Muir Woods National Park – Fort Cronkhite

Fort Cronkhite located in Marin County was a former military outpost during the World War II. A structure such as this was constructed to serve as temporary training grounds and housing for the soldiers during the war. Fort Cronkhite was completed in 1941 and is considered to be one of the best preserved military outposts in the country today.

During the Second World War, Fort Cronkhite was the base of more than a hundred Coast Artillery service men assigned to the harbor Defenses of San Francisco. These soldiers manned their stations and were always ready to defend the coast of San Francisco from possible enemy attacks. Luckily, these threats from the enemy never materialized.

Half a mile from the parking area of Fort Cronkhite along the Coastal Trail, one would be able to see the secret weapon of Fort Cronkhite – the Battery Townsley. To be able to reach the battery, one has to walk at least 45 minutes, a bit tiring and if you are not up to it, the park has facilities that could aid you in your tour. A description of the battery is as follows –

“ …was a casemated battery that mounted two 16-inch caliber guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100 pound, armor-piercing projectile 25 miles out to sea. The guns and their associated ammunition magazines, power rooms, and crew quarters were covered by dozens of feet of concrete and earth to protect them from air and naval attack” – The National Park Service, 2012

Battery Townsley was completed in 1940 and done in utmost secrecy. At that time, this was among the very top secrets of the military. Local San Francisco residents knew that there were batteries being installed in the bay area but they never really knew the locations.

 

 

Muir Woods National Park – Muir Beach Overlook

The Muir Beach Overlook is a cliff side park along State Route 1 driving north to San Francisco, California.  It has several base-end stations that were used by the military during the war to locate the positions of attacking enemy naval ships. These stations became a very important military facility after the attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 7, 1941 as it was believed that California would soon be the next target of the Japanese Imperial Army. These base-end stations soon became obsolete with the introduction and eventual use of the radar to detect the positions of enemy ships and aircrafts.  Today, base-end stations such as the ones found at Muir Beach Overlook are open to visitors. Entering these so-called “war ruins,” visitors could get a glimpse of how it was like for the military personnel stationed there.

Aside from these base-end stations, visitors at Muir Beach Overlook can also view the Pacific Oceanside cliffs and if the weather permits it, one can see an overview of San Francisco. Between November and June, it is most exciting to visiting Muir Beach Overlook as one would get to see the magnificent migration of the great blue whales.

Muir Woods National Park – Redwood Creek Nursery Event

In line with the restoration efforts at the Redwood watershed, the Muir Woods National Park is accepting volunteers either individuals, groups or family to join them in planting and growing at least 15,000 container plants and 5,000 divisions. The nursery is located within Redwood creek watershed just downstream from the Muir Woods National Monument.

Aside from growing plants, the nursery is also helping in the protection of the endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout at Muir Beach. To further enhance habitat diversity around the Dias Ridge Trail, the nursery is also into growing small plants.

Volunteers are needed for the collection of seeds, divisions and cuttings, seed cleaning, transplanting, pruning, weeding, and plant care and nursery maintenance. Although registration is not required to volunteer, registration is encouraged. For group volunteers of five members or more, special arrangements and confirmation must be made in advance. The Redwood Creek Nursery accepts volunteers ages 10 and above however, children below 18 must have a signed parent or guardian form, and all volunteers are required to submit the signed volunteer waiver form. It is also necessary for volunteers to wear comfortable clothing, bring their own water bottle and sunscreen. Tools and trainings will be provided by the nursery.

Muir Woods National Park – Bohemian Grove

The Muir Wood’s Bohemian Grove was formerly known as the Bohemian Club Summer Encampment. In September 3, 1892, a 70 foot tall Daibutsu Buddha was erected. It was modeled after the Daibutsu of Kamkura and was made of lath and plaster. Since the materials of which this Buddha was made of deteriorates over time, by the late 1920’s there was very little left of this statue.

The place where this statue was erected on was later and better known today as the Bohemian Grove. It was at this very spot that the Bohemian Club – a men’s art club originated. Before the club transferred its gathering venue from Muir Woods to a privately-owned land, members usually held a two-week, three weekend camp for some of the world’s most powerful and richest men.

The club is an exclusive all male club that was formed in 1872. In 1878, one of its founding members, Henry “Harry” Edwards announced that he was moving to New York for career advancement.  A hundred club members held a going-away party in his honor at the Redwoods in Marin County. The success of the party for Edwards gave rise to the annual gathering of its members at various places but mostly in Marin and Sonoma County.

 

The tallest of the trees in Muir Woods is to be found at the Bohemian Grove and it is the nearest to the Visitor’s Center.

Muir Woods National Park – Cathedral Grove

Muir Wood National Monument is best known for its Coast Redwood, a relative of the Giant Sequoia. Redwoods can grow to as tall as 380 feet and at the tallest at Muir Woods is 258 feet. It is such a wonder how a tree this tall could have come from a seed no bigger than that of a tomato. The average age of a Redwood in Muir Woods is between 500 to 800 years old and the oldest tree at the park is said to be 1,200 years old!

Aside from the Redwoods that thrive in Muir Woods, there are other tree species that has greatly adapted to the scarce sunlight due to the height of the Redwoods. Prominent among these are the California Bay Leaf, Big Leaf Maple and the Tanoak.

As part of the Muir Woods thrust of preserving the natural ecology of the park against industrialization and urban encroachment, it has also recognized the importance of not only taking into consideration the landscapes, wildlife and cultural resources. They have also taken steps to preserve the natural sound of the forest. At the park’s Cathedral Grove where some of oldest and tallest trees can be found, signs were placed to remind visitors to keep the silence and to turn off their mobile phones while inside the grove.

 

Muir Woods National Park – Hiking: The Main Trail

As its name suggests, the Main Trail is the one that most visitors come to see. Setting on the main trail would require you to walk at least 2 miles and a climb of around 120 feet. The hike or walk through this trail is fairly easy as it is wide and level. Provisions were also made for wooden board walks. Entering the Main trail one would not immediately see the majestic redwoods that the parks boasts of. Further along the way will you be able to see the much denser growth of redwoods and some other trees.

The Main Trail consists of four bridges that take you from one part of the park to another and some would lead you to another trail that could lead you away from Muir Woods into a second –growth forest. After crossing the third bridge, the trail is divided and one enters the Cathedral Grove.  Once you have reached the fourth bridge you would be hiking back and usually visitors take the same route they took coming in although there is another option the Hillside Trail.

The Hillside Trail is not as enchanting as the Main Trail but it offers a different view of the forest. Other trails also include the Ben Johnson Trail, a much steeper trail and looks much like a worn out trail is cut into a hillside. It is in this trail that one can see the old-growth redwood uplands.

Muir Woods National Park – Owl Wars

Muir Woods National Park is the home of the Northern Spotted Owl. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1990 due to the loss of habitat. The Northern Spotted Owls rely on abandoned nests or tree cavities or broken tree tops or accumulated debris for its nesting place. Since these favored nesting spots are most likely to be found among mature trees of densely populated forests which are now being cut for logging and for urban developments, the natural habitats of the spotted owls have been greatly affected.

Thankfully, there are still some areas such as the Muir Woods National Park that are well preserved and protected from these logging and urban development activities. At the Muir Woods national park, the Northern Spotted Owl has found a home but it is still not out of danger. For in this same place it calls home lurks another type of owl that is much bigger and aggressive – the Barred Owl.  It is not a native owl species in California. The Barred Owl is native to Canada and the eastern United States. Aside from the loss of habitat, this owl species is also a major cause for the decline in numbers of the native Northern Spotted Owl.

At Muir Woods National Park, a visitor can learn so much about the raging war of the owls. Since owls are nocturnal birds, this event is held in the evenings between 6:30 to 9:30 in the evening. Visitors accepted for this event is limited to 25 persons. Likewise visitors are advised to dress in layers, bring their own flashlight, snacks and water. There is also an optional materials fee worth USD$ 3.00.

 

Muir Woods National Park – The Bicentennial Tree

Among the gigantic redwoods in Muir Woods, is a young and small redwood called ‘The Bicentennial Tree.” This tree compared to its brothers and sisters is quite small and does not really command that much attention with a diameter of only two feet. What makes it special is that it is believed to have been planted in the year 1776, the same year that the United States of America was established. In front of the tree is a plaque that simply read “Bicentennial Tree” and a few words as a tribute to the 200 years of existence of the United States of America.

It is quite thrilling to see a tree that has withstood the test of time such as the ravages of both nature and man, the influx of industrialization, and the proliferation of environmental carnage as much as the country on which its roots have deeply taken hold of.

 

Muir Woods National Park – Visitor Center, Café and Gift Shop

At the entrance of the Muir Woods National Park, is the Visitor Center. The center has a vast array of exhibits, information and literature about Muir Woods. It is best to visit this place not only to get your tickets or passes before embarking on a journey at Muir Woods because it is  through this establishment that you would be able to get an overview of what is in store for you at Muir Woods. The center is a vast resource of information for the visitor. Literature not only includes brochures and maps but also books and other items especially chosen to help in increasing your knowledge about the park but also its role in today’s environment.

The Visitor Center is operated by the non-profit organization partner of the park – The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Also near the entrance, visitors can find the café and gift shop operated by the Muir Woods Trading Company. It is the business’ commitment to maintain eco-friendly business practices by using only locally sourced organic foods. The gift shop also offers locally made and sustainable redwood gifts, and Native American-made jewelries.

Muir Woods National Park an Overview

Muir Woods National Park was named after John Muir, a naturalist of Scottish and American descent and one of the pioneers of wilderness preservation in the United States.  In the year 1905, William and Elizabeth Kent bought 611 acres of wild forest land in Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County with the desire to preserve the unlogged redwoods. This was eventually donated to the Federal government in 1908 to help in its preservation. The then president Theodore Roosevelt suggested that the park be named after the Kents instead of John Muir, but William humbly turned down the proposal of the president saying that it does not seem appropriate to put in one’s name on a donated property as it may give the impression that it was still open to be purchased. President Roosevelt saw the logic in William Kent’s reply and approved that the park be named after John Muir, the initial choice of the spouse William and Elizabeth Kent.

Though the park is accessible by car, park administrators strongly urge visitors to take the available park shuttle service as this is more convenient. Parking spaces at the park is very limited and it does not have any provisions for vehicles exceeding 35 feet long and for RVs.  The path going to the park is both steep and winding and may prove to be difficult especially for people used to city driving.

The park is open every day including holidays at 8 in the morning. Visitors may get an annual pass for USD$ 20.00 per person otherwise tickets sell for USD$ 7.00 for adults and for children 15 years below, entrance is for free. It is always an asset for a visitor to plan their visit to any place and Muir Woods National park offers a variety of places to go to and things to do.