Long Island’s Surprising Cedar Grove

Aug 21, 2016 | 3 comments

Long Island Arrival

Long Island Arrival

Had I ever been to Long Island before?  Yes, many times.  On any of those occasions, had I visited the Cedar Grove?  No, not ever.  Yesterday was a first – for me and for many of the other 99 people who went on the excursion arranged by the Friends of the Willapa Bay Refuge.

On the Trail

On the Trail

They had planned everything down to the proverbial gnat’s eyebrow.  Each of us was duly check in, hand-stamped, and helped onto the barge that would carry us to Smoky Hollow, the point of debarkation.  Once there, four group leaders made themselves available to guide us to the Grove and talk about its various aspects– its history, its birds, its flora, its fauna.  Or you could make the mile-and-a-half loop by yourself.  (Nyel and I went with Bob Duke’s history group.)  And to top off the arrangements, the day was picture perfect – clear skies, sunshine, a light westerly breeze.  It wasn’t until the return trip that the fog began to roll in, just enough to remind us that we had never journeyed far from home.

In the Cedar Grove

In the Cedar Grove

It will not be popular for me to say that I was underwhelmed by the Cedar Grove, itself.  It was one of those excursions that I’m glad I experienced but was left feeling out of sync with most everyone else.  Saying so is probably another of those “The Emperor’s New Clothes” sorts of revelations.  Or maybe my expectations were way out of whack.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

During my junior high/high school years I lived in San Rafael, California, just a stone’s throw from Muir Woods – one of the few locations of old-growth coastal redwoods that have never been logged.  We often had picnics there or just went for an afternoon’s respite from the heat of a summer day.  There, you are literally surrounded by giants that are 200-plus feet tall and range in age from 800 to 1,000 years old.  Somehow, I expected that the Cedar Grove on Long Island would be similar.

Evidence of Logging

Evidence of Logging

In actuality, I found the evidence of early logging (springboard notches in some of the largest tree stumps) to be the most fascinating part of our adventure.  Our speculations about how this area looked before the loggers arrived (when it really was a Cedar Grove) and how they managed not only to fell the trees but to get them out of this densely wooded forest was well worth being there.  But it was not what I had expected.  Not at all.

Perhaps the name “Cedar Grove” is misleading to my literal mind.  Even though the evidence clearly indicates that it was a cedar forest once upon a time, being there yesterday definitely didn’t feel like ‘being among the giants.’  The old growth cedars were scattered among younger conifers, such as Sitka spruce and western hemlock; the ancient cedars seemed few and far between.   But I guess calling it a “Cedar Grove Remnant” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

3 Comments

  1. Cate Gable

    Sydney: my thoughts exactly RE: the “cedar grove” when I went over with Larry Warnberg several years ago. Those notches in the real old growth stumps just made me sad and got me thinking about how those early pioneer loggers felt (or did they?) towered over by enormous trees. Did they have any idea at all what they were destroying?

    Reply
    • sydney

      When I think of those olden days, I try to take the ‘high road’ and think that their thoughts were on building a new world out here in the wilderness or, at the very least, on making a day’s wages. I don’t think the ‘saving for posterity’ sort of thinking was very popular then. By the same token, I should be praising the efforts of Don Bonkers and others who found a way to save what remains of the “Cedar Grove” so that,hopefully, it will renew itself in time. But why all the hype as if the trees are actually there? In a grove? I don’t get the necessity for the spin.

      Reply
  2. Jujubee

    The real adventure begins in a kayak paddling west from the Willapa Wildlife Refuge and just around the corner to Pinnacle Rock. Taking the trail through the tall bear grass and finally coming to a green carpeted path was half the fun. The old growth still stands but is very sparce amongst the other trees. Still the peaceful silence was a blessing. We took this trip on 9/6 and were the only ones on the path. Willapa Bay was smooth and the sun was shining. Paddling there and back plus the 6-1/2 mile (fairly easy) hike took about 5 hours; stopping for a bite to eat under the beauty of the giant canopy. We are in our mid-60’s and having the opportunity to do this so near to Long Beach was a good day adventure. Don’t forget the insect repelleant, leaving this necessity could make for a miserable trip.

    Reply

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