People like to ask me what my favorite national park is, and I’ll usually give them a prepackaged answer,
“Oh, I don’t know – that’s like asking me which is my favorite kid!”
but then I’ll rattle off a few,
“Maybe Big Bend NP in Texas for its vastness.. or Acadia NP in Maine for its dramatic coastline.. or maybe one of the parks in Southern Utah..” (Wrangel St. Elias NP in Alaska and Carlsbad Caverns NP in New Mexico occasionally make their way onto the list)
I see the remaining old growth redwood groves as not simply a national treasure like other parks. There is an additional layer of empathy to them.
As a species, I consider it a privilege to have evolved concurrently with such an awe inspiring feat of natural engineering and rapturing beauty. They evoke a raw and potent sense of wonder which readily crystalizes into intellectual fascination and calm adoration after only the littlest contemplation. Being among these trees allows me to glimpse a depth of gratitude within myself which looms but rarely strikes. A single tree’s lifetime can connect us back to the times of Christ or long into the future, how far is hard to know.
They are living monuments – reaching upwards in space, outwards in time, and inward – approaching the limit of my soul.
Redwoods are a generally successful species of tree, but the most massive among them require very specific growing conditions. These conditions are only available along approximately 50 miles of Northern California coastline. They hug the coast to take advantage of the consistent temperature and moist air provided by the pacific marine layer (wiki). They have inland success by inhabiting ravines which channel the dense fog and are additionally cooled by evaporation off the creek.
I hiked Redwood Creek up to Elam Camp to spend the night.
The redwoods have a fibrous braided bark which appears to have a genetic inclination to twist clockwise as they grow (apparently they haven’t heard of our right-hand-rule convention). They sway imperceptibly in the wind, and speak in long low groans. Some sound like large dock-lines that wring out under tension from a massive ship. Others sound like a sharp knocking similar to an axe hacking into a trunk – except the knocks occur in rapid succession, and they get higher in pitch as the tree leans further from neutral.
It’s remarkable how much damage these trees can sustain from fire and continue growing.
All that remained of one tree’s trunk was a 15 foot diameter crescent (maybe 4 feet at its thickest) that was completely charred on its interior, but there it continued to stand and thrive, a curiosity of resilience.
All the floaty touchy-feely stuff aside, the redwoods are fun.
The simplest way to think of it is to imagine you’ve been shrunk down to about knee high and sent out to explore from that humble perspective.