Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Northern Coast and Avenue of the Giants

Max and I have started checking the boxes on what we hoped to see in this state before returning to Ohio. Suddenly we have to decide exactly what are "must see, must do" before we leave (I have a couple of restaurants that you'll hear about before we leave), But the big stuff is the BIG TREES. I'm going to miss these BIG TREES- these ANCIENT TREES. I'll miss the Bay and the fog as well- but I'm really going to miss these trees. And I wanted to drive the coast north and south. So this was our trip north. This trip took us about 200 miles north, much of the way on the coastal highway 1 as it winds along the Pacific Ocean. We stopped on occasion to look at and photograph the scenery where the view was spectacular. But to be honest, there is no way to capture the beauty of this coast line. It just has to be experienced in person. Here are pictures of a few of the places we stopped on the way.

Highway 1 didn't quite go along the coast quite as far as we wanted, so we had to take a trip over the coastal mountains back to U.S. 101 to get around some particularly rugged coast line. There did appear to be a dirt road that would have taken us to our inn at Shelter Cove, but it was not recommended for RV's or other large vehicles. So we opted to take our Civic on the paved route which was a little longer, but probably a whole lot quicker.

Our home for two nights was the Tides Inn at Shelter Cove-
( http://www.sheltercovetidesinn.com/ ). The inn itself was quite adequate, (it was comfortable enough- but it didn't go much above comfortable- except for the view- and that was definitely over the top), but the location and view was spectacular. The door of our room opened onto a small deck that was about 20 feet away from a drop off down to the shore. Consequently, we slept with the window open and listened to waves crashing on the the rocks all night long. Below are some pictures taken from our deck.

The Inn was a nice place to stay given our desire to be by the ocean, but our real reason for going this far north was to visit the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and drive the "Avenue of the Giants". This Avenue is the route that was used prior to the making of Highway 101, which is a major route north for the western part of California. This two lane road winds for 30 some miles through sections of old growth redwoods forest. It is estimated that most of the trees in these forests are between 400 and 600 years old, but some are suspected to be around 2000 years old. You can see from the picture below why this is called an "Avenue of the Giants". There were times when the road passed within 12 inches of a tree that was bigger than any I had ever seen in Muir Woods just outside of San Francisco.

The Redwoods lived side by side with the dinosaurs- but the Redwoods survived but the dinosaurs didn't. At that time the Redwoods lived all across North America and Europe. Now the Redwoods grow only on a narrow strip of 40 miles wide on the west coast from 15 miles in Oregon to the Big Sur south of San Fran.

There is a sadness when I look up at these living beings- these magnificent trees and know that 96% were logged to become singles- and decks- The wood is soft- so it isn't useful for much- but it is fire resistant- so the logging companies cut down 2000 year old trees for roofs and patios! It was Reagan who said "You've seen one Redwood and you've seen them all." So before the destruction could be stopped 96% of all old growth Redwoods were cut down. (But in case you think this is blast the Republicans- it is Theodore Roosevelt who said "I feel most emphatically that we should not turn a tree which was old when the first Egyptian conqueror penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates...into shingles." )

The Save the Redwoods League invited J.D. Rockefeller to visit the Redwoods. He immediately gave 2 million dollars to preserve these magnificent trees. I am grateful! It is Theodore Roosevelt and J.D. Rockefeller are my heroes.
Below are some pictures taken in the Rockefeller Grove. The Rockefeller's were some of the first to contribute money toward saving these trees from becoming shingles. The Rockefeller Grove is said to have some of the oldest and biggest remaining redwoods. The tallest in the forest is around 370 tall, but its location is not public. Max is standing next to one of the trees in the picture below, so you can get some perspective of their size.

She is also in this picture taken of a different group of trees.

The next picture is of a tree that fell in 1991. The wind is the only threat to these trees and this giant fell after being hit by another giant that fell into it. All of the fallen trees are left where they hit the ground and allowed to very slowly decompose back into the forest. This tree should be gone in about 400 more years. The scientific name for this tree is Sequoia Sempervirens- loosely translated to "ever living". Though the Redwood does have cones (a single old growth redwood tree will have 100,000 cones each year), most of these are not fertile- and most won't find the right conditions to germinate- these trees "reproduce" rather by a clone- an identical match that grows from the root from the base of the tree (when a Giant dies, there is often a "ring" of young trees that grow up now that there is sunlight and room to grow- this is called a "Fairy Ring". Thus the same genetic code is passed to this ring of trees at the base. Thus the "ever living" tree. So it is reasonable to believe that some of these trees actually have the same genetic code as a Redwood living at the time of the dinosaurs!

As we walked through this forest, we were all alone. There were two other cars in the parking lot when we arrived and one of them was leaving. We never did see another person until we were almost back to the car. Walking among these ancient giant trees in complete silence was an experience that I don't think I can properly describe.
Along the trail we came upon any number of trees that had fallen. This pictures shows why the wind is the only threat to these trees. Their root system is small when compared to the size of the tree.

Here is that same tree from the side as it is becoming nourishment for the forest growing around it.

We happened upon this tree about 1.5 miles into our walk. We couldn't see the top of it in the canopy of trees near it, but it must have been well over 300 feet. If you click on the picture you can see me standing in front of the tree with my arms spread. This tree must have been close to 18 feet in diameter. I want to talk a bit about this canopy of the Redwood. The Redwoods survive despite the shallow root system because of this canopy- this giant intertwined network of branches that create stability for the GIANTS- as well as a world quite separate from this life below. THERE ARE PLANTS AND ANIMALS THAT SPEND THEIR ENTIRE LIFE IN THE FOREST CANOPY! In this world there are rodents and insects that live their entire lives without ever coming to the ground.

As we ended our day in the woods, we still had to drive back over the coastal mountains to get back to our Inn. But before we leave the BIG TREES we must talk about the "tourist"interest of the GIANTS-
Now I have to tell you- we did not drive through the tree- Don was outraged- even as he is with watching wild animals pace in small places in zoos. The idea that a giant hole would be cut into such an ancient tree so that cars can drive through did not settle well with our Don- he did allow a picture of the sign- for educational purposes only!

It was a beautiful clear day and we had hope for a sunset on the ocean. I must say we were racing the sun and the drive up, over and down those mountains was a bit of an experience. Max kept quiet, but her knuckles were white as we rolled down the mountain through numerous switchbacks to get back to the ocean. I know it is hard to believe but I did not say anything- not once- not one thing- as we raced up and down these coastal mountains. But it was worth it. We were about 30 minutes ahead of the sun set, and it was spectacular. And it was this spectacular!


fiddleheads said...

Whoo Hooo! i am so happy you saw the BIG redwoods! they are my favorite part of california (along with the deserts which i adore for other reasons). it was like i was there again as i looked at your photos. i agree with dons rage about the drive through tree. i did not do it either. stupid stupid people!!!

i have another fun fact about the downed trees. when a tree falls and it starts to decompose there is more life in the tree than it had when it was alive. (this is because of all the new organisms, plants and insects, and fungi, and moss and micro organisms that move on in) i just love thinking about that mind twister.

Lucas said...

I could just cry with the beauty of this all. Remember how energized I was after our day in Muir Woods? I can't imagine how completetly, totally HIGH this trip would have made me. It's now on my "To Do" list, up near the top. Thanks for taking us all along with you. Can't wait to see it in person, perhaps even on motorcycles! Now THAT might just put me over the edge!

Beyond The Strip said...

Wow, I'd love to see the park in person. Great photos and trip notes! I'm glad you are enjoying your last few months in CA to the fullest.