Drive inland a bit from the forever-foggy Mendocino County coast and this is what you find: sunny meadows, a pastoral valley of apple orchards, vineyards and farmhouses, plus tall redwoods that escaped the logger’s ax.
Hendy Woods State Park, a 20-mile drive from the coast, is warmer and has an altogether different vibe than its cousins, the coastal redwood parks.
The land now comprising the state park was purchased a century ago by foundry owner Joseph Hendy, who later sold his property to the Masonite Corp. The corporation, in cooperation with the Save-the-Redwoods League, donated 405 acres to the state parks system in 1958.
While Hendy Woods, with two old-growth redwood groves, is rightly categorized as a “redwood park,” some locals are quick to point out that it could also be considered a “wine country park.” Anderson Valley, where the park is situated, is an emerging wine-making center.
Getting to the park is part of the fun: California 128 winds from Cloverdale, on U.S. 101, to the Mendocino Coast. Along the way are bucolic farms, vineyards and the drowsy hamlets of Yorkville, Boonville and Philo.
The Navarro River, which runs the length of the park, offers swimming (wading, really) in summer, canoeing and kayaking during late winter and early spring. Redwoods grow tall along the banks of the Navarro.
Hikers will enjoy the half-mile Discovery Trail, plus another nature trail (wheelchair accessible) that explores the redwoods.
This walk begins with a loop or two through the redwoods, then continues along the Navarro River.
Directions to trail head: From California 1, about 10 miles south of Mendocino, turn inland on California 128 and travel 20 miles southeast to Philo Greenwood Road. Turn right and drive half a mile to the entrance of Hendy Woods State Park. Follow the park road 1 3/4 miles to its end at the picnic area. (If you’re traveling California 128 northwest from Cloverdale and U.S. 101, you’ll proceed some eight miles past Boonville to the state park turnoff.)
There is a state park day-use fee.
New Age hikers staying at Shenoa Retreat, or folks staying at another private resort in the area, can begin this walk from near Shenoa Retreat, located off Ray’s Road, 2 1/2 miles from California 128. However, this area is private property; unless you’re a guest at one of these facilities, you should start your walk at the state park.
The hike: From the picnic area, follow the path into the redwoods. You’ll wind through the old-growth redwoods and their neighboring trees--madrone, Douglas fir, bay laurel and more. Soon after joining the two-looped Discovery Trail, take a right-forking trail that ascends to a gravel fire road.
After crossing a creek, wander among some impressive redwoods. You’ll pass two signed “Horse Trails” that lead down to some inviting Navarro River swimming holes, as well as a couple of fine picnic sites on the riverbanks.
Your turnaround point, about 1 1/2 miles from the trail head, could be at the state park boundary or a mile farther near Shenoa Retreat on the far outskirts of Philo.
Discovery, Navarro River Trails:
WHERE: Hendy Woods State Park.
DISTANCE: 3 miles round trip
TERRAIN: Virgin redwoods forest, wooded banks of the Navarro River.
HIGHLIGHTS: Interpretive trails, kayaking, swimming, steelhead fishing.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Easy
PRECAUTIONS: Plentiful poison oak.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Hendy Woods State Park, P.O. Box 440, Mendocino, Calif., (707) 937-5804.