Hiking to Maple Falls at the Forest of Nisene Marks
Hiking through miles of densely wooded terrain, you would never know this land at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park was bare in 1923. Not a single tree left in the ground. All chopped down between 1883 and the 1923. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, now one of the biggest California State Parks, was a major logging operation with a railroad, residential housing, telegraph office and school. Look at the photo today. The current forest results from fantastic reforestation efforts and you will be walking through miles of second-growth redwoods that look like they’ve been there forever. What a beauty. Miracles do happen after all.
This portion of the Loma Prieta Grade trail follows old railroad tracks. The Southern Pacific Railroad had Chinese workers cut, grade and lay a standard gauge railroad up the steep canyon leading to the upper Aptos and its treasure trove of redwood trees. As a result some 150,000,000 board feet of lumber flowed down the railroad line to markets all over the world from 1883 to 1923 (you can find out more about this fascinating history in the Amended General Plan of the park). As we walked steadily up the canyon, we kept seeing eroded tracks and could see where bridges had disappeared and where the tracks resumed further up the trail.
I need to look up why China Camp was renamed Hoffman’s Historic Site but the truth of the matter is, there isn’t much standing there anymore. If not for the interpretive sign you might even walk by it and not notice. While there used to be a thriving community of 400 lumber workers, only collapsed roofs and broken doors remain. Come to think of it, it could be creepy but it’s all so quiet that you want to try hard and imagine a bustling village here.
As the girls were getting tired – it is a long and steady climb – we set out for the Bridge Creek Historic Site where we initially intended to turn back. However as we reached the junction, the Maple Falls seemed so close that we just couldn’t pass. An extra mile and we would call it a day, returning to the trailhead.
We sometimes had a hard time keeping up with the 6-year olds but the 4-year old kept tripping on roots and rocks so that was definitely slower. The effort was worth it though. With all the rain we’ve been having, the 30-foot tall falls were gushing fom a granite slab and splashing into a circular pool surrounded by maple trees. Quite the origin of the world.
Camping: As the park does not offer any camping options other than backpacking, we camped at the nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
2 thoughts on “Hiking to Maple Falls at the Forest of Nisene Marks”
Wow, a six mile hike with six and four year olds? Way to go. Interesting about China Camp, too, I was wondering how much still exists there.
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