Saturday, October 17, 2015


In the Jackson State Demonstration Forest

It used to take forever to get from Willits to Fort Bragg on CA 20.  As a kid, that was the last leg of our twice-yearly trips from Chico to the coast, and the thirty-three miles indicated on the map seem to consume a half a day.  That’s because, as a kid, I was only interested in getting to the ocean – and shopping at the five and dime on Franklin Street.

Now, while I still enjoy the whisper of the surf and dinner at Noyo, the means to the end are becoming more intriguing and worthy of pause.

Looking for a place to walk Edward the lab-mix off leash, I stumbled across a web link to the Jackson State Demonstration Forest.  (See notes below.) At mile marker 17.3 on CA 20, a well-graded dirt road (number 200) follows Chamberlain Creek leading north into the redwoods.  I’ve probably passed this intersection a hundred times.  Road 200 winds along creek-canyon walls and through groves of redwoods.  Were it not gated about six miles in, one could follow it all the way to the California Western right-of-way near North Spur.  When dry, the road is easily passable on a road-oriented motorcycle, but logging operations are active from time to time, so use caution.

The trailhead to Chamberlain Falls is about four miles in on road 200.  There is ample room for parking.  A well-maintained trail descends steeply down the canyon wall, at some points using wooden steps to ensure the safety of the visitor. 

Crossing a downed forest behemoth, we quickly find the creek bottom and, looking over our shoulder worry about the stiff climb out.

But not for long.  There is something in the chorus of silence in a redwood grove that dissolves worry.  Soon we are marveling at the light filtering through the centuries-old trees and thinking about the lucky elves who must enjoy these environs around dusk when no one is present to hear their giggles.

We know they’re here, because we see their houses.

Chamberlain Falls, after four years of sub-normal rainfall, still soldiers on valiantly against the drought.  Looking only as a mere damp section on a solid rock face, one can only imagine the volume of its cascade and accompanying song in a more normal circumstance. 

Exploration is easy because the forest floor is a clear understory, with the exception of the many large trees that lay like God’s Pick-Up-Stix in and around still-established survivors. 

At over six feet tall myself, I estimate the circumference of one giant by standing next to it…

…while Edward explores its length.  He’s happy.

Fears about the steep climb out of this idyllic place are allayed as we encounter a nicely groomed trail that switchbacks up the canyon-side of a tributary, looping back to the road while affording generous views of the enchanting elf-encampment below. 

After forty minutes and about 3.3 total miles (.5 of which are on Road 200) we return to the parking area – refreshed, renewed and excited about what other subtle treasures might be hidden along side the once-interminable highway 20 between Willits and Fort Bragg.

We head home looking forward to more explorations along this route.



Today’s Route:  US 101 to Willits; west on CA 20 17.3 mile to (unmarked) Road 200; north on 200.  (Landmark: a rest area is on CA 20 is located about 50 yards west and just across the Chamberlain Creek Bridge from the necessary turn-off.)  Follow Road 200 four to four-and-a-half miles to well-marked trailhead on left.  Return:  For a dose of the coast, continue west on CA 20.  Fort Bragg and CA 1 is 18 miles away; south on 1 (along scenic bluffs and through quaint villages) to CA 128 at the mouth of the Navarro River.  East on 128 (through redwoods, wineries and once-funky Boonville) to US 101.

Information on the Jackson State Demonstration Forest from “Mendocino Walks:”

About the Skunk Train (on the old California Western right-of-way):

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. What a great place for a hike. I love hiking through our coastal forests (Oregon). So much majesty in nature. I enjoy being able to soak up all those good forest vibes and fresh air.

    Thanks for sharing.