In my experience, people who don’t live in California most often associate it with Hollywood, L.A., beaches, warm weather, and the like. And they aren’t completely wrong. We have a lot of that here, but those things exist almost exclusively in southern California. There is a whole different side to this place, though–a wild, misty, and prehistoric place where thousand-year old trees stand hundreds of feet tall. This is our California: our redwood forest.
I have lived in northern California all of my life, but I moved to the north coast about fourteen years ago where I now live amongst the oldest and largest trees on the planet. To live on the north coast of California is to live almost symbiotically with these trees. We walk through them all summer, see them fall to their deaths in winter storms, mourn them as their corpses are hauled off by greedy timber companies–a single tree cut up to fill two giant trailers on trucks that fill the highways. We see the bald patches on mountainsides where the same timber companies have clearcut whole groves, whole ecosystems, so that someone can have a redwood planked deck.
After living here for fourteen years, one would think that the sheer awe inspired by these trees would fade, but over the years, I have fallen in love with these mystical giants time and time again. Of late, J and I have been camping and hiking amongst them every chance we get. Below is a photo of one such excursion. J is on the trail on the left. The giant mass taking up the right of the photo is just half the width of a redwood tree:
This is a fairly typical redwood grove: the sun filters through those few areas where the canopy opens up; giant sword ferns nearly swallow the bases of the giant trunks; and a thick, fluffy soil filled with redwood needles called duff covers the ground.
I never have been much of an environmental activist, but living amongst these redwoods and seeing their devastation has made me a life-long advocate for these trees. We really are in danger of losing them all, and as cliche as it may sound, I truly hope our children will be able to run amongst them, try to wrap their arms around them, and smell their sweet, earthy aroma one day–and that they won’t all be lost to lumber companies. Friends, if you’ve never seen them, please find an excuse to do so. You’ll be changed forever.