JARS v58n3 - Plant Hunting Without A Car

Plant Hunting Without A Car
A Diary of Exploring for Previously Discovered Outstanding Plants of Rhododendron occidentale and Hunting for New Outstanding Plants of the Species
Mike McCullough
San Jose, California

Since 1977 I have been exploring for Rhododendron occidentale , the western azalea, at Stagecoach Hill and other places. Stagecoach Hill is located about eight miles south of Orick and about fourteen miles north of Trinidad along Highway 101 in Humboldt County, California, off Kane Road. Stagecoach Hill is the best place to see the western azalea, and Britt Smith and Frank Mossman explored extensively in this area, and I have taken part in several of their expeditions.

In 2002 I intended to conduct a major Rhododendron occidentale and Big Foot hunt in locations in Oregon where the western azalea can be found, and places where Big Foot has allegedly been sighted, but before I could start the expedition my van started acting up, and the transmission eventually went out. In April 2003 I treated myself to a birthday present by taking the Greyhound bus to Eugene, Oregon, using the local bus system to visit Hendrick’s Park and Greer Gardens. In May 2003 I took the Greyhound to San Diego to see the arrival of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. So I thought that if I could take an overnight bus ride to Eugene or San Diego I could take an overnight bus ride to Orick, walk about eight miles south to Stagecoach Hill, explore for R. occidentale , spend the night on the hill, do some more exploring, walk back to Orick, and take the Greyhound home - and that is what I did.

Humboldt County

May 26-28, 2003 . On the 26th of May 2003 I left San Jose at 8:30 p.m. and arrived at Orick at 6:30 a.m. on the 27th. The Shoreline Gas and Market, which is the Greyhound station, is not far north of the 120 mile marker, and Kane Road is across Highway 101 from the 112.55 mile marker. I have a walking speed of four miles per hour that under normal conditions I could maintain for quite some time. So I reasoned that I would arrive at Stagecoach Hill at least before 10 a.m. It did not work out that way.

I had a breakfast of cold MREs (meals ready to eat), trail mix, and candy bars at the picnic area that is south of the Redwood National Forest Visitor’s Center. Because of the material I was carrying - stuff ranging from solar blankets to MREs, and my gallon-size canteen - I was considerably weighted down, and my speed was much slower than I intended. I had on my back a daypack, a duffel bag with most of my equipment including my ice chest backpack (for storing cuttings), and my canteen. I did not arrive at the state park’s Dry Lagoon Visitor’s Center, which is about halfway between Orick and Stagecoach Hill, until 9:30 a.m. A sign at the Visitor’s Center said that Freshwater Lagoon is located three miles north and and Big Lagoon is located three miles south. South of the 112.82 mile marker is an abandoned section of Highway 101. I arrived here at 11:15 a.m. This section is to the west of the highway, and I have discovered several azaleas in the area. Here can be found the plant of Rhododendron occidentale recorded as Stagecoach 401. (In subsequent reference to specific plants of R. occidentale , the recorded name, e.g., Stagecoach 401, will be used without including the species name of R. occidentale ). The plant is approximately 10 feet (3m) tall with 2¾-inch (6.9cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers, twelve to fifteen per truss, pink tube, and an orange flare with a pink line running down the center; Stagecoach 1802, which has 2½-inch (6.3cm) pink and white candy-stripe (mostly pink) flowers, fifteen per truss, and a pink tube, orange flare with a pink line running up the center, and pink freckles in the upper part of the flare; and Stagecoach 2201, which is an approximately 10-foot (3m) tall azalea with 2¼-inch (5.6cm) reddish-pink and white candy-stripe flowers, eighteen per truss, with the upper petal having a reddish pink ray in the center, with a band of yellow-orange around it, a red ½-inch (1.3cm) tube and red rays extending up the outside of the flower. I took photographs and collected cutting material to be taken to the Strybing Arboretum. I left the area of the abandoned road at 1:04 p.m. and arrived in the area south of the Half Mile Loop Trail at Stagecoach Hill at 2:50 p.m., since I had a difficult time heading up the road to Stagecoach Hill from Highway 101. I set up base camp south of the Loop Trail.

R. occidentale SM 401
R. occidentale SM 401. Stagecoach Hill, Humboldt County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

My original plan was to do a loop of Stagecoach Hill, starting with the area of the plant SM 502, head to the area where R. occidentale ‘Leonard Frisbee’ is located, proceed to the road that goes to the abandoned house where SM 412, SM 501, SM 804, and SM 901 are located and head north to Stagecoach 1901,which is on the dirt road that parallels the utility poles and is not far north of the pole marked 22/2, and SM 401, which is on a section of the South Fork of the Kane Road Y to which you can drive on the way to the gate that blocks the road that parallels the utility poles. Since I arrived quite late, I decided to walk to SM 401, and if I had the energy to make it to Stagecoach 1901, which is further south on the road. I only made it to SM 401. I took photographs and cuttings. SM 401 is a floriferous shrub, whose dominant color of the large flowers is deep pink, and the wide petals have fringed margins; the orange flare is usually divided by a deep pink strip and spots.

R. occidentale SM 502
with dark leaves
Britt Smith of Kent, Washington, an R. occidentale explorer, noticed in summer 2003
that his plant of SM 502 in his garden produced a dark leaf that is usually seen only in the wild.
Photo by Britt Smith

On the way back to base camp, I headed up the North Fork of the Y which heads to the Loop Trail. In this area can be found, from south to north, Stagecoach 1203, 1803, 1103, and 1801.

Stagecoach 1203 is a 3-foot (0.9m) tall azalea with 1¼-inch (3.1cm) pink flowers, and up to twenty-five per truss. Stagecoach 1803 is a 7-foot (2.1m) tall plant, which is about eight strides wide, and has 2-inch (5cm) pink and white candy-stripe (mostly pink) flowers. Stagecoach 1103 is a 3-foot (0.9m) tall plant that was squashed during one of the clearing activities. It has a 2-inch (5cm) pinkish flower and a red flare with yellow around the edges.

Stagecoach 1801 is a 3-foot (0.9m) tall azalea with 2-inch (5cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers, fourteen to fifteen per truss, and a red flare which is surrounded by orange that fades to yellow.

R. occidentale
Stagecoach 1801
R. occidentale Stagecoach 1801. Stagecoach Hill, Humboldt County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

There should have been another azalea in the area, Stagecoach 1302. As you are heading up the North Fork of the Y you pass two utility lines which cross the road. From the pole of the northerly line that is next to the road head fifteen strides south and twelve strides west. This 8-foot (2.4m) tall azalea with 1¾-inch (4.4cm) pink flowers, eleven per truss, and a red flare with a little orange on each side, has been missing for the last two times I was at Stagecoach Hill.

In the area of Stagecoach 1103 and 1801, which is east of the road, someone has planted some R. occidentale , which are mixed with the naturally growing R. occidentale . These plants can have originated from Stagecoach Hill, Crescent City Flats, Mount Tamalpais, Big Basin, Yosemite, Mount Palomar, someone’s garden, the Cydonia region of Mars, or somewhere else. These plants could easily fool someone who is thinking that they are looking at plants that are native to the area.

I headed back to base camp where I had a dinner of cold MREs, small beef sticks, trail mix, and candy bars. Sleeping under space blankets is not as comfortable as sleeping in a sleeping bag.

On the 28th, I decided to explore the area between the Loop Trail and the road. In this area, the non- Rhododendron occidentale shrubs have been generally cleared and the azaleas marked with a ribbon to keep them from being damaged, though Stagecoach 1103 in one of the cleanups was smashed. One time, some years ago, I had to tunnel my way through ceanothus from SM DD 12 thirty strides north to Stagecoach 902.

Near the southwest corner of the Loop Trail is a bench. Not far from the bench are Stagecoach 1202, Stagecoach 1604, Stagecoach 2202, and Stagecoach 2203.

Stagecoach 1202 is a 4-foot (1.2m) azalea growing on the east side of an azalea thicket with salal and wild blackberries nearby. It has 2-inch (5cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers, eighteen per truss, orange flare with pink running down the length of the flower, and a red tube. Stagecoach 1604 is a 4-foot (1.2m) tall plant in an azalea thicket south of a Sitka spruce forest, with salal, wild blackberries, and wild roses in the area. A Sitka spruce is attempting to grow inside the azalea. Ceanothus is to the east of the azalea. It has 2-inch (5cm) pink and white flowers with a yellow flare. The yellow is overlapping into the upper two wing petals.

Stagecoach 2202 is a 2-foot (0.6m) plant just south of Stagecoach 1604 with twenty-three 1½-inch (3.8cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers per truss. Some flowers have six petals with the upper two being yellow. Petals are much frilled. It has a pink tube. Stagecoach 2203 is seventeen strides west of Stagecoach 1604 and 2202, and like them it is to the south of a lot of Sitka spruce. A ceanothus is to the southeast. It has nineteen 2½-inch (6.3cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers per truss. Some flowers have six petals with the upper two being yellow.

In this area I discovered three new azaleas: Stagecoach Hill 2401, Stagecoach Hill 2402, and Stagecoach Hill 2403. I use a numbering system similar to explorers Britt Smith and Frank Mossman, but different. Instead of using something such as MMc, I use the location of the plant. Britt Smith and Frank Mossman started with SM 1. I started with Palomar 101, in my second year I started with Idyllwild 201, and in the third year started with Idyllwild 301. This is my twenty-fourth year of numbering plants that I have discovered so I began with 2401. (SM 401 was discovered on the fifth year of Britt Smith and Frank Mossman’s expeditions.)

Stagecoach Hill 2401 is a small plant that is twenty-five strides north of the bench in the southern part of the loop, and four strides west of the trail. It may be a sport of the larger Stagecoach 2402. It has twenty-seven 2-inch (5cm) pink and white (mostly pink) flowers per truss, a yellow flare with red going up through the center of the flare, a red tube and reddish pink rays going up the center of the outside of the petal.

Stagecoach Hill 2402 is a 4-foot (1.2m) azalea located just south of Stagecoach 2401. Stagecoach 2401 may be a sport of this. It has twenty-four 1½-inch (3.8cm) pink and white (mostly pink) flowers per truss and a pink flare. Stagecoach Hill 2403 is a 4-foot (1.2m) azalea located sixty-one strides east up the trail from the bench and then eight strides north. It is seven strides south of Stagecoach 1202. It has fifteen 2¼-inch (5.6cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers and an orange flare. On the outside of the flower pink rays are running the length of the petals. It has a pink tube.

Further north a utility line crosses the Loop Trail and heads west to the pole along the road where Stagecoach 1203 is and Stagecoach 1302 used to be. To the right of the trail, where the utility line crosses the trail, is an azalea with petaloidy flowers that was discovered by Hal Braafladt on one of Frank Mossman’s expeditions. Twenty yards east of here is Stagecoach 904. Also in this area are Stagecoach 903, Stagecoach 1409, and Stagecoach 1503. Stagecoach 903 is sixty-two strides east of Stagecoach 902, south of a ceanothus. An approximately 4-foot (1.2m) plant is to the west of a taller plant. The Loop Trail is 9 feet east (around the taller plant). It has pink and white candy-stripe flowers and an orange flare with a red streak running down it.

Stagecoach 904 is about 7 feet (2.1m) tall with 2½-inch (6.3cm) pink and white flowers, twenty-one per truss. Stagecoach 1409 is a 3-foot (0.9m) tall azalea growing in salal and wild blackberries. Other azaleas are nearby. It has a 2-inch (5cm) white flower, sixteen to eighteen per truss, pink tube and pink rays extending the length of the petal with some pink extending out from the rays, and a yellow flare. It was almost in full bloom when discovered on Oct. 21, 1993. I took trusses of this plant to the Western Regional Conference in Eureka.

Stagecoach 1503 has 2-inch (5cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers, sixteen per truss, an orange flare, red buds, and red on the leaf stem and on the underside of the leaf. It was not yet in full bloom when I discovered it on June 12, 1994.

After exploring this area I headed west paralleling the utility line to the Smith-Mossman azalea SM DD 12, which is about halfway between the Loop Trail and the road. SM DD 12 is about 5 feet (1.5m) and has large, broad, thick deep pink and white petals, which have frilled margins, with an orange flare. The leaves are large, rounded and thick, and the upper surface is plum-colored in the sun.

R. occidentale SM DD 12 R. occidentale SM DD 12 truss
R. occidentale SM DD 12. Stagecoach Hill, Humboldt County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

North of SM DD 12 are Stagecoach 902, Stagecoach 1401, Stagecoach 1403, and Stagecoach 1901. Stagecoach 902 is a 5-foot (1.5m) plant with 2½-inch (6.3cm) pink and white candy-stripe flowers, sixteen per truss, yellow flare with a pink line down the middle, and some picotee on wing petals. Stagecoach 1401 is approximately 6 feet (1.8m) tall with 2¼-inch (5.6cm) flowers, eleven to sixteen per truss. The center of the flare is a red streak with orange on either side of it, bordered by yellow. The upper two wing petals are pink, with an orange streak on the upper left wing petal. The lower wing petals are half pink and half white. It has a red tube and red running up the mid-rib outside the corolla.

Stagecoach 1403 is a 6-foot (1.8m) azalea with 1¾-inch (4.4cm) flowers, thirteen per truss, with a yellow flare on the upper petal with a red streak running down it. The upper two wing petals are almost entirely pink, and the lower wing petals are about half pink and half white. It was way past peak when observed in 1995. The mature 3 x 1-inch (7.5 x 2.5cm) leaves are a dark green, with purple-bronze new foliage.

Stagecoach 1901 has pastel pink 2-inch (5cm) flowers, fifteen to seventeen per truss, with a yellow flare, red tube and streaks along the mid-rib on the outside of the flower. South of SM DD 12 is Stagecoach 901 which has pink flowers, twenty-four per truss and a yellow flare with pink down the center which fades with age. I took photos and collected cutting material from most of these azaleas.

R. occidentale Stagecoach 1901
R. occidentale Stagecoach 1901. Stagecoach Hill, Humboldt County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

nbsp;       Also in the area of SM DD 12 is the Smith-Mossman azalea SM 207, which according to the Smith/Mossman Field Notes is about twenty-five strides east uphill. This azalea is 150 feet southwest of SM 206. Just 100 feet south of the east/west power line and 250 feet west of the pole and 150 feet north of SM 209. A brushy hillside of gentle slope was waist to head high in shrubs. Large flowers open deep apricot cream and turn cream and then white. Petals are interlaced by pink veins. Orange covers the entire upper petal, with twelve flowers per truss. I could not locate an azalea whose flowers matched the flowers of SM 207. If did, I could probably have located other SM discoveries, such as SM 302, which is a few feet east of SM 209.

I stopped plant hunting at 8:30 a.m. and decided to have breakfast. I left base camp at 9 a.m. and headed north towards Orick. I arrived at the Dry Lagoon State Park Visitor’s Center at 10:45 a.m. At 1:30 p.m. I arrived at the picnic area that is south of the Redwood National Forest Visitor’s Center and stayed there until 3:20 p.m., when it got too cold and windy. I arrived at the Shoreline Gas and Market at 3:50 p.m. and got aboard the Greyhound bus at 8:55 p.m. The bus passed Kane Road at 9:07 p.m. I arrived at the San Jose Greyhound Station at 7:45 a.m. on the 28th of May and arrived home via a VTA bus at 8:20 a.m.

On the 29th of May I took the Caltrain and the N Judah streetcar to the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco and hand delivered the cuttings to Don Mahony who is in charge of the nursery.

Santa Cruz County

June 16, 2003. In Santa Cruz County there are two state parks, Big Basin Redwoods and Henry Cowell Redwoods, within bus and bicycle range where the western azalea can be found. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California and has better redwoods than Muir Woods. In the July/August 2003 edition of VIA, the magazine of the American Automobile Association, Big Basin was chosen as the place to see redwoods. Along many of the creeks can be found Rhododendron occidentale . Besides redwoods and the western azalea, there can be found Douglas fir, knob cone pine, big leaf maple, red alder, California hazel, madrone, tan oak, manzanita, ceanothus, coffeeberry, huckleberry, Indian paintbrush, California fuchsia, several varieties of orchid, redwood sorrel, salal, wild ginger, and trillium. The temperatures in the summer and early fall can easily get into the high 80s, and in the winter it sometimes snows. The weather at Big Basin is comparable to the weather in the San Jacinto Mountains near Idyllwild, but I doubt if it gets as cold in the winter. The elevation at Big Basin ranges from sea level at Waddell Beach at the western end of Big Basin to over 2,280 feet (684m). The park headquarters is about at the 1,200-foot (360m) elevation. The Skyline to the Sea Trail starts at Castle Rock State Park in Santa Clara County and goes thrity-one miles to the mouth of Waddell Creek, Waddell Beach, and Highway 1.

On Monday the 16th of June, I bicycled from my apartment to the intersection of Bird Avenue and San Carlos Street where at about 6:10 a.m. I put my bicycle on the bike rack and boarded the Highway 17 express bus to the Boulder Creek County Club, which is about three miles west of Boulder Creek, which is nine miles east of big Basin. I arrived at the country club at 7:53 a.m. The bus stop is near the 3.36 mile marker on Highway 236. The Big Basin headquarters is past the 9 mile mark. On this trip I traveled much lighter than I did on my trip to Stagecoach Hill. I only had my backpack with several soft drink cans and my camera, my ice chest backpack, and my 1-gallon canteen. I bicycled west on Highway 236. I spotted some Rhododendron occidentale near the 45 MPH sign that is not far west from the 3.36 sign. Because of the steep slope going down to these plants, I decided to explore them later. These plants are not far east from the "NAVA-HO" sign and the 3.75 mile marker. If I number one of these plants, before the number will be "Boulder Creek." From the area of the Taungplul Monastery and the 4.86 mile marker, the road became so steep that I had to walk the bicycle to Little Basin Road, which is between the 6.42 and 6.67 mile markers. The eastern boundary of Big Basin is just west of the 7.76 mile marker.

I glided downhill to twenty-five strides south of the 8.39 sign on the north side of Highway 236 where Big Basin 2101 is located. This azalea, growing next to the road, is approximately 6 feet (1.8m) tall, has 2⅜-inch (6cm) white flowers with an orange flare that fades out with age, and has twenty-three flowers per truss. From the 8.45 sign on Highway 236 I headed north to space 166 at the Sempevriens Campground. From the oak at the south side of the entrance to campsite 166, 15 strides east, is found Big Basin 2102, which is a multi-stemmed plant about 18 feet (5.4m) tall, something like GG 2 but not as old. Huckleberry is growing next to the azalea. The white flowers are 2⅛ inches (5.3cm) wide, sixteen per truss, and the orange flare fades out with age; some pink is in the tube.

Near the 8.66 mile marker is a road that goes to several campgrounds, Sempevriens Falls, and Big Basin 601, which is upstream of the falls. While Big Basin 2101 and Big Basin 2102 were in Bloom, Big Basin 601 was not. This azalea is a tall plant growing on the west bank of Sempevriens Creek with 2¼-inch (5.6cm) white flowers with a yellow flare, eighteen per truss, and blush pink in the upper tube. It blooms late May into June.

Big Basin Park Headquarters is just north of the 9.16 mile marker. According to the sign on Highway 236, just north of the Park Headquarters and near the 9.35 marker, Big Basin is twenty-three miles from Saratoga, thirty-four miles from San Jose, nine miles from Boulder Creek, twenty-three miles from Santa Cruz, and sixty-seven miles from San Francisco. I arrived at Park Headquarters at 9:35 a.m. There were many azaleas in bloom planted near the parking lot and several of the park buildings. I will not number any of these.

I went by the store to get stuff for lunch, but the store did not open until 10 a.m. I bicycled north on North Escape Road, which parallels Opal Creek, to the trail that goes to the Maddocks Cabin Site and hiked 150 strides along the trail to Big Basin 1701, which is growing along Opal Creek. Big Basin 1701 is approximately 15 feet (4.5m) tall with 2½-inch (6.3cm) white flowers, sixteen to twenty-one per truss, and a yellow flare that fades with age. It was close to full bloom when discovered on June 11, 1996. Of the azaleas in this area in June 1996 this had the most flowers. Very few of the azaleas north of here, along Opal Creek, in 1996 had flowers because of the high amount of shade. I noticed a multi-stemmed 12-foot (3.6m) azalea that is eight strides up Opal Creek from Big Basin 1701 and decided to number it Big Basin 2404. This azalea has 2½- inch (6.3cm) white flowers with an orange flare, twelve per truss. There is slippage of the orange from the flare onto the adjoining petals. Part of the plant overhangs the creek.

I bicycled south to a bit north of the first roadblock on North Escape Road to the first picnic area to the west that one would encounter north of the roadblock. I went past the picnic area to Big Basin 602, which is approximately 12 x 12 x 12 feet (3.6 x 3.6 x 3.6m); it has 2⅜-inch (6cm) white flowers, an orange flare - the orange sometimes spreads to adjoining petals, sixteen to twenty per truss, and pink in the upper part of the tube. It blooms late May into June and is a good seed producer. The fall before I numbered this plant, I discovered it and noticed that there was much seed. I decided to number it if there were worthwhile flowers.

Across Opal Creek from Big Basin 602 is Big Basin 2205, which is a stemmed, 15-foot (4.5m) shrub with twelve 2¾-inch (6.9cm) white flowers per truss that have an orange flare that fades to yellow. Some flowers have some pink of the tube.

I bicycled south to where Gazos Creek Road joins North Escape Road and crossed the bridge going over Opal Creek. Dominating the northwest corner of the bridge is Big Basin 1004, which is approximately 15 feet (4.5m) tall. White flowers with an orange flare with a slight yellow spill over the adjoining petals, eighteen flowers per truss and some pink on the tube. Some flowers have pink rays extending the length of the tube.

R. occidentale Big Basin 1004
R. occidentale Big Basin 1004. Big Basin Redwoods
State Park, Santa Cruz County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

I bicycled back to the store and got a sandwich and some candy bars for lunch. West of the bridge where Big Basin 1004 is located is a picnic area where the McCulloughs have had picnics since the 1950s. I had lunch there at 11:40 a.m. Near the picnic area is a fallen redwood, heading uphill, which I used to walk on when I was a kid. The fallen tree has much deteriorated.

After lunch I crossed the bridge and walked the bike on the Skyline to the Sea Trail and the trail that goes to Hihn-Hamond Road, paralleling Opal Creek to Hihn-Hamond Road near where Opal Creek joins Waddell Creek. Not far from Opal Creek are Big Basin 1404 and 2103. Big Basin 1404 is an 18- foot (5.4m) tall and 25-foot (7.5m) wide azalea with 2¼-inch (5.6cm) white flowers, yellow flare with a white streak down the middle, thirteen to sixteen per truss, and a pink tube. Big Basin 2103 has 2⅝-inch (6.6cm) flowers with an orange flare that fades out with age.

When I got to Hihn-Hamond road I bicycled east to a sign that states "Trail Access" on the east side and "Trail" on the west side and is west of Campsite 110 of the Blooms Creek campground. Thirty-five strides east of the sign is AO 2, which was discovered by Cameron Ainsworth and Howard Oliver on one of my R. occidentale expeditions in 1991. From the Trail Access you can go to Blooms Creek Trail and Pine Mountain Trail. There are two logs in front of the azalea, the closest one being smaller. The azaleas is about 12-15 feet (3.6-4.5m) tall with 2-inch (5cm) white flowers with an orange flare with a white line running down the middle, twenty-two flowers per truss, the flare fading to light yellow with age. The tube has pink on the upper surface.

There are two other western azaleas in Big Basin that were too far away to go to. Big Basin 603 is up Pine Mountain Trail, and Big Basin 1408 is on the Skyline to the Sea Trail between Waddell Beach and the path to Berry Creek Falls. I left AO 2 at 12:50 p.m. and bicycled along Highway 236 all the way to Boulder Creek. Shortly after I got on the highway I noticed some Rhododendron occidentale in bloom in the Blooms Creek campground. I decided to explore these at a later date. Between the 7.48 mile marker and Little Basin road I had to walk my bike. I arrived at Little Creek road at 1.47 p.m.; from here it was mostly downhill to Boulder Creek, which is at an elevation of 490 feet (147m). I passed the monastery at 1:47 p.m. and passed the Boulder Creek Country Club bus stop at 1:54 p.m. - there was no bus. I arrived at the intersection of highway 236 and Highway 9 at 2:12 p.m. and at 2:15 p.m. got on a 35 Santa Cruz Metro bus going to Scotts Valley. Not all of the thirty-five busses go to the Country Club. I got on the Highway 17 Express bus at 3 p.m. and arrived at the San Jose bus stop at 3:45 p.m. and arrived home a little after 4 p.m.

The distance from Orick to Stagecoach Hill is comparable to the distance between Boulder Creek and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. My mountain bicycle has the racks for saddle bags, but I have yet to obtain saddle bags. I wonder if Greyhound allows fully loaded bicycles in the bus baggage area. If so, the next time I go to Stagecoach Hill, I might get off the bus at Trinidad, bicycle up the mostly level road that goes past Patrick’s Point State Park, and join Highway 101 south of the causeway that crosses big Lagoon, then cross the causeway, head the three miles up to Kane Road, walk the bicycle up the road, and leave the bicycle at wherever I decide to have base camp. This route is longer than coming from Orick but is flatter. The only areas I would have to walk the bike in heading north will be perhaps a section of the three miles north of the causeway and heading up Kane road. Using a bicycle with saddlebags, I could take all the heavy weight off my shoulders. The weight considerably slowed me down in the hike to Stagecoach Hill.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz County

June 17, 2003 . The next day, Tuesday, the 17th of June, I again bicycled to the bus stop located on Bird Avenue, just south of San Carlos Street, and at about 7:10 a.m. took the Highway 17 Express bus to Scotts Valley, and the 31 Santa Cruz Metro bus to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, via Santa Cruz. Henry Cowell is bigger than Muir Woods but smaller than Big Basin, and all three feature short and easy hikes through redwoods.

In all the times I have hiked at Muir Woods, I have yet to see the western azalea in bloom because of too much shade. I had to walk about a mile up the Bootjack Trail from Muir Woods before I found Mt. Tam 1310 in bloom. There are better azaleas at Mount Tamalpais State Park along the Cataract Trail (Mt. Tam 1311), Potrero Meadows (Mt. Tam 1312, Mt. Tam 1804, Mt. Tam 2302, and Mt. Tam 2303), Azalea Meadow Trail and the adjoining Azalea Flat (Mt. Tam 1313, Mt. Tam 2304, and Mt. Tam 2305), and along the Bootjack Trail. I prefer Big Basin and Henry Cowell to Muir Woods.

The main area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park features fifteen miles of hiking and riding trails through a forest that looks much the same as it did 200 years ago, where can be found redwoods, Douglas fir, madrone, oak, knob cone pine, and ponderosa pine. The tallest redwood in the park is about 285 feet (85.5m) tall and about 16 feet (4.8m) wide. The oldest redwoods in the park are about 1,400 to 1,800 years old. Henry Cowell is bigger than Muir Woods but smaller than Big Basin. This park is perhaps the easiest park to get to in order to see the western azalea. Metro bus 31 goes to near the east entrance on Graham Hill Road; and it is about a mile north on Highway 9 to the Metro bus 35 stop located at a shopping center in Felton. Next to Henry Cowell is the Roaring Camp Big Trees Railroad where you can ride on steam powered trains; some trains travel all the way to Santa Cruz during the summer.

I arrived at Scotts Valley at 7:45 a.m., transferred to the Metro 31 bus, and arrived at Santa Cruz at 8:17 a.m., and at the bus stop on Graham Hill Road near the Eagle Creek Trailhead of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park at 8:40 a.m. I walked my bicycle west downhill on the Eagle Creek Trail.

R. occidentale
Cowell 701
R. occidentale Cowell 701 flower, Henry Cowell Redwoods
State Park, Santa Cruz County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

Two of my azaleas are on Eagle Creek Trail, Cowell 701 and Cowell 1314. In this area, watch out for poison oak. Cowell 701 is not far west of the Graham Road trailhead and is located before the trail fords the creek. This azalea is about 8 feet (2.4m) tall, with 2⅜-inch (6cm) flowers with a yellow flare, fourteen per truss and a pink tube. Howard Oliver planted a plant of Cowell 701 at Lakeside Park in Oakland, not far from the Lakeside Garden Center where the California Chapter of the ARS have their meetings.

R. occidentale
Cowell 701
R. occidentale Cowell 701 flower, Henry Cowell Redwoods
State Park, Santa Cruz County, California.
Photo by Mike McCullough

Cowell 1314 is 145 strides west of the bridge that crosses Eagle Creek, or 15 strides east of the easterly one of the five steps, and is on the north side of the trail, growing next to poison oak. This azalea has 2¼-inch (5.6cm) white flowers with a yellow flare, eleven per truss and some pink in the tube.
Between Cowell 1314 and the bridge is a fairly new trail that heads north past a bench and goes through a grove of the western azalea. In 2002 when I first went up this new trail, I noticed some azaleas in bloom. They were not in bloom in 2003. But between Cowell 1314 and the easterly of the five steps there was a grove of azaleas in bloom that were not in bloom in 2002. One of these I numbered Cowell 2405.
To get to Cowell 2405 from Cowell 1314 head seven strides west, or from the uppermost of the five steps head seven strides east, then ten strides north. This 12-foot (3.6m) azalea is growing at the edge of an azalea thicket. Redwoods, oak, madrone, redwood sorrel, ferns and poison oak are growing by. The plant was about halfway past peak bloom when discovered. There are thirteen to fifteen 2½-inch (6.3cm) white flowers with a yellow flare that almost fades out with age. Tubes are pink.
I walked the bicycle down Eagle Creek Trail and then bicycled along Pipeline Road that in this area parallels the San Lorenzo River. I bicycled past the Picnic Area and the entrance to the Redwood Grove Loop Trail, and went via the west entrance to Highway 9 and bicycled north to the Metro 35 bus stop in Felton. The elevation of Felton is 290 feet (87m).
Rhododendron occidentale at the main unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has been reported in the area of the Rincon along the San Lorenzo River, but in 2002 when I explored the San Lorenzo River and Zayante Creek north from the Rincon to the old Felton Covered Bridge (which is the largest covered bridge on the west side of the United States) and Graham Hill Road I found no azaleas. During the drought I noticed some R. occidentale growing at the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell, which is northwest of Felton, but in my 2002 expeditions and earlier expeditions I found nothing.
When I arrived at the Felton bus stop at 10:36 a.m. there was a bus waiting and also at Scotts Valley at 10:50 a.m. I thought of bicycling from Scotts Valley to Granite Creek Road, bicycling to where Granite Creek 1315 is located near 610 Granite Creek Road, heading east on Granite Creek Road to Branchaforte Road, bicycling past the Mystery Spot to De la Vega Park where De la Vega 2001 is located, and then down Branchaforte Road to Santa Cruz rather than taking busses back to Scotts Valley. Being tired and not wanting to miss the last bus to San Jose, which leaves Scotts Valley at 6:45 p.m., I decided to head home. I left Scotts Valley at noon, arrived at the Bird and San Carlos bus stop at 12:45 p.m., and got home sometime after 1 p.m.
On Wednesday, the 18th of June, I again took the Caltrain and the N Judah streetcar to the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco and hand delivered the cuttings to Don Mahony.

Mike McCullough is a member of the De Anza Chapter.