A Walk in the Forest Primeval

I love the name of this park: The Forest of Nisene Marks. Most California state parks have mundane descriptive names: Wilder Ranch, Big Basin, Angel Island, and so on. And while in reality Nisene Marks is simply the name of the mother of the family who donated the land to the state of California, to me it has a sound of mystery. I imagine dark primeval woods, populated by druids and ur-monsters, perilous to those who venture in too deep. The park is criss-crossed by faultlines, haunted by the remains of loggers’ activities, its deep ravines darkened by tall redwoods. Enter it if you dare!
Forest of Nisene Marks
Luckily, my recent hike there held no dangers, and I’m here to write about it — but the mood of mystery did seep into my photos.

The area of the Santa Cruz mountains now occupied by the park was heavily logged during the early 20th century, but few human remnants of that activity remain. This decaying trestle reminds me of a torii gate at a Japanese temple.
Forest of Nisene Marks trestle

The greatest reminder of the loggers’ clear-cutting is the large number of old stumps.
Tree stump in the Forest of Nisene Marks

Nature itself does a good job of creating a sense of mystery. Tree branches merge and entwine in unusual ways.
Twining trees in the Forest of Nisene Marks

Redwood roots, reaching down, bear an unnatural resemblance to monsters in old 1950s science-fiction movies.
Redwood roots, Forest of Nisene Marks

Uprooted stumps writhe against the sky.
Writhing roots, Forest of Nisene Marks

Deep canyons recall the swamps and forests of the Cretaceous.
Forest of Nisene Marks

Ancient trees, burned by lightining strikes, give way to fairy rings of younger trees.
Charred tree, Forest of Nisene Marks

The hollows of the burned trees look like entrances to the underworld. I can imagine Demeter pausing, gathering her courage before plunging under the earth to rescue Persephone, her daughter.
Forest of Nisene Marks

I found myself wondering if the Ohlone tribes who lived in this area had any such myths or legends. While on this train of thought, I stopped to admire an interesting and unusual root protruding from a rock face.
Interesting root, Forest of Nisene Marks

Turning slightly, I was amazed to see a spiral carved into the rock, just visible under the moss. Is this a Native American petroglyph? Or the doodling of a logger?
Rock spiral, Forest of Nisene Marks

And this:
Compass petroglyph, Forest of Nisene Marks

My questions only serve to add to the mysterious quality of the day. I urge you to visit the park, and find some mystery of your own!
Tree canopy, Forest of Nisene Marks

This hike was a 6.9-mile loop up to Maple Falls and back. I started at the Porter Family picnic grounds and took the Loma Prieta Grade up, returning via the Bridge Creek trail. And while there was a 600-800 foot elevation gain, the trails are for the most part old railroad beds from the days when these woods were being heavily logged, making the rise so gradual that it’s barely noticeable. And really, it’s not scary or creepy at all. I would highly recommend it.

This entry was posted in Walks and hikes. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Walk in the Forest Primeval

  1. Joanna says:

    Ha! After all the spooky pictures & references to Caltiki & other monsters you throw in the disclaimer at the end that it’s “not scary or creepy at all”.
    Um,…OK. We’ll visit, but we’re bringing shotguns just in case! And maybe bring some silver bullets, as well.
    I totally enjoyed the link to the Caltiki movie trailer! Haven’t seen that since a Saturday afternoon when I was maybe 10 years old??? Too funny. And not surprisingly, no longer scary. Dang!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *