“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
The giant redwoods of Northern California were the reason that I started my trip north of San Francisco. It was definitely worth the extra rental car and night of traveling. I stayed the night in “historic” Ferndale, California. The town itself only seemed to have one thing going for it: a somewhat cartoonish looking main street and access (by car if you had one, which you probably did if you got out to Ferndale) to hiking and biking expeditions to the nearby Redwood groves and the coast. The other option is staying in nearby Eureka, which is situated right on the coast, but was a little industrial urban for my taste. The drive out to Ferndale (only about 20 minutes from Eureka) gives you an interesting glimpse of rural farm life in northern California.
I got my first glimpse of the Redwood Giants on the 101, before Ferndale, but to truly reach the depths of the Groves I entered Humboldt National Forest (via the 101) and then took the scenic byway called Avenue of the Giants. The quote at the beginning of this post neatly sums up my impression of these majestic trees. Once in the groves, a silence and an awe fell over me, and tears actually came to my eyes. This feeling never left me as long as I was in their presence. I wanted to put my arms around their trunks, my cheek against their bark, to absorb some of their essence, to somehow transmit back to them the joy I was filled with under their branches.
About the Redwoods
Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are an endangered species of coastal evergreen that live up to 2000 years or more. Among them are the tallest trees in the world, with the tallest known reaching 379 feet in height. It is estimated that 95% of the original forest growth has been cut down. The world’s tallest known living organism is the Hyperion Tree in Redwood National Park at 379.3 feet tall. The Dyerville Giant was the long-time record-holder at 372 feet, until it fell in 1991. I visited the fallen tree at Founder’s Grove, which can be easily reached along The Avenue of the Giants. The top ten tallest redwoods are not easily found, and their locations have purposely been kept secret from the public in order to reduce tourism that may damage the surrounding ecology in addition to the trees themselves.