Henry Cowell State Park: Hiking the Redwoods…with Kids…


My whole life I have heard of these trees and wanted to see them. I was stoked, a couple of weekends ago, when we finally got to go hiking among them! There’s a state park in Santa Cruz called Henry Cowell State Park that has mega redwoods galore. Did you know that there would be even more of them in this area, but beginning in 1850, an estimated 95% of these sequoias were cut down?  It takes hundreds of years for them to become the size you can drive a car through, though. Those are found on the Avenue of the Giants, further to the north.

The trees here were still enormous, so I feel like I can happily check that off my list. There was one historical, and seriously gigantic, tree that we all climbed into and stood around inside. Apparently, there was an explorer who spent the night in said tree and wrote about it in a book. Caleb was so excited about getting to go inside a redwood. He kept trying to go into the tree with all the other hiking groups. He also kept asking to “be the one to hold the flashlight.” That boy has zero inhibitions whatsoever.

That was really neat, but it was super dark inside the tree, so I didn’t get any pictures of that one.

Do you see the pure glee on Caleb’s face? These trees can be found from Monterey County on up into Oregon.

A sweet park tour guide saw our struggle to take photos and helped us out. After she took our picture, she talked to us for a while. Alan said to her, “Oh,you’ll like our boys’ names: Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and John David!”

I was thinking, “Huh? Why in the world would she care about that?” Then I noticed that she was, indeed, wearing a menorah necklace. “Oh,” I thought, but I don’t really know if she appreciated that reference to her faith/heritage or not. She didn’t really make much reply to Alan’s comment, but she was extremely helpful. So thank you, tour guide!

Do you see all those bush -like trees growing off the base of the trunk? This is how the redwood trees reproduce.

Because of the strong bark of these trees, they can survive forrest fires and lightning!

This is my kind of man.

John David gets the award for “grumpiest hiker,” but then, does that really surprise anyone? Next time, we’ll take the jogging stroller.

This is a vertical panoramic shot of the candelabra tree, taken by Alan. It was much taller than it appears here.

JD *said*, “My mama. My cup. Must reach past Daddy and get to my mama and my cup.”

This is what it’s typically like when we try to take a family photo.

What hiking with 4 little boys was really like:

It was fun, but it was work. That applies to pretty much everything we do, though. Hopefully, we’ll get to do this again soon. A stroller-friendly hiking trail is a rare find!

The park also has a Thomas the Train ride that goes around the perimeter. We were trying to avoid the hassle and expense of the train and food vendors. We wanted to just make it about hiking. That wasn’t easy.

We fielded quite a few “Aren’t we going to ride the train? Can we ride the train now?” questions. Why didn’t we? 1. We are….um…thrifty.  We didn’t even check to see how much the train costs.  #2. We didn’t have all the time in the world. Alan has enough homework to fill up the entire weekend and then some.

The kids handled the no train thing way better than I thought they would.

So that only left a couple of hitches. The tour guide told us not to let the boys behind the fence because the poison oak leaves have fallen off and the woods are eaten up in it, so you can be standing in poison oak twigs and not know it. : ( She also told us not to let them sit on the fence because they have splinters that burn.

I guess I’m glad she told us because I would not have thought of splinters or poison oak. I’m not really a big worrier. However, with those worries introduced, we were like the Caleb police.

To say Caleb has ants in his pants and a great sense of adventure is putting it lightly.

“Caleb! Don’t go behind the fence!”

“Caleb! Remember! Don’t go behind the fence!”

“Boys, don’t sent on the fence. Remember the splinters.”

The fence. The poison oak. The fence. The splinters. The poison oak. The train tracks.

There are also signs, letting you know that climbing the trees is prohibited.  So many rules.

“Caleb! No! They don’t want you to climb the trees here.”

“Yeah, I know, but he’s a grown up, and he isn’t supposed to either…..” or as the grown- man- that-was- trying- to- climb- the redwood’s friend said, “Yeah, but honey, he’s crazy.”

“Caleb, get down.”

“Don’t go behind the fence.”

“Alan, we’d better keep moving.”  Babies in backpacks cry less if you keep walking. This we know well.

The boys also tend to run way ahead of us, but we are pretty laid back and that doesn’t really bother us anymore. They stop periodically and wait for us to catch up.

At least if they were running ON the trail, that meant we didn’t have to remind Caleb to stay inside the fence.

Poor kid. He’s just not a beaten path kind of guy.

Lesson of the day: If you take a Caleb-type person to Henry Cowell, make sure they wear pants. 🙂 And no, none of us got poison oak.



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