We had been wanting to visit the big trees of California for some time. I visited Muir Woods when I lived in the Bay Area, but it was many years ago.
Since this was to be our first roadtrip since the start of the pandemic, we decided to do a relatively short roadtrip, just as far as Redwood National Park in far northern California.
We meandered down through Eastern Oregon. Along the way we saw many volcanoes…
We also ran across a rather wonderful rock formation popular with rock climbers.
We saw the largest living Ponderosa at LaPine State Park.
And we swung by Crater Lake.
Our first introduction to the northern redwoods was on highway 199, which actually cuts through Jedediah Redwood State Park. There were a number of incredible trees visible from the road, plus the unexpected bonus of a fair number of blooming rhodies.
The next morning, we went to see big trees in earnest, starting at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the southernmost of the four clustered parks.
We started with Big Tree.
We then continued on the Cathedral Tree Trail. This was a wonderful and incredibly peaceful trail. You had to watch your footing: there was a fair bit of up and down, and lots of roots.
In exchange, we got to see some truly amazing trees, as well as acres of peaceful forest.
The sheer scale of the big trees is hard to capture.
The thing that impressed us wasn’t any single big tree, but the sheer number. 6 foot diameter trees are commonplace, whereas in many parks they would be a crown jewel.
We then looped back on Foothill Trail, which was very flat and easy. It still had many beautiful redwoods, as well as some of the biggest California Bay I had ever seen.
The next morning, we ventured farther north to Jedediah Redwoods State Park. Our route cut from the highway up Howland Hill Road, a wonderful narrow gravel road that zigzags through some absolutely gorgeous trees.
It’s really a one-lane road, and slow going, but it doesn’t matter because the surroundings are so beautiful.
We didn’t encounter a single car between the south end and the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. After that, it started to get busy.
Our target was the Grove of Titans.
It was very beautiful, with trees that rivaled or exceeded the largest trees we saw at Prairie Creek. There were also a lot more people… we only encountered a handful of people tromping around Prairie Creek, whereas we were often in earshot of other people when walking the Grove of Titans trail.
However, the trees were incredible, and the path was very well maintained. We’re glad we went, but it was interesting to see how variable the people-pressure was.
The understory was different: vine maples and rhododendron and Tanoak and maidenhair fern — none of which we had seen at Prairie Creek. It was fun to see the impact of the added elevation, and the resulting extra moisture.
All in all, the redwoods were awesome in the old sense of the word.
They made me feel small, but in a comforting way. These were trees that had seen many centuries of little humans pass them by.
May they see many more!