In grade school, I had read about the large redwood trees in California. The redwoods are some of the oldest and largest trees in the world. Reading about them and seeing the pictures was amazing, but I knew the pictures could not possibly do these giants justice. I remember being mesmerized by the photo of the large tree hallowed out to allow cars to drive through. I think that was in our geography book in school back in the 1960’s. Now that was a large tree. The photo I remember showed an old time car, possibly from the 1930’s going through the tree. I remember my grandparents visiting and bringing back not only the great photos of the tree, but the stories of the massiveness and majesty of that forest. I knew at a young age I needed to see these trees.
I did not have a chance to get to California when growing up, but thank goodness the trees have been preserved and protected for us to see and hopefully for generations to come. The redwoods are protected by the 1968 creation of Redwood National Park and at least three state Parks created in the 1920’s. The parks also protect about 40 miles of pristine Northern California coastline. Joe and I planned one of our family vacations to see the redwoods when the kids were quite young. We decide to fly to San Francisco, rent a big van and see the redwoods. We spent the night in San Francisco riding the cable cars and of course visiting Fisherman’s Warf. We looked at all of the sea lions and ate fresh seafood brought off the boats in the harbor, before they continued north.
The next morning we took our van and headed north over the Golden Gate bridge to the redwoods. The morning was misty and cool as we left the city and drove up the coast. There were many fun places to stop on the way, but we were set on getting to the redwoods, so we did not spend much time at the tourist stops. We entered the National Park and the misty weather added to the mystery and the mystique. It was true, the photos do not do the trees justice. You cannot capture the feeling, the size and the sights and smells present in this old growth forest through any cameras that we had. You know when you drive down the winding roads set carefully not to disturb the trees that you are driving through history. The fog hangs heavy around the trees, and as we had read in one of the interpretive centers, the trees thrive on this fog and moist air.
We stopped for every walking trail and got out of the car to experience the trees up close. The air smelled so clear, moist and fresh. It felt healthy and natural. The trees were larger even than we expected and when you walked around them and through them in some cases, you could feel the life force energy of these surviving giants. As you walked along the paths the pine needles were so thick it felt like the most plush carpet you can buy. As I walked with my family I looked ahead, but mostly I kept looking up. The height of these giants was unbelievable. As I followed the trunks up with my eyes, through the mist, it made me dizzy. You actually lost track of your equilibrium. I felt light as if I was floating at some point. Despite all of our hiking we did not feel tired. It almost felt like you were drugged by the fresh, moist air. It was like looking through a fish eye lense, in a way. The lightheadedness was intoxicating. It helped that as I walked the smell of fresh pine forest freshness was overwhelming. The mist was so heavy it almost made your skin feel wet. You did not need moisturizer. If a spa could recreate the air in the Redwoods, they would be overwhelmed with the business.
The kids ran on the trails and I could just see them soaking up this healthy environment. They were truly happy and free as they skipped and ran and walked and hugged the trees and literally at one point danced around one of the large trees with their hands in the air. They had such a natural appreciation for this beautiful place. They still remember it even though they were fairly young when we were there.
We also got to see the tree that had been hallowed out years ago so that cars could drive through it. Of course they would never damage a tree like that now, but it was done many years ago and may have actually provided that mystique nationally to help support creating the National Park. We of course drove our van through as well and stopped at the interpretive center to see historic pictures of people driving through the tree.
I am so grateful that enough people in the 1920’s had the intelligence to realize what a beautiful place this was and to fight and push to have this place preserved for all of us to enjoy. When you are able to visit beautiful places like the redwoods, take time to think and give thanks to the people who had the tenacity and foresight to preserve these places for us to enjoy. I am sure it made them feel healthy, alive and even dizzy, and as they experienced it for themselves they were driven to ensure that no one would be able to destroy these beautiful giants and their misty and mysterious existence. Celebrate their success and pledge to honor their memories by treating these areas with care and respect and finding new areas to preserve.