For over one hundred years that dreaded cry filled the forests
of the northern California coastal region. Redwoods over three
hundred feet high and a thousand years old came crashing to
the ground at a frightening pace. Over two million
acres of these majestic trees were reduced to a few groves.
the State of California stepped in and established Prairie
Creek, Del Norte Coast, Humboldt and Jedediah Smith Redwoods
State Parks to protect the last of the Coastal Redwoods.
The National Park Service didn't come on board until 1968,
when 96% of the old growth forests were already gone. A sad
commentary on the power that logging interests had on our
(and everyone knows what happens when you do that) that the biggest
and best redwoods would be in Redwoods National Park. Wrong. Because
of their late entry into the save-the-redwoods movement, the
Park is a distant second to the State Parks when it comes to preserving
big, tall, fat, ginormous, skyscraping trees.
dumb luck brought us in from the north where we discovered
Jedediah Smith State Park -- and boy are we glad we did.
It turns out that this is where the Star Wars Return of The
Jedi chase scene on the
flying motor bike speeder thingys was filmed. You know: the Forest
Moon of the planet Endor, home to those adorable little kick-ass
teddy bears, the Ewoks. Pretty
groovy and a blast to talk about
while gawking up at the surreal trees.
for the intrepid mountain man Jedediah (maybe his friends
called him Jedi, buh-dum-ching) Strong Smith, the park features
some of the world's largest redwoods by volume and untouched
old growth groves.
is an easy hike from the road but a journey into a wet, dark mossy
world so dense that the deluge of rain falling as we entered the
made it to the ground. It is difficult to maintain
a perspective of size in this extraordinary world without something
or someone near the trees for reference. Hence, David making his
debut as a "tree model" for our photos and videos.
The legendary Grove of Titans is also within this park but is
nearly impossible to reach because its whereabouts remain a closely
guarded secret. It's heartening to know that a grove of these
magnificent monster trees is being kept pristine.
headed south from old Jed's place along US 101, known as The
Redwood Highway in these parts. The road connects all of the
parks and feels like a trip through time. Mature coastal redwoods
average over five hundred years old with
a few documented to have lived over two thousand years. They are
among the longest-living organisms on earth and the forests have
a dreamlike prehistoric feel.
are the tallest, most massive plants on Earth. Many are over
three hundred feet high, taller than a thirty story building
and weigh in at well over a million pounds. Currently the
tallest is Hyperion in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, towering
just over three hundred and seventy-nine feet, but others
may have been larger. A tree claimed to be three hundred and
eighty feet was cut down in 1912. Humboldt is home to the
oldest of the redwoods as well -- one goliath
is known to be 2,200 years old.
US 101 was expanded a few years ago, a new path was chosen
to avoid disturbing the redwoods. Inside Humboldt Redwoods
State Park the old highway, known as The Avenue of The Giants,
was saved. This is a road like no other. Meandering into the forest, bright
sunny days turn to twilight as the trees envelope the road.
miles of the old route running directly through the park were
officially renamed California State Highway 254.
Once a stagecoach
road to Oregon, later a US highway, now a national treasure, the
narrow blacktop winds through the trees with the giants sometimes
standing just inches from the pavement. The temptation to gawk
upward is great but keeping the mirrors attached to the vehicle
requires forward focus.
are several interesting sights along the way and most are
easily accessible. Founder's Grove, The Immortal Tree, and
of course the cheesy (and terribly harmful to the tree) Drive
Through Tree are all
just off the road.
into the woods, The Rockefeller Forest is certainly worth
the extra effort. A very long couple of miles down the winding,
beat up Mattole (I think they meant Pothole) Road is rewarded
with a walk through an untouched
stand along the banks of Bull Creek. This is the largest old-growth
coastal redwood forest remaining in the world. In the center of
the grove stands Giant Tree. Aptly named, it is an absolutely mammoth
specimen, touching the sky at three hundred and sixty-three towering
on 101 south of The Avenue of The Giants we would periodically
pass through another grove, the headlights would come on and our
necks would crane again. After a while these giants began to seem
almost normal. Weird as it seems, we had been desensitized.
up the next morning our memories were jogged as to just
how huge these Sequoia Sempervirens really are -- our necks
were killing us from looking up so much.