Grove of Titans, Coast Redwoods
Information & Updates. Located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Copyright 2009 - 2017 by Mario Vaden
This page is about several unmarked coast redwoods called the Grove of Titans, discovered May 8, 1998. Between 2008 to 2017 more redwood titans were discovered elsewhere and Grove of Titans no longer has the largest coast redwoods. For more about new discoveries read Year of Discovery. The first photo below gives an example of more recent finds as does the page Darth Vader, one of my favorites. I updated Screaming Titans with photos showing human impact over time. In 2017, three news articles erased any remaining secrecy. With the introduction of notice signs by the parks on top of the news, I finally changed this page and added location information. One section below covers surveillance cameras in the Grove of Titans and other groves. Continue after the photo.
Image: example of 2008 - 2017 discoveries elsewhere in Redwood National and State Parks
About the Grove of Titans coast redwoods
A chapter called Day of Discovery in Preston's redwood adventure book is where many people first learned about the Grove of Titans. That one chapter may be online at Orion - try searching Day of Discovery. The Day of Discovery actually started up Clarks Creek on the opposite side of the park, passing New Hope Grove. That New Hope Grove remains my favorite grove. These coast redwoods are not a landmark memorial grove and the redwoods in the Grove of Titans most commonly known are these five (each page has more photos and information):
Del Norte Titan ... Lost Monarch ... El Viejo del Norte ... Screaming Titans ... Chesty Puller
The Grove of Titans holds it's own kind of character when compared to more recent discoveries. It's not scorched like The Dark Horse ... not as lonely as Deku Tree. ... nor a redwood zombie like Soylent Green. Several of it's biggest sit down in a flat near continual movement of water.
Location & Directions Part I
In 2017, three news stories were published about the Grove of Titans (Statesman Journal, Times Standard and Del Norte Triplicate). On account of that, I'm adding the grove's location to reduce wear and tear. I kept the location secret since 2008, but details in those articles coupled with social media leaks means more damage if I omit directions. In 2016, the parks identified the grove with small signs along the trail and Howland Hill Rd.. The Grove of Titans location is no longer a secret. The parks did not offer maps in the past and the subject of largest coast redwoods may be a sore topic of discussion for some rangers. A few people were not courteous to rangers or visitor center volunteers about the Grove of Titans in past years. Scroll down this page for the rest in Location & Directions Part II
News and Publicity
The Grove of Titans is certainly no secret anymore and many people shared the location. The proliferation meant a lot of vegetation was destroyed, shown on the Screaming Titans page. The Grove of Titans was widely publicized by Richard Preston's book, the same one sold in redwood park visitor centers. His book was by far the single greatest factor that opened the door to impact in this grove (I provide a unique review of The Wild Trees book). It wasn't just because the book was a best-seller that sealed the fate of secrecy. More is explained toward the end of this page.
In 2017, Redwood Parks Conservancy wrote on their website "When the grove was discovered in the late '90s, it was nearly inaccessible, surrounded by thick under-story with no direct trail access. As knowledge of the grove began to spread, mainly via websites touting the locations of the trees, visitors began to venture off-trail to find this hidden treasure". That's partly contradictory to our observations over the years. "Knowledge" spread via the book mentioned more than anything, and even though there was no bona fide "trail", the grove has been accessible for decades just as I describe below. Websites spread the location, beginning with the Smith River Alliance and their specific 2008 photo caption. Years later, disclosure became more intentional as a couple of anonymous sites spread the location like seeds carried by the wind.
February 23, 2017, Zach Urness published an article about Grove of Titans in the Statesman Journal relaying comments from head ranger Brett Silver and scientist Steve Sillett about a possible $1,000,000 boardwalk and trail. He quoted Sillett that "we now know of larger trees elsewhere" reiterating new discoveries between 2014 and 2017. On March 6, 2017, Del Norte Triplicate published a story by Jessica Cejnar quoting the same ranger that Grove of Titans is the "worst kept secret" in Jedediah Smith park. She covered more details about foot traffic and the trail plan. I comment farther down this page about the surveillance cameras and 22,000 images Cejnar wrote about. Then, March 21, 2017,
Natalya Estrada wrote more in the Times Standard News. This one was the most concise about why foot traffic can be bad for coast redwoods. All three articles remained close to what I'd describe as "staying on script". Each one retained some accuracy but none of the articles really nailed a comprehensive story. What's equal to
the "public and their willingness" (Times Standard News) is what truths and methods the parks and conservancy is willing to embrace. If you read all three, note the fear and concern implied by these articles, then ask yourself why Boy Scout redwood or Howland Hill Giant remain in silence?
Image: the Grove of Titans has giant Selaginella too. This is not moss. It's Oregon Spikemoss and the strands were up to 4 ft. long. I haven't seen this anywhere in Prairie Creek park. But it can be found in Jedediah Smith in places including this Grove of Titans. This photo was taken January 26, 2008
www.curlyredwoodlodge.com (707) 464 - 2137 @ 701 Hy. 101 S. Crescent City, CA 95531. Click photo for more .. 8 / 2014
All three 2017 articles are guaranteed to trigger another surge of foot traffic and compaction on top of the writers' aim to help parks get funds. Thus foot traffic will amplify before a solution can be implemented. The parks may need to move at a marathon pace to curb problems. So hopefully more people will contribute to help. In 2016, the first $1000.00 was sent, noted at my page discussing the anonymous people who first triggered Impact to the Grove
2017 Update: by May & June of 2017, several people I met near the beach, in town and at the park told me they learned of the Grove of Titans via those three articles, prompting them to search for location and GPS. They just happened to bring up the matter while talking about coast redwoods and the park in general, and most were visitors from places like Florida, Canada, etc., who didn't even know about Grove of Titans until they read the articles. This confirmed my expectation the articles would amplify the number of boots prior to sufficient funds or trail work.
More about the Grove of Titans
The Grove of Titans coast redwoods in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a handful of very large coast redwoods. It was claimed to have the 1st, 4th and 5th largest coast redwoods, but for years Illuvatar of Prairie Creek park and Fusion Giant of Redwood National Park were actually bigger. So the Grove of titans used to have the 3rd largest which is still very large. After 2013 to 2017 discoveries, Grove of Titans has the 5th largest at most.
Screaming Titans is in reality a double stem ... two coast redwoods side by side that expanded into each other. The age is probably 1/2 what most people expect. If Del Norte Titan is 2300 years old as estimated, Screaming Titans could be more in the range of 1400 years. That's still very old.
From my main redwood page you can navigate to pages for each of 15 largest Coast Redwoods and others. A few from this grove are among the fifteen. Chesty Puller and Screaming Titans are not among the 15 largest and were put in under awesome and big. The photos enable people to see what these redwoods look like because 95% of visitors won't stop to see the Grove of Titans in the same way many tourist have driven Howland Hill Rd. over the years without stopping to experience Stout Grove.
Image: this is the oldest photo I have of Lost Monarch showing the trunk and area around it. Four frames stitched from 2008. There wasn't a trace of human activity. Just a thick layer of needles and branches and small plants all around. More recent photos at it's page show the change over time. The forest in the background is the hill where hikers descend Mill Creek trail down to the grassy glade when they approach from the Howland Hill Rd. trailhead. The coast redwood Chesty Puller is across the glade among redwoods and other species in the background.
Image: this is a more recent photo of Chesty Puller coast redwood looking the opposite direction downhill across the glade. Lost Monarch is on the opposite side of the glade in the background. From this vantage point, El Viejo del Norte is also in the background, to the left of Lost Monarch and hidden. This photo was taken 2016. Chesty Puller used to have so many sword ferns beneath prior to 2010 that it was hard to walk between them to get around the trunk. Another image on it's page taken from the other side of the trunk shows how social paths erased plants in the understory. This redwood is visible from Mill Creek trail which is to the right, less than 200 ft. away.
It's intriguing how the handful of largest redwoods in this grove appear of similar age. What prompted their genesis? Why are there not more? Were there more? What remains standing suggests the grove's giants may have germinated within a small gap in history's time-table.
The terrain experienced a dramatic change which could have occured before the titans germinated. But there is a grassy marsh in the midst void of large evergreens. The Ruthlor Gulch creek probably passed through the marsh centuries ago. Dr. Steve Sillett expressed his thoughts that a landslide probably changed the valley. The location of trunks, creek and terrain are indicative of a landslide and flood.
Terrain & Diversity
Grove of Titans has other species like hemlock, vine maple and big leaf maple. There is a big mound from a presumed ancient landslide that diverted the brook. Near Screaming Titans is a strange trench that looks hand-dug. Its possible a log got pressed into the ground and decayed leaving the long empty void. For the more part though, the largest coast redwoods in this grove grow down on mostly flat areas.
These large coast redwoods were discovered in 1998 by Steve Sillett & Michael Taylor during what they described as the "toughest bushwhack" ever. Sillett & Taylor entered Jedediah Smith redwoods along Hy. 199 and followed Clark's Creek up into the hills, following valleys and ridges and brooks for a full day. Their zig-zag bushwhack was about 3 miles combined. Along the route they passed a previous coast redwood discovery called New Hope and a discovery called Neptune. This Neptune could be presumed as the northernmost extent of the grove. They also found a huge Douglas fir named Ol' Jed up "Ruthor Gulch".
Images: Approaching the Del Norte Titan. The trunk lit by early morning light on the opposite side of a small ridge. The next image below is taken from a clearing on the opposite side among an alluvial flat covered with sword ferns, redwood, vine maples and other species.
The redwoods with the most name recognition include Lost Monarch and Del Norte Titan. Trunk diameters approach 26 feet. Heights exceed 300 ft.. They are so big, the girth can actually hide the rest of itself from anyone standing close by.
El Viejo del Norte has hundreds of pounds of canopy soil, fern mat and epiphytes. But that is not exclusive to this grove. If you hike trails in the coast redwoods and look overhead, you can spot epiphyte gardens in most of the coast redwood parks.
Several redwoods in Grove of Titans are wider than the Stout redwood across the Smith River from Jedediah Smith campground. The Stout Redwood is about 16' wide.
For the record, the Grove of Titans never had the "ten largest" coast redwoods. That's a myth initiated around 2010 by an anonymous amateur blog post. It's remarkable how many people over the years encountered anonymous sites or blogs lacking contact information and scooped-up all the claims as if it were gospel. It built a false impression that there was and area like Stout Grove on steroids with upward of a dozen titans. The fact there are so few titans, added to worn paths in one more reason New Hope Grove earns two shakas in my book.
Preventing more Wear & Tear
If you find and visit the Grove of Titans, do not walk up the trunks to get a better photo. That's how damage to vegetatation happened. Years ago, responsible people would lift fronds, step around sorrel and stay off trunks. That was in the good-old-days when some people had to work to find this place, and treated it like a masterpiece. When you see my older photos with a man or woman next to one of these redwood titans, keep in mind they side-stepped every fern and sorrel for the shot. I was so picky about the matter, I even asked others to decompress their footprints from the needle mulch. That's the effort we used to expend to "leave no trace" behind and leave the area looking it's best for whoever might find their way in here.
For now it's almost impossible to reverse the damage after the location was dished-out like handouts to people who didn't make the same investment of effort. But hopefully more people will try to reduce further damage. Stay confined to the middle of worn areas away from the fringe.
Location & Directions Part II
The grove is along Mill Creek Trail west of the Smith River in Jedediah Smith Redwoods and State Park. It is so easy to reach, I decided to skip a map. It's virtually self-explanatory once you reach the vicinity. And GPS is almost pointless because signal tends to jump-around a lot anyway. If you can't spot the social trails, you may need to see an eye doctor !!
This is not "Valley of the Lost Groves" as some have asked, with The Knotty Lady ... that's down in Prairie Creek park. This is the Grove of Titans up in Jedediah Smith park.
The shortest route starts near the old vehicle bridge where Howland Hill Rd. crosses Mill Creek about 1.5 miles West or SW of Stout Grove. You want the trailhead a few hundred feet on the Crescent City side of the old concrete bridge.
Find Mill Creek trail trailhead a few hundred feet SW of that bridge. From that point Mill Creek trail takes you north and NE meandering up in the wooded hill. After about 15 minutes you drop down into a clearing close to Mill Creek. It's a grassy glade by the creek. As soon as you reach this open low area, you've reached the vicinity. That's where the grove can be viewed with most titans on the north side of the trail. The social trails are clearly visible. On the "official" Mill Creek hiking trail don't cross the 1st wooden foot bridge you come to or you went too far and missed the small social paths by a moment. If you reached that wooden foot bridge over a tiny creek, turn around and look for the unofficial paths. The social paths the parks signs encourage you not to take, which we all know everybody will follow to the titans anyway.
The social trails are so worn it's self-explanatory. In summer you can use seasonal bridges to reach Mill Creek trail from Stout Grove area and hike SW from the opposite direction for a longer hike that's less self-explanatory. But if Howland Hill road is ever locked for maintenance, Grove of Titans can be reached from Hy. 199 hiking south along Hiouchi trail for 2 miles and connecting Mill Creek trail.
If you were planning to find the Grove of Titans and landed on this page, realize this description does not compromise anything anymore. Better you got it here, because my pages clarify damage and how to avoid more vegetation loss. Just stay off any more plants, don't let children romp freely, avoid laying backpacks on vegetation. The parks already identified the grove using signs along the trail in 2016. To reiterated the top of this page, In 2017, two news articles were released about the Grove of Titans, erasing secrecy. If you encounter the anonymous leaks described at my page Impact to the Grove then there's one more thing you can do to help. Don't propagate their link. They provide zilch that conveys what's really happening or importance to be more careful.
Image: this is the trailhead sign along Howland Hill Rd., plus an informational sign to alert hikers about wear and tear. Following this image, I will provide a reality check.
Facts about the social trails vs. official trails
For starters, Richard Preston must have misinformed readers of his redwood adventure book when he wrote no trail was built through the Grove of Titans. Maybe no trail was built specifically for it, but Mill Creek trail certainly crosses directly through the grove.
The sign in the image makes it clear that the parks want hikers to stay on "official" trails. Of course that won't come to pass. You know, and I know, and the parks know that they are a government organization that must reside in a perfect world while the rest of us live in the real world. But the parks can help refine the real world because that's their job. The signs can at least encourage staying on some form of trail even if it's a social trail. And I'm certain their placement and choice of words will definitely help reduce wear and tear.
The Grove of Titans has at least two social trails that predate Mill Creek trail and in that regard may seem more official than the "official" trail. These very old social trails seem to correlate with the historic days of Howland Hill Rd..
Presently, the most important thing is that visitors at least stay in the middle of any trails there and avoid permanent damage to more vegetation. So pick the official trail or social trail and stay in the middle of it. If you don't wander off of those, it's impossible to stomp more plants. The problem in the grove was never really walking between and around plants, it was stepping on plants like redwood sorrel, ferns, shrubs and tiny conifers.
Image: Our oldest daughter exploring with me, looking for the Grove of Titans back in 2008. The grove was a better experience back in the days when it was more of a hunt from scratch. If this doesn't look like one of the commonly known giants of the grove. that's because it's an unfamiliar sight in the more remote reach. Others often tell me the "good old days" are gone now and the opportunity to "hunt" and "search" is a thing of the past for this grove and other redwoods. They said the "awe" was all the more when they finally found a hidden "holy grail" in the redwood forest.
Hidden Cameras in the Grove of Titans and the Park
In 2015, seven motion sensor cameras were installed in the Grove of Titans by someone from Humboldt State University to monitor human activity. In one way that may seem redundant because wear and tear and number of visitors was obvious, already known from local people sharing at local night-spots about their Grove of Titans visits.
I don't recall any signs informing hikers about the active cameras. There were over 20,000 images recording any person or activity. If anyone was taking photos, resting, walking, picking their nose, taking a leak or doing the "wild mambo" as Stallone phrased it in Demolition Man - they were memorialized. Cameras were also placed near the Hyperion redwood in Redwood National Park. Possible areas for surveillance include any tallest coast redwoods or new discoveries. So be careful when nature calls. Hidden cameras in the park are possible anywhere at any time. These cameras are so affordable, I believe a few individuals will hide some without permits around certain locations because there is growing curiousity and interest building the past few years about certain activity.
Grove of Titans other Redwoods
For a brief time around August 2016, I added a few extra coast redwood photos to this page for Morpheus, Vesuvius and Ruthor Gulch Beast, upland redwoods where most people never go. I removed the pics because someone working with the parks was worried about lookers wandering farther up the valley to find them after getting their hands on the images and names together. In the same way author Preston didn't mention Yin or Yang of Prairie Creek, he didn't see or mention everything around the Grove of Titans including some of it's post-2007 discoveries. Most people don't realize the extent of grove. So as a favor to the park, I constrained names, pages and photos to the few redwood titans most commonly known in the Grove of Titans.
Image: The redwoods here are always big, but I think this grove looks it's best in winter with overcast, or early morning when it's damp with interesting shadows.
My thoughts about future trails and boardwalks
To anybody ready to donate $10,000.00 to $1,000,000 ... it may be a good idea to ask for a final plan before giving your money. When I heard about the $1,000,000 price ceiling for Grove of Titans, I thought Holy-Cow! ... Red tape set aside, if this was protected private land, wonders could be done for $250K. But it was also a shock to hear rangers must bring an archaeologist for something as basic as a single sign post ... literally.
To emphasize with one example at Big Tree down in Prairie Creek, a new sign was made in 2016. Even though the accurate stats were just a phone call away, the sign has the wrong height, exaggerated to over 300 feet. If something as simple as one sign is exaggerated, isn't it worth your time to dig deeper into some facts?
In Grove of Titans, the social trails where vegetation is already trampled may be the better choice for future trails. A lot of it may not need rails or boardwalks. The earth is already compacted. Hopefully they don't add any of the nasty looking synthetic fabric that keeps popping it's ugly head up on a few other redwood hiking trails like Boyscout Tree trail near the first bridge. It's unnatural looking and becomes no better than trash left on the trail if that happens.
These titans can drop gigantic chunks of wood like El Viejo del Norte did in 2008, or Godwood Creek Giant did in 2010. This is why excess deck or boardwalk may become repairs or money down the drain. So if you plan to spend $5,000.00 or more, gather all the facts and information possible before signing your check and handing it over. In fact, Sreaming Titans emphasizes this point. Steve Sillett and Marie Antoinne mentioned in The Wild Trees pertaining to Screaming Titans, late 2001. It's tops were described as "an unstable death trap ready to collapse, so they used another redwood to ascend and cross back over. Since 2001, I don't believe that rotting hulk of wood has fallen out of the top yet. It may be one more redwood ready to crush decks or boardwalks during any year. Routing trails and boardwalks beneath disintegrating redwoods increases the odds of bodies directly beneath tons of collapsing wood.
For this reason, nobody can guarantee that 1,000,000 can ensure the Grove of Titans will be seen hundreds of years from now. It's a gamble as well as an investment. Those redwoods could all stand 400 years or they could start falling in 50 years.
I suggested to Cejnar of the Daily Triplicate, to write a Part II followup to investigate and report more of these aspects in more detail. Including whether the parks planned to use Sillett or arborists as consultants to find hazards or determine safe platform positions. Or whether other consultants can devise better time saving methods to move materials into the grove. Another good followup would be why so much emphasis on this handful of older redwoods but no similar red-alert to save Boyscout Tree from being "loved to death", or several other redwood that may have better chances for longevity.
Image: Screaming Titans about 2 years after the previous image above. The collapsed stems and wood show additional disintegration in the grove beyond what I described on the El Viejo del Norte page. These groves experience breakage and damage and will continue to do so. This is why I encourage people who may donate to scrutinize any trail plans. This is one more reason why I question whether a full million is a wise investment.
Image: explorers (Atkins & Sillett) return 10 years later to upland Ruthlor Gulch where Taylor & Sillett descended back in 1998 on the Day of Discovery. We spent most of this day going up Ruthlor Gulch to the higher elevation to observe changes in this part of Jedediah Smith park.
My first experience in Grove of Titans ... What became my "crossroads"
The first time I heard "Grove of Titans" was around 2007 when Preston's book was published. I hadn't heard of Michael Taylor or Steve Sillett either. But I was more interested to to see the Grove of Titans than meet those men. Maybe because Preston made several of his book characters more quirky than they are in real life.
It happened I was already systematically exploring this part of Jedediah Smith park very thoroughly. Considering how far I explored off of Hiouchi and Mill Creek trails, I would have found the Grove of Titans anyway within a year.
Preston was far too descriptive in his book. For keeping a location a secret, he did a rotten job. No matter how he spun the narrative about the Sillett-Taylor bushwhack, he gave the area away like a pin on a map. Between mention of Stout Grove proximity and "grassy glade", there were only two creeks where the men could have found the Grove of Titans.
Some delay was Preston's wrong information about no trail through the grove, implying the grove was like a mile off trail, exaggerating distance. So I explored more like a 1/2 mile into the forest. Also, in the Day of Discovery chapter Preston described enough information about time, distance, direction and terrain, that by using Google Earth's satellite image, it was possible to pin-point the area. Like I said, the situation in the Grove of Titans today is directly related to Preston's book.
I was at Lost Monarch early in my search, but didn't realize it. I was consumed with lichens and photograhed some on the northwest side of Lost Monarch, not noticing it's trunk size. The trunks are so large, if you stand too close, the rest can't be seen. I turned and left the area pointed in another direction. Maybe two trips later my return descent from another vigorous bushwhack passed right by Grove of Titans and I spotted one from a distance. I was so exhausted ... and returned the next weekend. Nothing to lose - I found what I was looking for.
Image: Our son also explored with me between 2008 and 2010. On a sunny morning, this is what part of the grove will look like June 30th at 7:47 am in the morning.
It was shocking to find out how close the grove is to the trail and that Preston gave far too many details. This realization led to the origin of my main redwood page which was originally designed to cloak the grove's location through a truthful narrative that would distract people from some clues a couple others inadvertently shared, like Smith River Alliance for example. The page delayed damage for about 4 years. A few others recognized my page's effectiveness and helped steer traffic my way.
We realized that with a few leaked clues on the loose, some organizations' policy of complete "radio silence" was an ineffective strategy. That meant seekers (good or bad) could do a keyword search on the internet and be served the few leaked clues in the first page of search results. So we flooded the internet with countless blog and forum posts linking to my Grove of Titans page. This literally buried any inadvertent clues amidst reams of search results. My page was barren of clues and just told a story and a riddle or two.
Eventually, it became obvious that the grove couldn't be contained. Step by step, well-meaning people posted extra clues without realizing. The surprise eventually was that anybody in their right mind would choose to leak the Grove of Titans location by literally posting a map to it. Considering the damage that would follow with no existing trail plan.
Back in 2008, aside from my arborist knowledge, withholding the location is probably what opened the door to networking with Dr. Steve Sillet, Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor. So the Grove of Titans literally altered the course of my life. Those men taught me how to explore and measure, plus many other things. That led to discoveries, but also to a love of photography. So my professional work grew far beyond arboriculture to include professional photography and portraits. My prints have from here to Denmark, and I've met people and new friends from all over the world on account of experience in the coast redwoods.
The Grove of Titans was the crossroads in my life. And a good one at that.
For more information, read: Why Some Locations Were Kept Secret