June 30, 2010
Arrive in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the “largest contiguous old growth redwood forest in the world.”* As soon as we pulled off of US 101 and on to the Avenue of the Giants, the enormity of the redwood trees hit us (almost literally) in the face. Both sides of the narrow two-lane road are lined with trees, all of which are bigger than just about anything I’ve ever seen. The spectacle of it all makes for semi-dangerous driving. We (read: I) couldn’t resist making several stops toward the very beginning of the (very slow) drive on the Avenue. Simply didn’t want to miss anything, and wanted as much time as possible to soak them in. The redwoods themselves are (surprise, surprise), well…immense. Almost inexplicably large. So big that they seem unreal, like something completely different than the things I grew up climbing on and see every day, in one capacity or another. FYI, a bit of data from Wikipedia: • Trees over 60 m (200 feet) are common, and many are over 90 m (300 feet). [The width of the trees is often 15-20 feet in diameter.] The current tallest tree is Hyperion, measuring at 115.61 m (379.3 feet)…. [M]easured as the world's tallest living organism. • Until it fell in March 1991, the 'Dyerville Giant' was the record holder. It too stood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park; it was 113.4 meters high and estimated to be 1,600 years old. • There are 41 measured living trees more than 110 m (361 feet) tall. There are 178 measured trees that are more than 106.7 m (350 feet) tall…. [D]ata indicates there are hundreds of additional trees in excess of 106 m (348 ft) previously unknown. To describe them in detail is almost pointless, as seeing them, touching them, and being in their midst is the only way (I would imagine) to get any sense for their size, power, and majesty. I agree completely with the teenager overheard at one of our stops: “These aren’t just trees, they’re awesome.”** Our third or fourth stop was at the “Founders Grove.” What struck me about this spot (in addition to the bigger crowds, bathrooms, other infrastructure, etc), were the ferns that sit between the trees and the wildness of the moss and other plants that grow in the shadows of the redwoods. The ferns and other undergrowth add to the feeling that a dinosaur or some other prehistoric creature may run through the trees at any point. After our stop here, a volunteer pointed us to a road off the main Avenue toward several “special” trees. 10 min drive or so passed an amazing river and isolated swimming spot to a remote parking lot. A short walk to the Flat Iron tree, a fallen monster whose root system when viewed from the side resembles a flatiron. Not quite ho-hum, but I didn’t think all that much of it, given all we had already seen. After 45 mins walking on several trails taking us further and further into the forest, we turned around and headed back toward the parking lot and the Giant Tree. LVL, in search of some exercise, jogged back; I chose to stroll and take pictures. Finally, a while later (and a few quick unintentional detours) we met at the Giant Tree, one of the largest living organisms on earth. The girth – and grandeur – of this beast was something different than any of the others. After a few awestruck pictures and the obligatory head-back/chin-up staring, we hit the road. Couldn’t resist making a detour to check out the “drive-thru tree” in Meyers Flat. Though fun in the moment, couldn’t help feeling like we had violated some unwritten rule and/or exploited the trees. After that, we passed several other tacky “exhibits,” including another drive-through tree,*** the “world famous one-log house,” and so on. Kinda gross, esp in light of how fragile the existing redwood forests are. *At least according to one park volunteer. ** Stated in response, I think, to his little sister, who appeared less-than-impressed. *** Whose fee collection woman wouldn’t let me use the bathroom without paying to see the tree, a fact that brought on the “thumbs up” controversy. Not a story worth telling.