This past weekend, work took me to Eureka, Calif. We arrived around lunchtime Friday, and had the afternoon off. With the weather as good as could be expected for the rest of the weekend, fellow photographer Isaac Koval suggested we visit Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, about 50 miles north of town.
Fern Canyon isn’t especially deep (less than 100 feet) or long (maybe a mile) but it is remarkable for the flora growing in it. Apart from the stream bed, pretty much every surface in the canyon is covered in vegetation—mostly, as you might expect, ferns.
The canyon quiet and serene, almost otherworldly. With the ferns and moss, and old-growth forest above, it’s almost prehistoric. So much so, in fact, that it was a shooting location for The Lost World: Jurassic Park II.
It’s still pretty early in the season, so many of the ferns hadn’t leafed yet. I can only imagine how magical it would be in peak form.
More importantly, the spring season meant the pair of streams that you have to ford on the drive to the trail head were pretty deep and rushing. Since we were driving a rented Chevy, we weren’t brave enough to test the waters and opted to leave it parked before the first stream. Luckily, a young couple from Texas had the guts to take their Kia through the ford and offered us a lift for the final mile to the trail.
Apparently the state park service provides boardwalks over the canyon’s stream during the summer, but they weren’t set yet. The stream meanders back and forth in the narrow canyon, pinching off any trails on both sides, so we had to cross it several times. After managing with some strategically placed logs and rocks for the first few crossings, we came to a point where the only tree was too small and slippery to risk—so it was barefoot in the cold water!
Perhaps the most unexpected sights were the herds of elk in the area. Right as we turned off the main highway there were at least two dozen lying in the grass just 20 yards from the shoulder. At the entrance to the canyon was another herd, almost as large. They were definitely aware of the humans, but not disturbed by our presence. Almost like Yellowstone.