The remarkable Redwood trees of California
After many years of becoming accustomed to a city lifestyle, ever so often I discover a great urge to immerse myself in wide open spaces. With our time in San Francisco coming to an end, the familiar call of the mountains and pull of the forests once again surfaced, and with that, we headed towards California's famous Redwoods.
The Redwood National and State Parks are a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands scattered along Northern California’s coast. These parks are home to the tallest trees on Earth, stretching to over 350 feet (106 metres). The Redwood trees are remarkable, not just for their size, but also for their resilience; their bark is tough, spongy, and so thick it acts like armour, allowing the trees to survive wildfires and their lifespan to soar up to 2,000 years.
Our first experience of walking in the shadows of these ancient giants was during our visit to the Armstrong Redwoods Trail, located in Sonoma County. There's nothing more humbling than nature, it has a way of making you feel insignificantly small, in the best possible way. The highlight of this visit was stumbling across an old amphitheatre, surrounded by Redwood trees, where small music festivals, outdoor weddings and other events are often held — however, on this particular day, this serene setting served as a picnic for two.
As we continued to head north, glimpses of river beds would appear from our windows from time to time. Often we would delightfully drive straight past them in awe, other times, sites like the Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge would intrigue us so much that we would find ourselves veering off the road, searching for walking tracks to get closer to the scene, just so we could stare in awe and wonder.
Zigzagging our way through scenic roads, we would soon arrive at the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic highway running through Humboldt Redwoods State Park that demands such a compelling response. Even though this is an internationally famous tourist attraction, it amazed me that you can simply pull up at any of the dozen short trails into the forest, and find that it's just you alone with the trees.
I'm quickly learning that the best part of hitting the road, are the accidental finds that come across your path. After spending the night at a nearby RV park just outside the Avenue of the Giants, the Jedediah Smith State Park emerged. It was the meandering crystal clear river that we could see from the road that drew us in. Here the freedom of having everything we need in our motorhome really came to play. We parked underneath the Redwoods, cooked up a quick lunch, and made our way down to the riverbank, parking two chairs by the pebbled water. After many hours had passed, we began making our way back to our motorhome and happened upon a presentation of the local Tolowa people's traditional dances underneath the shady canopy of the forest. We stopped and listened to the stories of their tribe and were welcomed to feel and better understand the significance of these lands.
Previously I had considered California to be that of palm-lined streets and sun-soaked beaches, however, after spending time discovering the Redwoods, I have now gained a new vision of misty mountains and swift streams — a piece of the Earth that will no doubt have a long-lasting impression on me.