Leaving Fort Bragg we headed inland and into the forests of the coastal mountain ranges, the roads started to wind a bit more, the inclines were steeper, the roadside foliage was denser and the sunlight much reduced – welcome, to the land the of the Giants…
The Giant Redwood is a tree from the Sequoia Sempervirens species and differs from the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum – of which, much more in a later post) in that its natural habitat is within 5-20 miles of the northern California coast where the annual temperature, level of rainfall and altitude of between 500 and 4000 feet provide them with the ideal growing environment. The average lifespan and height is 1,800 years and 300 feet (90m) with the oldest and tallest reaching 2,500 years (not long after Rome was founded) and 380ft (115m) which is taller than Big Ben and a bit shorter than the London Eye, making them by some way the tallest and amongst he oldest living things on the planet.
Our first stop was the Drive Thru’ – a phrase which usually heralds misunderstood orders, cold food, lingering odours in the car and general disappointment all round. However, on this occasion there was not a burger in sight and plenty of fun to be had and rather than describe it, you can watch it instead.
Our tree-tunnel appetites sated we moved on up the freeway and came off at Humboldt Redwood State Park where there is a 30 mile stretch of road which follows the meandering course of the Eel river through the Park and is called The Avenue of the Giants. Coming across the first parking area we got out and wandered along a looping trail passing so many colossal that we quickly lost count and just stared in awe at what we could see. Everywhere we looked it seemed there were trees bigger than the last ones spotted. We did a crude measurement around the base of one particular giant by counting the number of arm-spans it took to make it round – which gave us an astonishing figure of 25m, now that’s a big tree…
Trees which had fallen to the ground were as fascinating as the ones still alive, as we could stand in the shadow of the roots and we could also walk along the length of the intact trunks most of which were 70-80 meters before we came to the top sections which had snapped off when falling. Incidentally the noise and reverberation when one of these giants falls is often likened to a bomb going off, such is the effect.
We had two full days hiking and horse-riding through the forests and in addition to the trees, we came across elk, fresh bear tracks and innumerable bird species – although there was no birdsong down on the ground, which we put down to the fact that the tree canopy is so far above that the sounds do not come down that far.
Hopefully the pictures posted give you a good feel for what this remarkable environment and these true giants are really like.