The Mighty Redwoods

All of the good words that describe the old-growth redwoods of the Pacific North West have already been used, but I’m going to put some of them down just because they’re so perfect: giants, titans, noble, magnificent, dreadnoughts, humbling, unmatched, spectacular, incredible, amazing, extraordinary, remarkable, immense,… majestic.  Yes, the old-growth redwood forests are all this and more.  It’s the “and more” piece, however, that I find found so captivating during a recent trip up the California Coast.

“Old-growth redwoods” refers to trees that have been growing for over 2000 years.  I live near Glen Ellen’s Jack London Park.  There’s one redwood in that state park that’s referred to as “The Ancient Tree;” however, I was introduced to it as “The Grandmother Tree.”  Grandma is huge with dozens of bizarrely formed burl knobs and lateral branches that support yet more vertical trunks with their own lateral masses.  Imagine a mythic woman with clusters of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren clutching to her knees, hips, arms, and shoulders, each their own distinctive shapes and tonnage, each swaying in the breeze, each reaching toward the sky; that’s what The Ancient Tree looks like.  As a species, this Sequoia sempervirens stands alone — its neighbors are buckeyes, oaks, laurels, maples, and madrones.

Sensational as the Jack London tree is, it doesn’t have the impact it would if it were in an entire grove of senescent redwoods.  Visiting a single tree vs. a grove is akin to receiving one award-winning rose as opposed to a thousand of them; the impact is phenomenal.  Muir Woods National Monument, north of San Francisco, provides one excellent opportunity to experience a couple hundred acres of the colossal trees, but my husband and I were heading further north for this year’s vacation.

Our first forest was Hendy Woods State Park.

On the floor of the Alexander Valley and adjacent to the Navarro river, this trail is only steps from the parking lot and requires absolutely no athletic ability to stroll from tree to tree.

We ended the day in Mendocino.  Although it cost more than a days wages to stay a night at The Little River Inn, we indulged because of the million dollar views.

We were able to do a little mountain bike riding in Van Damme State Park.  Along the way we came upon this cleverly camouflaged frog that blended in with the forest floor.




On our way out of town we stopped by The Cabrillo Lighthouse.


The computer is not enjoying all of these pictures, so I’ll see how many more I can post:

Founders Grove in Humboldt State Park was amazing not only for the standing trees, but for the ones that have come down.  We’re standing in front of the roots of one known as The Dyersville Giant.


Our final destination was Redwood National Park.  In terms of boundary lines, several state parks mingle with Redwood National, but as a visitor, it’s all continuous, jaw-dropping beauty.  We were greeted by a great elk heard when we arrived.


Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is a part of the whole old-growth forest with unbelievable trees and flora.





Before my computer goes up in flames trying to process all of these picture files, I’ll try to fit in just one more.


Before closing, what I want to tell you is that every time I entered an old-growth forest, I was struck by its undeniable beauty, but I also had the oddest sense that the trees were saying something.  It was as if the winds of time were blowing a language from the beginnings of my linage, a language that I may have once known, but could no longer understand.  I wondered what was being said.  I thought perhaps it had something to do with patience, or survival.  I tried on words to see if they’d fit, words like strength, pride, mystery, power.  None of them were exactly right.  On my last day amongst the redwood titans it occurred to me that the word was tolerance.  The great trees speak to me of tolerance.  They have tolerated everything that has come their way for over two thousand years.  Both the standing trees and the ones that have toppled over, they are magnificent.  How tolerant they are of where they find themselves.  I want what they have.

I could say more, but I’ve got to run.  I’m no redwood, but it might not be so bad if I was.

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

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