‘The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time’.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.
I wrote three drafts to try and describe our time and experience visiting the redwood forests of northern California. All were a terrible disappointment to me. Then I started looking up what other people have said and found everything I wished to convey had already been said. Above and below you will find quotes that sum up what I felt.
We started our redwood journey in the north at the Jedediah State Park. We camped beneath these massive trees in a campground with roads scarcely wide enough to manoeuvre our oversize vehicle. We also wandered along the banks of the Smith River, the last remaining undammed river in California.
On our second day we headed south along the Newton Drury Scenic Drive to Elk Prairie. We walked the Trillenium Falls walk and the Prairie Creek Trail. Amy and Oliver loved the ‘Ed-Venture Quests’ provided by the Parks Service and the cloth badges they received from undertaking them successfully. Emma also went to great lengths to entertain them in the forest leaving mum and I in peace to soak up our surrounds. Amy also took a 20 metre rope on our walks. A rope than only made it three quarters of the way around the base of the larger trees we came across.
On day three in the redwoods we drove the Avenue of the Giants, a little old road that parallels highway 101 and is infinitely more beautiful and wondrous. We left the redwoods heading for Lake Tahoe and leaving me contemplating whether this may be my favourite place in the world.
“The redwood is the glory of the Coast Range. It extends along the western slope, in a nearly continuous belt about ten miles wide, from beyond the Oregon boundary to the south of Santa Cruz, a distance of nearly four hundred miles, and in massive, sustained grandeur and closeness of growth surpasses all the other timber woods of the world.”
“It is difficult to imagine the size of a sierra redwood. You often hear stories like the fact that a sierra redwood may contain enough wood to build 40 five room homes; a tree may weigh 4,000 tonnes; they are as tall as the Statue of Liberty. However, these stories do little to convey the actual size of these trees.
Many sierra redwoods are between 250 and 300 feet tall, the tallest being about 325 feet high. While their height is impressive, the real wonder of a sierra redwood lies in its bulk. Many of these giants have diameters in excess of 30 feet near the ground, with a corresponding circumference of over 94 feet!”
California Department of Parks and Recreation (parks.ca.gov)
“But more impressive than the facts and figures as to height, width, age etc., are the entrancing beauty and tranquillity that pervade the forest, the feelings of peace, awe and reverence that it inspires.”
George McDonald, Dollarwise Guide to California and Las Vegas
“We seek their companionship with quiet satisfaction, for in striking contrast with the heavy shade and gloomy depths of our great pine forests, the shadows in the densest growth of redwoods are made soft and semi-luminous by rays of sunlight piercing the feathery foliage, glistening through the pillared glades, illuminating the warm brown and somber gray trunks of these grand trees and ‘awakening to more vivid tints of green the swaying branches sweeping the clear blue sky’. And this comingling of light and shade gives to daylight in the redwoods a peculiar softness in keeping with the stillness of the scene.”
FH Clark, ‘Forestry; Redwoods Annual Report of the State Board of Horticulture of the State of California for 1891′.
“The size of the trees is, however, only the beginning of this magical place. The colours are rich and vibrant, with bark and moss of greens, reds and browns. The air is thick with moisture a hint of pine. It is fresh and clean and deep, heavily laden with oxygen from the surrounding trees. Creeks and running water play out in the background and the wind moves breezily through the canopy of trees way above. In the wet, mist swirls. In the sunlight individual beams of light can be seen piercing like fingers between the thick foliage and in the sun, shadow and light mix in equal measure.”
Me, from my first draft of this blog post
So even though it is impossible to capture in photos – I tried. With thanks to Granny for a few of these.