Primeval forests with the world’s tallest trees

Travel Guide to California - - DEL NORTE COUNTY - BY PETER WATTS

WHEN STAR WARS CRE­ATOR Ge­orge Lu­cas was look­ing for a place to rep­re­sent the for­est moon of En­dor in Re­turn of the Jedi, he wanted “a jungly kind of place, the color of life, a cra­dle of life en­vi­ron­ment.”

He found his home for the Ewoks in Del Norte County, in the far up­per left hand cor­ner of Cal­i­for­nia, not far from the Ore­gon bor­der.

Some of the state’s most gor­geously primeval red­wood forests abound here, along with 37 miles of rugged, wave-bat­tered coast­line and great fish­ing.

The county boasts only one in­cor­po­rated city—cres­cent City, pop. 7,600—and even that has ten­u­ous foot­ing in this wild land. Much of the city was de­stroyed by a tsunami in 1964, and to­day one of its most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions is the Tsunami His­tor­i­cal Walk, with eight sites within easy walk­ing dis­tance of down­town.

Del Norte’s crown jewel is Jede­diah Smith Red­woods State Park, just a few miles in­land from Cres­cent City. There you’ll find more old-growth red­woods per acre than any­where else in Cal­i­for­nia. Densely packed with im­pos­si­bly tall, im­pos­si­bly an­cient trees, its 10,000 acres con­tain 7 per­cent of all old-growth red­woods in the world.

Take a drive along How­land Hill Road, an old stage­coach trail that cuts through the park. It’s been de­scribed as “hik­ing in a car” and “one of the best red­wood drives any­where.” Be pre­pared for any­thing from a smooth ride to a jud­dery suc­ces­sion of pot­holes, de­pend­ing on how re­cently it’s been resur­faced.

Light­house buffs make a bee­line for the Bat­tery Point Light­house, which has been in op­er­a­tion since be­fore the Civil War. You can only get there at low tide, so be sure to check the timeta­bles to make sure you have enough time to get back.

Be aware that the county name is not pro­nounced as you would ex­pect. It’s “Del Nort,” not the nor­mal Span­ish pro­nun­ci­a­tion of “Del Nor-tay.” It’s be­cause the area was orig­i­nally set­tled by dairy farm­ers from the Azore Is­lands, who used the Por­tuguese pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

DEL NORTE COAST RED­WOODS State Park, top; Bat­tery Point Light­house in Cres­cent City, be­low.

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