The breathtaking Lost Coast of California is probably one of the most pristine natural coast lines you can find in the US. In this part of the California North Coast that covers Humboldt and Mendocino counties, including the King Range, there are hardly any traces of human intervention on the landscape. In the 1930s, the area experienced depopulation as it would have been too costly to build a state highway or even county roads there due to the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains – hence the name “Lost Coast”. Today, it is the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast that is home to some amazing natural sceneries.
In the heart of this untouched wilderness, in Shady Dell forest in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, there is a small but rather bizarre-looking hillside grove of some impressively reiterated old-growth redwoods that are shaped like candelabras. Just a few feet off the ground, the trees seem to have been split into a dozen trunks, each reaching to the sky like huge candleholders.
Whereas redwoods typically grow straight up, the unique shape of these trees is due to stressors – strong winds and salty air above all – causing them to have sprouted branches near the ground. Then when conditions improved, the branches grew straight up, becoming secondary (reiterated) trunks.
The grove also has some smaller redwoods, but all the big redwoods are extensively reiterated, and there aren’t any signs of logging. In fact, it’s likely that the twisted trees survive today because they wouldn’t make very good lumber.
The medieval “Enchanted Forest” as it’s known by locals, is important for forest science. “We know that these gnarly branches and these strangely shaped trees create needed habitat for wildlife,” said Emily Burns, PhD, the League’s Director of Science. “We have a lot to learn from these trees. Their development offers clues into how the environment shapes redwood forests.”
Apart from the candelabra-shaped coast redwoods, Shady Dell’s diverse ecosystem includes a rich array of other plants and wildlife such as salmon, black bears, Roosevelt elk and mountain lions, as well as some unique flowers called “mycotrophs” which, unlike green plants, depend on fungi for food.
The redwood grove can be accessed via the 2.3-mile-long Peter Douglas Trail, created in 2016.