A cousin of the Giant Sequoia found further inland, coastal Redwoods ascend to heights of 360 feet or more, and are 10-15 feet in diameter.To stand alone in a grove of trees such as these is very much like that first moment after entering the cathedral at Chartres or Salisbury - only grander. It is beyond breathtaking.
Lost in Timelessness
Here is a place where time is measured in centuries and millennia. Most of the mature trees that you see began growing when Marco Polo was exploring the orient, and the Aztecs and Maya ruled the Americas.
Before the western migration of European settlers, the forests of coastal Redwoods stretched unbroken from southern Oregon all the way to Big Sur. But from 1860 until the early 1970's, intense logging reduced the forests to a fraction - and now less than 4% of old-growth Redwoods remain.
Fortunately, those that do remain are now protected in three large National and state parks. For example, the Humboldt Redwoods State Park with its magnificent 30 mile long Avenue of the Giants - one of the most scenic drives in the entire country.
Each of these remaining stands lie near the coastal city of Eureka. Its a rather moist part of the state with omnipresent rain and fog, getting 60-70 inches of rain in the winter with mild summers rarely exceeding 80°. The perfect climate for the largest and tallest plants on Earth.
And north of Eureka is the Redwood National Park - home to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and one of the most magnificent nature trails anywhere. Lady Bird was instrumental in the movement that led to the preservation of the remaining forests, and so it is fitting that one of its most stunning examples of old-growth Redwoods should bear her name.
Most of the larger trees in the grove are around 700 years old. A one-mile nature trail winds its way through the grove in a gentle loop, and is the perfect introduction to the majesty of the Redwood forests. And while many thousands visit this grove each year, you will usually find yourself completely alone as you stroll among these giant sentinels.
No one leaves the grove as they entered. No one. Something in you changes through contact with these messengers of time and scale. It's as though you rediscover a place of peace and acceptance long lost deep inside yourself. No words can convey what your psyche absorbs while walking through that grove. And I remember that as I drove away, the message of that bumper-sticker permeated every fiber of my being with the certitude that we are merely guests in a home not of our making - and beyond our ability to ever fully know.