Welcome aboard the wayback machine for another look at Anderson Valley, as I remember it, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Before there was an Occupy Hendy Woods movement, before there was a Hendy Woods State Park, there was Hendy Grove. When my parents, siblings and I first came to Anderson Valley in the spring of 1957, two years before we became full-time valley residents, Hendy Grove was a spectacular stand of virgin redwoods on the property just northwest of where we would eventually live.
Hendy Grove (there was only one — I don’t recall hearing of Little Hendy Grove during this era and it may have had another name back then: readers whose history in the valley begins earlier than mine should know) and the surrounding land were owned by Masonite Corporation, though the property would be purchased by the State of California a year later. Hendy Woods State Park was established in 1963 and those intervening years, we got to experience Hendy Grove often and in ways few could.
El Rancho Navarro (not to be confused with the Rancho Navarro development, which came along years later) was a resort when my parents (with partners) purchased it in 1957 with the objective of establishing a children’s camp. Horseback riding was an important tradition at the resort (whose motto was, “A modern vacation with an early California flavor”), and it became a significant (though not as important) tradition at camp. Campers gained horseback experience in a riding ring during the early weeks of camp, but eventually took trail rides throughout our little corner of Anderson Valley and Hendy Grove was one of our favorite destinations.
We weren’t the only ones to ride there. Tumbling McD Ranch, situated across Rancheria Creek from us, rode to Hendy Grove frequently. When Highland Ranch opened to guests around 1960, it also rode to and through Hendy Grove.
With primary access from Greenwood Road severely limited, first by logging prior to the land’s transfer to the state and later by installation of State Park infrastructure, we essentially had Hendy Grove to ourselves. Typically we would walk the horses through the Grove (there were lots of trails), but occasionally we would gallop them and jump fallen trees — but only the small ones! Some rides included lunch and there were a couple of spots where we could tie the horses. We took various routes to and from the Grove, including one along, and frequently through, the Navarro River.
We also walked to Hendy Grove, though that was a bit more work. The primary trail was situated on the slopes above the Navarro River and one could hear the water flow (back then it flowed all year, every year). There was one trail that accessed the Grove at its most southern corner, so we could enter there and exit farther north, thus not having to backtrack.
I hiked into Hendy Grove on my own plenty of times during the years we lived at the camp, but one visit stands out. On that occasion, I went with a 50-foot tape measure and the notion I would measure the circumferences of the biggest trees. I have no idea whether I found the biggest one, but I remember the circumference of one double tree (it became two a few feet above the base) measured 47 feet.
Everything changed when Hendy Woods State Park opened. We no longer could ride into Hendy Grove, though the State Park set up a spot nearby where horses could be tied. Some trails were closed off and obliterated: others were widened and/or improved to be more accessible. There also were a lot more visitors.
Over the years I have heard and read stories of the Hendy Grove hermit. I have to say, despite all the time spent in the Grove, I never saw him. Maybe he lived in a different corner or maybe he didn’t like horses, children or groups. For whatever reason, he never appeared and I can add nothing to his legend.
My parents sold El Rancho Navarro in 1988. I stayed away for a long time afterwards, but last year I walked — with permission — to and from Hendy Grove. It was a longer walk than I remember (the distance is more than two miles each way). The hitching posts for horses had disappeared. The signs at entrances to Big Hendy Grove warning of mountain lions looked new (but probably were warranted, as there were mountain lions in the Big Bend area of Rancheria Creek during my childhood). The mosquitoes were pretty voracious — reminders of the previous wet winter. But Hendy Grove itself was almost the same. As I sat on a log eating my sandwich, it could have been 50 years earlier. For some reason, the fates were kind; I spent an hour there and did not encounter another person the entire time.
One final note, a year or two years before my parents — Irving and Edna Newman — sold El Rancho Navarro, they donated/sold (the deal was complicated but the price was very nominal) 40 acres on the northwestern edge of their property to the Save the Redwoods League, which in turn donated the land to the State of California. As far as I know, it remains the last parcel added to Hendy Woods State Park.