Today was the day for big trees – which seems to be a pseudo theme for this trip. The bigger, mightier, taller, wider, higher, older, gnarlier the tree…the better. While we already saw some pretty impressive Cedars and Douglas Firs in the North Cascades, this was the day for California Redwoods (you know, the kind you can drive your car through?).
Shortly after crossing the state line from Oregon into California (which I’ve made an annoying habit of pronouncing like former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – Cal-ee-fone-ya), we followed our now predictable routine of stopping into the local Visitor Information Centre. Tyler has become something of a brochure hoarder – each morning as we depart from the Campground du jour, the car’s forward momentum triggers a mini avalanche of glossy tri-folds and maps, burying me in my morning stupor – my reflexes still too dim to react fast enough to stop it (Tyler laughs like a maniac – me glaring because he definitely hit the gas with more gusto than necessary). Needless to say, the Visitor Info Centres always have excellent maps and the people working there seem all too happy to direct us to the local favorites and, if asked, will recommend off-the-beaten path, less touristy spots.
Once we had our Redwoods map in hand, marked in the ranger’s purple pen with his top recommendations, we drove the narrow, winding Howland Hill Road and soon found our car weaving through the mighty Redwoods. We quickly arrived at the start of Stout Grove trail. Reading the interpretive description on how this piece of land was “preserved”, we both found it ironic that this thriving grove of Redwoods was donated and named after a famed lumber baron – who chopped down trees like this for a living and got pretty rich doing it. Like an atheist accepting God on his deathbed. ANYWAY…
The spot was quiet, almost spiritual. Though the parking lot was packed with vehicles, once we entered the trail voices were hushed and few words were spoken. The sunlight speckled the bare forest floor, shining angled rays in some spots, forming a muted glow in others. We took our photos in awe as we strained our necks up, up, up – even then not finding the tops of the 300 foot giants. This is a spot where we didn’t need to state the obvious: these trees are big. They’ve been around for lifetimes, some of them scarred by forest fire a generation ago. The age, the size, the beauty – it all demands respect and requires the viewer to consider something beyond themselves, their world, their lifetime.
Though we snickered at the irony of the land being donated by a timber splitting lumber baron, I was grateful not to be looking at a barren field of bleached tree stumps. It’s a magical spot and I feel fortunate someone recognized it and took the necessary steps to preserve it – no matter who it was.
Here are a few photos: