Sunday, February 2, 2014

Redwood National Park, Home of the Planet's Tallest Trees

     “Poems were made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”  -Joyce Kilmer

     Redwood National Park is one of the most unique and beautiful places on the entire planet.  Only on the West Coast of the United States will you find these magnificent trees.  

     Though they aren’t considered the biggest trees in the world, (The Giant Sequoia takes this title because of its sheer volume) they are the tallest.  

     This redwood is so tall that you can barely see the top of it.  I love the way the trunk spirals up towards the heavens, like an infinity tree.

     Redwoods can easily grow to 300 feet or more.  The tallest tree in the world is Hyperion, and it stands at 379 feet (that’s taller than a football field is long!) in an undisclosed location deep inside Redwood National Park.  

     When your neck gets tired of craning upwards, just lie on your back and stare at the stunning canopy.  When the sun is shining it illuminates leaves and makes moving shadows as far as the eye can see.

     Or inspect the tough hide that protects the tree from fire.  The bark is surprisingly intricate and beautiful.

     Though redwoods can live to be 2,000 years old, they aren’t the oldest trees on earth.  The Sequoia has a lengthy lifespan of 4,000 years and the ancient Bristlecone Pine can live up to an astounding 5,000 years.  All of these trees reside in California.  

     But what forces of nature allow these trees to outlast so many other living things?  A redwood has a special tannin in its bark that makes it resistant to harmful insects such as termites.  These same tannins also make it resistant to fire.  Though fire can destroy a redwood, more often than not the fire is only able to spread so far.  Most old growth redwoods have scorch marks, but will continue to grow around them.  

     This redwood may appear as though it’s reached a smoldering end, but it is still very much alive:

     Rain and fog are the other two components of long life for these giants.  From November to April these trees receive up to 140 inches of rain, and in the summertime the coastal fog continues to nourish them.  The temperate climate of the Northern California coast keeps them at a comfortable range of 40-65 degrees all year round.  

     There are several small species of  newts, salamanders, and birds that spend their entire lives in a redwood tree without ever touching the ground.  

     Devastatingly, 95% of the old growth redwoods have been cut down.  Redwood National Park protects about half of the remaining trees.

     There are several State Parks such as Jedidiah Smith, Prairie Creek Woods, (home of Fern Canyon) and Humbolt that surround Redwood NP.  These parks are definitely worth a visit as they protect much of the remaining old growth forest.  Muir Woods guards the last remaining grove in the San Francisco area.

     The best camping can be found in Jed Smith SP or in the Crescent City KOA.  Your tent will be completely dwarfed by the enormous redwoods surrounding it.

     I’ve barely touched on everything there is to do and see in this park- there are scenic drives that weave precariously through the tall trees, abundant wildlife to observe, and gorgeous beaches.  This is a very popular “roadside” park which means the majority of visitors get out of their cars at the turnouts, then get back in and drive on.  This can be very fortunate for hikers- step a mere mile onto any trail and have the whole forest to yourself!  

     Visiting Redwood NP is exploring another world.  I love it here so much.  As far as an overall National Park experience goes- hiking, camping, peace & quiet, wildlife, scenery, weather, etc... Redwood is up on the very top of my favorites list.

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