Exploring the Redwoods has been the most epic part of this trip. It's impossible to wander through trees that have been alive since the birth of Christ without feeling awe-inspired. Walking into a forest means walking into a different world, one that's much older, more still, and very tall. On one of our hikes Travis accused me of being high because of the amount of times I squealed and pointed, "Ooo look babe, there's a REALLY big one!" He said I did that at least 20 times. The original groves only covered a strip of land 40 miles wide and 450 miles long up the coast of California, and to experience what's left of them after they were logged feels almost sacred.
Clearly I'm not the only one who has been moved by these trees. I'm reading a book called The Wild Trees by Richard Preston follows tree climbers obsessed with finding the tallest Redwoods. Until very recently- like 1991 recently- the canopies of the ancient Redwood groves had never been seen up close by a human. Scientists and tree enthusiasts in the early 90s used intricate arborist tree-climbing techniques to accurately measure the tallest trees-- by climbing over 360 feet to the top of them and dropping a weighted line to the bottom.
Scientists believe that half of all life on Earth live in our forest canopies, areas that are very difficult to explore for obvious reasons. Turns out there is a complex system of life forms all dependent on one another living in the ancient Redwood canopies, like salamanders that survive in the treetop dew without ever setting foot on the ground and lichens that turn the nitrogen in the atmosphere into a form that's usable by the trees. After centuries of dust and soil settling in the treetops, literal tons of soil have accumulated in the canopies. Huckleberries, salmonberries, and elderberries grow here, as well as entire forests of bonsai trees grow out of this soil- dwarfed Douglas firs, Sitka spruces, tan oaks- and earthworms of a previously unknown species bury within it. These explorers discovered groves of ancient trees so tall they broke world records, groves that only a few people alive know how to find.
Though I'll never see the world's tallest living tree, I do have a taste of how big they truly are. We traveled through the Avenue of Giants, a tract of land preserved by the 1920s rich Republicans of the Save-The-Redwoods League. There, we passed signs with peoples' names on them, commemorating the people who spent their own money buying the land from timber companies. Finally we reached Founders Grove.
Founders Grove is named for the founders of the League, and it is a truly magnificent grove. And it was there that we met one of the trees mentioned in The Wild Trees.
The Dyerville Giant was named for a tiny town nearby that was wiped out in the massive 1964 flood. On the morning of its death, a neighbor who lived up the hill from the park heard a tremendous noise and ran outside, thinking a train had jumped the tracks that run by his house. It was the noise caused by a 1600 year old tree slamming into the forest floor, taking several other trees with it. It was 17 feet in diameter, and it was measured to be 370 feet tall as it lay on the ground. It was the tallest tree ever recorded. In the days after it fell, someone left flowers at its roots.