navarro River. Some of the largest trees of the hike were along the Discovery Trail. At times, the trail was a flat dirt path; at other times, it was carried through the grove by a boardwalk, which allowed us to closely approach some of the massive redwoods in the grove without compacting the soil near the trees and damaging their roots. 

Massive redwood on the Discovery Trail
Some of the trees in the grove were truly enormous, soaring over 300 feet tall. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world and at one point in time, the tallest known tree in the world was here in Mendocino County, at a separate inland redwood grove, Montgomery Woods. The biggest tree that I saw in the grove was next to the boardwalk and had a diameter at its base that was easily 20 feet in diameter.

Soaring redwoods
Many of the redwoods in the grove had blackened bark at their base, scars that tell stories of a past fire in the grove. More than a few trees had burned out cavities at their base, some of which allowed visitors to walk through a tree entirely. While these scars illustrated the power of fire, the fact that so many of the giants in this grove still stood even after fires was a testament to the hardiness of these trees; it also gives me hope that perhaps the redwoods of Big Basin and the sequoias of Camp Nelson, both of which suffered terribly in the raging 2020 California wildfires, will have survived these latest insults as well.

Redwoods of Big Hendy
After following the Discovery Trail for a fifth of a mile, we came to a junction between the Discovery Trail and the Upper Loop Trail. We went straight at this intersection onto the Upper Loop Trail, which we took to explore more of the grove. We followed the Upper Loop for 0.3 miles to another junction, this time with the Back Loop Trail. Skipping the Back Loop, we took the left fork at this intersection and cut north across the grove on the Upper Loop. Shortly afterward, the Back Loop Trail rejoined the Upper Loop and we passed a junction with a trail that led out of the grove to the banks of the Navarro River. We stayed on the Upper Loop Trail through all of this and continued onward until we rejoined the Discovery Trail at 1.2 miles into the hike. At this junction, we continued straight on the Discovery Trail and closed the loop when we returned to the junction with the All Access Trail; we then turned right and followed the All Access Trail back to the trailhead.

Frequent visitors to redwood groves know that ground cover in these forests can help shape the beauty and atmosphere of a grove. Big Hendy is known for its ferns and carpets of redwood sorrel on the ground, which is likely how the grove looks during spring and in wetter months. We visited Hendy Woods in late October, after a particularly dry summer and found only patchy redwood sorrel and ferns here; the understory was a bit brown and dusty. Nevertheless, the sheer size of the trees were still enough to make this a beautiful grove.

Big Hendy
Hendy Woods' name derives from Joshua Hendy, an engineer and industrialist who founded a major American engineering company- Joshua Hendy Iron Works- that ran from the mid-1800s until being bought out by Westinghouse in 1947. Ironically, Hendy achieved his initial fortune by building one of California's earliest redwood lumber sawmills along the Navarro River, launching a booming timber industry along the North Coast that swallowed vast tracts of massive old-growth trees in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Hendy's company- founded in San Francisco but later based in Sunnyvale- later produced mining and earth-moving equipment that was used to regrade Seattle's downtown and dig the Panama Canal. Interestingly enough, Joshua Hendy cared enough about the redwoods in this particular grove to protect them; despite contributing to the demise of redwood forests along the rest of the coast, Hendy requested in his will that his sons protect the old growth redwoods of Hendy Woods. However, his sons later sold this land to timber companies and it was the state of California that ultimately stepped in to purchase and preserve this grove of thousand year-old trees.

Big Hendy redwoods
This is a worthwhile redwood grove to visit if you're driving through Anderson Valley; since the hike is short but the grove is beautiful, this can easily be a half hour or half day stop. If you're visiting the park in the autumn, be sure to stop at one of the nearby apple orchards to enjoy cider and buy some heirloom apples.

Sunlight filters into Big Hendy

No comments:

Post a Comment