By Bob Difley
Like entering into an air-conditioned room, the morning fog of the California North Coast redwood belt provides a respite from the interior valley heat of mid to late summer. Patrick’s Point State Park is a wonderfully cool forested destination to hang out for a few days in the heart of the foggy California North Coast redwood belt.
The year-round night and morning fog provides a temperate, wet climate, that enables rhododendron, salal, skunk cabbage, blackberry, huckleberry, thimbleberry, and salmonberry bushes to grow as if possessed with growth hormones and forming impenetrable thickets. And though the perfect climate for redwoods, the prominent trees in the park are hemlock, alder, spruce, fir and pine.
The 640-acre park perches on top of a tree- and meadow-covered headland at the south end of Agate Beach, and for hikers, trails carve through the thick foliage and along a long sandy beach with hidden pocket beaches and a rocky shoreline. From several prominent trail viewpoints you can spot migrating gray whales traveling between their winter feeding and summer birthing grounds, along with millions of birds on their spring and fall migrations.
The Octopus Tree Trail winds through a grove of massive old-growth Sitka spruce. The trail’s name comes from the trees that originally grew out of and over downed tree stumps, extending their roots to the rich soil below the stump. After the stumps rotted away, the trees were left standing on their roots that resemble the arms of an octopus.
The level and easy, but serpentine Rim Trail is at times like a rabbit warren, as it burrows through the dense coastal under-story, often dripping like a light rain from the morning fog. Towering trees loom overhead reaching into the fog layer and grabbing life-giving moisture.
The two-mile-long trail circles the western, ocean side of the campground, winding along the cliff edge, from which six roughly quarter-mile side trails drop down to rocky coves for tide-pooling and beachcombing, or to overlooks at Wedding Rock, Rocky Point and Abalone Point. From Palmer’s Point you can backtrack along the cliff or head diagonally across the center of the park.
For some of the best views in the park, take the short but steep climb to the top of Ceremonial Rock, an ancient sea stack left like a lonely sentinel by the retreating sea level, which now rises abruptly from the meadow in the center of the park. It was used for a scene in the filming of the first Jurassic Park movie, so if you see any stray velociraptors or Tyrannosaurus Rexes roaming around, report them to a park ranger.
At the rear, eastern side of the park, stroll through the Native Plant Garden for a better understanding of the local plants, those that grow between the seaward slope of the Coast Range and the ocean, and how they use and depend on the fog for survival. Adjacent to the garden, visit the reconstructed Yurok village of Sumeg to see how the local Yuroks lived. The plank-constructed structures have been built from local redwoods and include family houses, a sweat lodge, and a dance house where local Native Americans hold annual celebrations.
One hundred feet below the park’s northern ragged cliffs, long sandy Agate beach juts out into the long swells rolling in from the North Pacific. Just south of the beach at the base of the headland, the pounding surf has carved fanciful sea stacks and carved rocky tide pools.
A path descends down the cliff to Agate Beach, named for the surf polished agates that can be found among the pebbly beach rocks and sand as well as unusual finds among the beach’s driftwood collection.
Five miles south of the park, the historic town of Trinidad, discovered by Spanish explorer Captain Bruno de Hezeta on Trinity Sunday in 1775, was the first incorporated town on the North Coast and is the smallest incorporated town in California with just over 300 residents. During the gold rush years, Trinidad was home to 3,000 residents, most having come because of the gold. When the gold gave out, so did the residents, who moved on to other places.
One hundred twenty-four family campsites are spread through the three campgrounds in the park on Hwy. 101, 25 miles north of Eureka and 56 miles south of Crescent City.
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