R2R Travelogue 12: Redwood Forests of Northern California

roleerob @roleerobFebruary 2019 · 13 min read · United States · #photography

Day Twelve: Continuing on my journey, today was a major transition point. It was a remarkable transition from the mesmerizing sight and sounds of the sea to the marvel and majesty of trees. And not just any trees either ...

Photo: Redwood Forest on Trillium Falls Trail

Think about trees just a bit. The biggest living things on the earth. The oldest living things on the earth. The tallest living things on the earth. They really are a marvel and in a category of living things all on their own.

In today's post, we are going to visit the tallest trees on the face of the earth - in the Redwood Forests of Northern California.

Let's take a closer look!

Redwood Forests of Northern California

Given the size of the territory in which these trees are found, there is a partnership between the various federal and state agencies which oversee protecting them.

Photo: Entering Redwood Forests of Northern California

While I spent a brief amount of time in some of the others, we are going to be visiting two particular areas:

  1. Trillium Falls Trail in Redwoods National Park, and

  2. Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

I was helped in settling on both of these options by aides in the Visitor Center, when first entering the National Park. Yes, they were open!

These aides were a retired married couple and I had a very enjoyable visit with them, before heading on my way. Nice to meet people like that in life, even if we only have a few moments with them. Just a thought to ponder, as you never know the impact of what you say and do on someone else!

  • Point of Interest: Notice anything unusual in the picture above? When is the last time you drove through an area with a tsunami warning sign posted?! Are they just being a little overzealous in the "granola state?" Well, read here and here, as a start to answering the question. You may be surprised. I was!

While our focus, when seeing these trees, is generally on how tall they are, I would encourage you to read this about how old they are and the fascinating details.

Here is an extract:

"... we feel safe in saying that there are thousands of Sierra Redwoods between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. Certainly, a number of them are more than 3,000 years old, and a few are possibly as much as 4,000 years old."

So, now we'll see both on foot and on the road, what it is like to experience these majestic and marvelous giants.

Trillium Falls Trail in Redwoods National Park

Soon after entering this park, you see references to elk in the area. As you can then see below, to get to this trail, you turn into the Davison Road exit, then left into the Elk Meadow Picnic turnoff.

Photo: Map to Trillium Falls Trail

There is a big parking lot and then you're on foot. The first part of the trail is easy going, as shown below. It's still paved!

Photo: Approaching Trillium Falls Trailhead

Soon, you'll note a little side path up the side of the mountain that is marked. A short way up this trail, you quickly find yourself in another world. A world of giant redwood trees!

Photo: Redwoods Growing Up into the Heavens

I took many photos of these trees, in a vain attempt to capture them adequately. For starters, it was raining and very poor light. That, in turn, created problems with the "panorama" option for photo taking on my smartphone. You simply cannot capture these majestic giants with a normal photo. Many of the resulting photos I simply deleted. Of the survivors, I deemed this one to be the best.

You cannot adequately capture in words the impression left standing at the base of one of these living marvels of the plant world. They grow up out of sight. The tallest of them grow to be over 350 feet high!

The couple mentioned above in the Visitors Center said they do not share where the tallest tree is. To protect it. And they said it really doesn't matter, since a person on the ground has no idea how tall the tree is under which they are standing. No doubt about that!

Photo: Video Extracts of ONE Redwood Tree

"Chopping" one up into individual video frames, resulted in the images above. Not ideal, but I wanted to give you another way of viewing these trees and get an idea of the experience of standing under one of them.

But ... There is more to the story! Notice anything that stands out in looking at the tree lower down, starting at the base. Evidence of fire "damage!"

Why is the word damage in quotes? Glad you asked ... 😉

According to info I read on one of the signs, fire is a natural part of the life cycle of these trees and a vitally important one. Fires burn off all the underlying vegetation and return nutrients to the soil. The info claimed the bark on these trees is almost a foot thick and is resistant to fire. As we can see, the first branches are way up there, so those are not damaged at all, as the fire rages down below ...

So ... Hard to imagine fire being "good" for any living organism, particularly for me. I lost my Dad in a fire. But ... That is what scientists claim. As we can see, in the images above, this tree appears to be doing fine!

Scientists have gone as far as debating that fire must be reintroduced to these ecosystems, as man is damaging them by his well intentioned efforts to "protect" them.

Photo: Hiking on Trillium Falls Trail

While I think I have a reasonably good command of "the King's English," I feel at a loss to adequately explain what it was like walking under the canopy of these massive trees and imagine how ancient this forest is and what it must have "seen" along its path through life. From the beginning until now.

All I can say is, if you are ever in this area, you want to come find out for yourself!

Photo: Trillium "Falls"

For the record, let it be shown that I did make it to the "falls." I love waterfalls, so that was part of my reason for choosing this trail. That said, we are obviously not talking about any "natural wonder" rivaling Niagara Falls or anything like that. 😧

In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest we're looking at some "creative marketing" to call this a "falls" at all! Oh well ... The "tricksy gimmick" got me here and with it the awe-inspiring experience of walking through these ancient forests.

That said, by the time I reached the "falls," I had definitely absorbed enough water in the rain to last me for a long time, so I returned to my trusty Ford Ranger, to see some more of these ancient wonders from there.

Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

The aforementioned couple at the Visitors Center explained that this road was historically a stagecoach route. Wow! That must've been quite the experience in its time.

It is about a 10-mile dirt road, passable by car, but you will want to take it slow, as there were numerous potholes, etc. A little rough, but taken slow is certainly passable!

A central focus of taking this side route through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is the famous Stout Grove. This link will provide you some wonderful details.

I have extracted a key statement from it:

"Stout Grove is the world’s most scenic stand of redwoods. It’s not all that large, and it doesn’t have the biggest trees, but for sheer photogenic beauty nothing beats this extraordinary grove on a sunny afternoon."

[Emphasis added mine! 😉]

Full disclosure: While I drove around the loop near it, I did not get out and walk through it, as the rain had steadily increased throughout the day. By the time I reached this destination, it was really pouring and I had already absorbed enough water!

Photo: Map to Howland Hill Road

The map above gives you some information about how to find this road. It is quite well marked, so you shouldn't have any difficulty finding it.

Photo: Redwood Forests on Howland Hill Road

As added emphasis for how wet it was, I elected to just stay in my truck and take pictures out of the front windshield. Certainly not ideal, from an optimum photo quality point-of-view. But, I was through taking chances of potential water damage to my expensive smartphone. The quality was still adequate, for conveying the general idea, given the circumstances.

  • Note: Referencing the aforementioned couple at the Visitors Center again, I was amused by them saying this was "light" rain, in preparation for the "main event" rain storm coming in from the Pacific ocean and expected to arrive there tomorrow.

    Good grief! 😧 I was quite happy to take their word for it, as I intended to be well inland in Oregon by then ... 😉

Photo: Stream Alongside and Bridge Across

For a portion of the trip, I was driving alongside what appeared to be a very pretty little stream through the forest. Had it been a better day, I would have loved to get out and spend some time down by it.

Note the size of the trunk cut through near the road. Redwoods have highly sought-after properties in its wood and I read a statement online saying over 95% of them had been cut down. What you are seeing in this post are a few of the remaining places where this special tree is being preserved.

While I do not make any claim to be an environmentalist, I certainly am in favor of exercising good stewardship responsibility. We should all hope that man is becoming much wiser in how that responsibility is being carried out.

Photo: Finishing by Crossing Smith River to Hwy 199

While I was not able to capture high-quality images of my experience on this road, I can assure you that it is very worthwhile to make the effort to do it yourself, should the opportunity ever present itself.

You do not want to pass this one by!

As we bring this "damp" but wonderful visit to these majestic trees to a close, I would like to finish with thinking just a bit more about what marvelous creations they are. Imagine forests like these and all they have "witnessed" over the generations.

What if they could talk and tell us the story of their experiences? Imagine what they would say about periods of great stress and survival, e.g. when fire was sweeping everything away beneath them. Or of "happier" times, whatever that might mean to a tree.

Just imagine ...

Postscript for Day Twelve

Leaving the ocean "in the rear view mirror" today was a big transition point.

Photo: Coast North of Klamath, California

Given that yesterday was about as perfect as I could've asked for in Mendocino, 24 hours was a big change to leave the ocean looking like this. It was a stark reminder of the obvious - weather plays a big factor in our perceptions.

An even bigger transition is one week ago, I was spending my last day in Arizona.

Photo: Revisiting Baboquivari. Looking South to Border with Mexico

Today, the first day of February already, I crossed the border into Oregon. Time marches relentlessly on. On my Sabbath Rest day, I may write more about some reflections I have had over this past week on the topic of time.


Awaking to a dreary day under heavy cloud cover in Grants Pass, Oregon, I have now finished what I started last night on this post. Unfortunate that I could not capture better images to share with you, dear reader, but it was not due to a lack of effort.

I debated with myself about whether to "augment" my post here with other people's photos of these famous trees. Decided against it, as it would not be fully "my" post in capturing the day ... I must just let it go and get ready for the day's visit to Crater Lake, the only National Park in the western United States which I have never experienced. Going to go work on that right now!

So ... Definitely a "transitional" day in "@roleerob's excellent adventure" ... Thanks for going along with me, dear reader. I’d love to hear any feedback you may be inspired to provide.

Until "next time," all the best to you for a better tomorrow, as we all work together to build our Steem Community! 👍 😊

Steemian @roleerob

Posted using SteemPeak and “immutably enshrined in the blockchain” on Friday, 1 February 2019!

  • "R2R" Note: My "shorthand" way of referring to what I first wrote about in my Reflections: My "Road to Recovery" Trip post. "Road to Recovery" <=> "R2R" ... 😉

  • Image sources, unless otherwise noted: My trusty smartphone!

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If you liked this post, you might enjoy others in my "Road to Recovery" Travelogue series:

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Edit: Sunday, 3 Feb 2019

In response to a comment from @newageinv, about a photo showing some perspective on the size of these trees, went back to my photos for the day and came up with this one:

Photo: @roleerob's truck next to big tree located in
Joseph and Zipporah Russ Memorial Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park


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