Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon SP12-4

A few weeks back I ventured to Fern Canyon, a small but lush canyon lined with ferns in Prairie Creek State Park. In the summer months, the canyon can be over-run by tourists during the day, particularly on the weekend. To get around this problem, I came in the early morning. There is, however, a bit of a problem if you decide to come early: the entry to the canyon via Davidson road doesn’t open until 9 am. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because if you arrive at the canyon before 9 am, you’ll have it all to yourself. It is a curse in that you cannot arrive via Davidson Road, which provides the only vehicle access to the canyon. You must take the “scenic route,” which involves hoofing your way in from another section of the park. There are two hoofing trails that are a bit over 4.5 miles: (1) via the Miner’s Ridge – James Irvine Trail; and (2) via the Ossagon Trail. Taking the scenic route saves you the $8.00 entrance fee, charged at the Davidson Road entrance.

The James Irvine Trail looks like this:

I, however, choose the Ossagon Trail, which looks like this:

The advantage of the Ossagan Trail is that it’s mostly downhill to the coastal trail, which is entirely level, so you can get there a little quicker. The trail starts from Newton B. Drury Parkway. It briefly climbs 100’ to the 700’ “pass,” and then, after a mostly flat stretch, descends to the coast. From the coast, you go south to Fern Canyon. The hike is 4.7 miles and takes two hours. I left at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and arrived at the mouth of Fern Canyon at 8:30. There was not a soul there. I had the canyon all to myself for the next hour.

It’s a challenging canyon to photograph. If the suns out, you get terrible speckled light. If it’s overcast, you have to work with a sky that is much brighter than the canyon itself, and which photographs an ugly, blue-tinged bright white:

Probably the best light would be when the fog is just beginning to break, and the sunlight comes in soft and filtered. No such luck when I was there. I had to make the best of it with the reigning fog. Because I needed focal range diversity, I took with me my 16-45mm APS-C lens, which was just right for the canyon. Can’t say I took any spectacular shots, but it was fun nonetheless trying to capture it in pixels:

As can be seen, there is a stream that runs through the canyon, as well as the remnants of large trees (although not redwoods) scattered about. The area around Fern Canyon receives about 70 inches of rain a year, most of it falling between November and April. This is a wet place in the winter. In the summer, the park places boards at strategic places across the creek, so that visitors to the canyon can navigate their way along the fern carpeted walls without getting their feet wet:

Some climbing may be required to get over the logs jammed in the canyon:

About a half a mile up the canyon, the trail veers to the left and heads to a loop trail above the canyon. The canyon disappears up a creek, in thick vegetation:

There is an unusual tree to be found this far up the canyon: the Sasquatch Rubbing Tree, where the local Bigfoot, who lives far up the canyon where no one dares venture to go, aggressively rubs himself:

As is evidenced by the tree, he is a very bony sasquatch, with knobs for shoulders.

The loop trail that rises above the canyon goes through a thick forest. Don’t ask me what trees make up this forest. All I know is that they are not redwoods, which don’t grow this close to the ocean:

North of the canyon, just off the coastal trail, are several whispy waterfalls:

Beware of the elk. There’s a small bachelor herd, with immense, blood-tipped antlers, roaming in these parts. I ran across three of them on my way to the canyon. One of them refused to get out of my way. Being burdened with delicate camera equipment, I decided not to have it out with him, opting instead to bush-whack around him. But next time he better watch it. He may not be so lucky.