Show and Tell: Toddler in an Ancient Redwood Forest

Photo of my daughter sitting on a fallen tree holding her hands far apart. A larger tree, the Dyerville Giant, lies behind her.

"I love you this much," said Little Nutbrown Hare.

My 3-year-old daughter sits before the fallen Dyerville Giant, estimated to be 1,600 years old. Its trunk is 17 feet in diameter. The portion behind my daughter is 10- to 12-feet-tall. The tree is 370 feet long, once 70 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower, 194 feet taller than Niagara Falls and 218 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

We live in the redwood country of Humboldt County on the California coast (five hours north of San Francisco). This past weekend was our daughter’s first trip to an ancient forest. Why wait three years? I don’t know. How often do people who live next door to Niagara Falls actually visit the falls? Our last visit was for a travel magazine article I wrote while my wife was still pregnant.

My parents were car camping with friends an hour south of us, so we drove down and spent the day on the Avenue of the Giants, a 32-mile scenic drive in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, peppered with short hiking trails and a river. Much of our time was spent in Founders Grove, which features a half mile level walk among trees averaging 400 to 600 years old. Redwoods can live 2,000 years, so these are small by comparison. Most of the truly huge, ancient trees have been cut within the past 150 years. The Save the Redwoods League was instrumental in preserving the trees found in the photos below.

One kid we saw on the trail was dressed as a Jedi Knight, probably because redwoods in this county were filmed as the setting for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi

Our redwoods have also been seen in the film Jurassic
Park, which makes sense because redwoods existed 45 million years ago. Once they were pervasive. Today they are found in a narrow 40-mile-wide coastal strip between southern Oregon and Monterey County in California.

Forests often get a bad rap as dark, scary places. Does this place look dark and scary?

Photo of the Dyerville Giant lying on the forest floor.

Another view of the Dyerville Giant with a walking path alongside. The bulge in the tree is a burl 100 feet up from the roots. A burl is a cluster of dormant buds which can sprout seedlings. Along the trail you’ll see trees growing off the side of other trees, living or dead.

The Dyerville Giant will take hundreds of years to decompose, and will be home or host to several thousand types of plants and animals during its "afterlife."

This tree fell in a 1991 rainstorm and reportedly sounded like a train wreck as it thundered to the forest floor.


Photo of my wife and daughter and my parents walking down a forest path, away from the camera.

My wife, daughter and my parents. My daughter decided she likes the forest and wants to visit again.


Photo of my daughter standing next to and looking up at a tall redwood tree.

My daughter is tapping the tree with a stick. She also spontaneously hugged this tree, but Dad was slow with the camera.


Photo of my daughter sitting in my wife's backpack, inspecting the roots of a redwood tree that tower over her head 12 feet or more.

This is the tail end of a fallen redwood. These trees resist fire and disease well, so a leading cause of death (other than timber harvesting) is windthrow — blowing over in a storm.

Their root system runs only a few feet deep, but the roots can spread horizontally more than a hundred feet, intertwining with nearby trees, strengthening each other.

Many fallen trees are visible throughout the Founders Grove trail.

Photo of the narrow one lane Avenue of the Giants running through redwoods that come up against the roadside.

Avenue of the Giants was a stagecoach road in the 1880s. If you visit in a rental car, ask for a sun roof.

Photo of redwood sorrel and sword ferns.

Redwood sorrel and sword ferns line the forest floor. Sorrel looks like giant clover. It thrives in the shade and its petals will close downward in direct sunlight, fast enough for you to observe.


Close up photo of a chipmunk looking at the camera.

This chipmunk harassed us at a picnic table. Apparently, when you stand up, wave your arms, yell and step aggressively toward a chipmunk, a chipmunk thinks, "He has food for me. I’ll run up to him and he’ll give it to me."

I don’t have a telephoto lens. This guy let me get really close. He had a friend who was equally unphased, along with a few steller’s jays who wanted to share in any bounty.

Want more? Request a free travel guide from our tourism bureau, or shoot me questions. I’m not affiliated with a tourism organization. I just live here.

Previous blog posts from Humboldt County:


6 Responses to “Show and Tell: Toddler in an Ancient Redwood Forest”

  1. Nicki says:

    I think its great you took your daughter into the redwoods. I am lucky enough to work in Jed Smith Redwood State Park in Del Norte County. I love the giant trees, bugs and wildlife i get to see. My kids love it out there. It amazes me when i go other places how short trees are elsewhere. You grow accustomed to the ones your around i guess. The chipmunks are very brave sometimes, getting themselves hurt or killed on the roads. And the stellar jays are beautiful but are invasive(as are crows and ravens) and are taking over marbled murrelet (an endangered) habitats and killing their babies. While they are super friendly it does more harm than good feeding them. thanks for the great article!

    July 23rd, 2007 at 12:20 pm

  2. diane says:

    You have to watch out for the overly friendly wildlife in parks. Years ago, a squirrel climbed up into my lap while I was eating lunch at a picnic table, and I didn’t realize it until I felt its hind paws on my legs and at the same time it put its front paws on the table right in front of me. Scared the crap out of me, and when I screamed, I probably scared the crap out of it.

    July 23rd, 2007 at 6:16 pm

  3. Amy says:

    One of my favorite things about living in Humboldt is The Avenue of the Giants. We took bothour kids last labor day and had a great time.

    July 24th, 2007 at 9:59 am

  4. M. D. Vaden of Oregon says:

    Even though it’s fallen, I’d like to photograph the Dyerville Giant sometime.

    Two other trees – standing – that are easy to get children too, are Big Tree and Corkscrew Redwood in Prairie Creek Redwoods.

    Some of my favorites are on this page, that I also linked in my name:

    We’re moving up to north Oregon from southern, so I’ll probably take two trips to the redwoods per year now instead of every 3 weeks – which was great for the past 3 years.

    May 4th, 2008 at 3:54 pm

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    It appears to have some dark and scary potential when it is dusk or dawn instead of high noon, yes! :)

    May 20th, 2008 at 6:27 am

  6. foolery says:

    My great-grandparents’ place (one of their two homes) was just down the road from the Dyerville Giant. My mother remembers when it was once labeled the tallest tree in the world (until a taller one was discovered). Beautiful photos!

    – Laurie @ Foolery

    May 22nd, 2008 at 10:44 am

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