PART THREE OF 4 JULY ROAD TRIP
California. A place of palms captured countless times as silhouettes against red sunsets, in movies about Beverley Hills cops or tourist brochures promoting Rodeo Drive. Anyone’d think palms are the only trees here. However, I have great news for tree admirers. California is home to what I call the record tree trio!
Growing here and nowhere else they have:
1. The oldest living trees in the world – Bristlecone Pines (mind blowing and personal favourite).
2. The biggest trees by volume in the world – Giant sequoias (just try and hug one of those fatties).
3. The tallest trees in the world – Redwoods (subject of this post).
The Redwood, a member of the sequoia family, is only found along the coast of Northern California. On our 4 July road trip to escape a Southern California heatwave visiting the Redwood National Park was a no-brainer.
On our late afternoon cruise down the Redwood Highway from Oregon we passed through some groves as we searched for a campsite. I was keen to capture a photograph of the sun’s last rays coming through the branches. Stopping roadside I snapped a few disastrous pictures and figured it wasn’t meant to be. The next morning, after a quick spy of some elk in a popular viewing area we drove into the Redwood National Park.
Parking in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove parking lot and stepping out of Smokey the Subaru, I noticed about six people all looking up at the same thing. What I saw was magical and almost undescribable…
The sun’s rays fanned around a beautiful tower of wood, bark and leaves. The tree seemed connected to the light of space, ethereal, imposing yet modest. The mist channeled light and shadow, water and air. It was truly beautiful.
We stared at the tree until the sun reached a position where the rays were no longer as powerful and the mist was no longer a canvas for light and shadow. Drawing ourselves away we crossed a bridge near the car park to take a peaceful stroll about the base of the trees. The smell was wonderful, birds cheeped and sung and I half expected a dinosaur to wander around the next corner! It was most definitely a step back in time.
It also made me feel sad, that these gentle giants had been logged for so long and the remnants of what were once huge forests were today small pockets. My sadness lifted with information on revegetation and regeneration, and I hoped nature would be able to balance out whatever mess we leave her to deal with.
I snuck in a few trunk cuddles and enjoyed feeling the tips of ferns brushing my fingertips as we steadily made our way around the loop walk. Returning to our car we drove further into the park along Bald Hills Road, stopping at the Redwood Creek Overlook.
Reaching the Dolason Prairie picnic area we carried our food, pillows and a small tarp into a meadow under the shade of a pine and snacked and lazed and dozed and had the place to ourselves. It was a lovely way to enjoy the area, though our exploration of the Redwoods was not over yet!
After lunch we returned to the 101 thinking we’d make time toward San Francisco (about 5.5 hours away) however the lure of the brown sign was too strong and thankfully we followed it onto The Avenue of Giants. About 50km of scenic snaking through huge Redwoods. Starting at the northern end we embraced the tourist amenities of the drive and stopped regularly, snapped photos and enjoyed sneaky peeks at the Eel River which reminded me of New Zealand with its light blue mineral colours.
At one point we stopped to get a closer look of the river. Following a rough trail between Redwoods Dikko decided to go back to the car for some water. As I stood waiting in the brown moist soil I looked up and there, staring at me, was a toy monkey. It was slightly disturbing and too high for me to remove. I showed Dikko and we headed further down toward the river. Unfortunately, about 30m away from the bank a mass of poison ivy cloaked the trail. Time to turn back as it was getting late and we had nowhere planned to sleep that evening.
An hour and a half later we found a cheap motel in Willits, known as the southern gateway to the Redwoods. Interestingly for me (having worked with thoroughbreds) a nearby farm is the final resting place of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit.
However, back to trees, the Redwoods did not disappoint and were a wonderful experience to round out the magical California tree trio. Go see, smell, feel and listen to them all. They are all special.