In the redwood forest, it’s the greens and browns that predominate. The green come from all manner of leaves, from deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the winter to conifers including redwoods and fir that keep a constant supply of green leaves or needles on their branches to shrubs that have proven themselves resilient and resistant to the tanins and acids thrown off by redwoods. The browns come from the velvety bark of the redwood and the fallen leaves, needles, and branches that blanket the forest floor (a.k.a. duff, a word ecologists use to describe the organic stuff that piles on the trails, in the virgin forest and on the roadways during windy days and nights.
Come springtime though (which can be as early as February in the redwoods) the area comes alive with wildflowers. And then the color palette of the forest and trails move away from the darker, two-tone mix of green and brown to a full range of sparkly, bright color.
It’s mind-boggling to think that there are over 4,000 species of wildflowers that have been documented in Del Norte County. I don’t get too bothered by such mindboggling numbers and instead focus on the 20 or so most common wildflowers that appear in rapid and short-lived succession during the March-April heyday. Twenty species of spectacular beauty are enough for me.
The redwood forest around the bnb (even the bnb property and beach below the house) are an excellent place to be on a wildflower walkabout. Some excellent references for wildflowers are two National Park Service web pages that show via photo and short description nearly 70 of the area’s most common species (arranged in the order of their first month of appearance).
This is handy when you have web access. As for a physical books, there is the Audubon Field Guide to California (can’t go wrong with this mini-tome in your pack) and then the excellent if not slightly larger hardbound A Rare Botanical Legacy which contains over a hundred drawings and detailed descriptions of many local wildflower species as well as a deeply researched treatise on the work of three people most responsible for documenting local wildflower species and for advancing the science behind the study of Northern California flowers and all things botanical. That would be local residents Ruby and Arthur Van Deventer and UC Berkeley Botany professor Linn Jepsen.
As far as seeing wildflowers, my favorite trail to walk during the springtime explosion of species is Myrtle Creek Trail. All the majors can be spotted on this trail, though each has their moment in the sun. I’ve seen Azalea, Rhododendron, Iris, Columbine, Trillium, and Sorrell in abundance. Another spectacular trail for wildflowers in Little Bald Hills Trail, probably due to the range of habitat you walk through on the full length of the trail. A trail that offers an excellent counter point to the moist redwood trails is Stoney Creek Trail in Gasquet (the trailhead is off the North Fork Loop Road behind and above the Post Office and past the turnoff to the Gasquet Toll Road). That’s a much drier trail with a whole different set of species in bloom. And, if I can just drop one more name, you might add the Tolowa Trail into your wildflower hikes mix – the sandy soil of that trail’s beach environment also means a different species set is in bloom, relative to what you’ll see under the redwoods.
Just get out on the trails come spring and you’re bound to see wildflowers too!