"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?
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.
My wife, daughter and my parents. My daughter decided she likes the forest and wants to visit again.
My daughter is tapping the tree with a stick. She also spontaneously hugged this tree, but Dad was slow with the camera.
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 â€” 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.
Avenue of the Giants was a stagecoach road in the 1880s. If you visit in a rental car, ask for a sun roof.
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.
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: