Caspar Creek North Fork
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|trail:||Single track trail in very good condition|
|difficulty:||Moderately easy except for steep climb of 600 feet at the end on return|
|length:||4+ miles round trip (2 miles and 3852 feet from START to NFC gauging station at the south end of the creek)|
Research Weirs (dams) and gauges along several miles of the creek that are used for evaluating the effects of timber management on streamflow, sedimentation and erosion. The study began in 1962 as a cooperative between California Department of Forestry and United States Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station. Please remember that this is an ongoing research project and all equipment and structures should be left untouched.
Take Highway 20 to Milepost 8.1. Turn south on Road 408 and continue to intersection of 408 and 500 (1 mile and 2546 feet). Turn right onto Road 500 and park on the immediate left side of the road where there is a pullout area. Just off the edge of the road, on the left, is the north end of the trail that goes along the Caspar Creek North Fork Watershed research area. In the beginning, as you walk downhill, partly on nicely built stairs, both sides of the canyon are heavily covered with lush sword ferns, sprinkled with redwood and Douglas fir trees. At the bottom of the canyon the vegetation changes slightly to a more varied terrain typical of a redwood forest. From here on, the trail follows on the very edge of the creek to reveal a close up view of the stream activity and eight or nine gauging stations along the way. You will cross numerous log bridges, preferably one person at a time. This is definitely one of the most spectacular trails in the forest!
Trail report - 24 July 2005
If this is a moderately easy trail for Nancy, I don't want to go on a difficult one with her. This trail, and the forest it passes through, demonstrates (1) the damage done by first cut Victorian era loggers ("Only good tree is a saw log!") and then by second cut Reagan era "scientific silviculturists" ("You seen one tree, you seen 'em all!"), (2) the love for the forest of those who really work in it (as distinct from the aforementioned desk-bound silviculturists), and (3) the brilliance of the "abatement by neglect" strategy of JDSF management in the context of the magnificently regenerative nature of a forest like this one. In places, the trail is rendered nearly impassable by down trees and overgrowth caused by nearby clear-cutting and too little stream buffer. Elsewhere, it is dangerously eroded, and small round pebbles on precipitous slopes leading to serious drop-offs make for a hazardous passage even for the sure-footed. The steps mentioned above may have been nice when built, but this forest reclaims inactive biomass like stairs, and the remaining pipes and metal pins add to the hazardous footing.
With all that said, it is a spectacular bit of forest, and the hazards and climb back out are well rewarded by the beauty of these woods. A great hike, but not for the faint of heart.
-- Michael Potts
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