For over one hundred years that dreaded cry filled the forests of the northern California coastal region.
Redwoods over three hundred feet high and a thousand years old came crashing to the ground at a frightening pace.
Over two million acres of these majestic trees were reduced to a few groves.
Thankfully the State of California stepped in and established Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, Humboldt and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks to protect the last of the Coastal Redwoods.
The National Park Service didn’t come on board until 1968, when 96% of the old growth forests were already gone. A sad commentary on the power that logging interests had on our government.
We assumed (and everyone knows what happens when you do that) that the biggest and best redwoods would be in Redwoods National Park.
Wrong. Because of their late entry into the save-the-redwoods movement, the National Park is a distant second to the State Parks when it comes to preserving big, tall, fat, ginormous, skyscraping trees.
Pure dumb luck brought us in from the north where we discovered Jedediah Smith State Park — and boy are we glad we did.
It turns out that this is where the Star Wars: Return of The Jedi chase scene on the flying motor bike speeder thingys was filmed. You know – the Forest Moon of the planet Endor, home to those adorable little kick-ass teddy bears, the Ewoks.
Pretty groovy, and a blast to talk about while gawking up at the surreal trees.
Named for the intrepid mountain man Jedediah (maybe his friends called him Jedi, get it, Star Wars?) Strong Smith, the park features some of the world’s largest redwoods by volume and untouched old growth groves.
Stout Grove is an easy hike from the road but a journey into a wet, dark mossy world so dense that the deluge of rain falling as we entered the grove barely made it to the ground.
It is difficult to maintain a sense of time and direction in this strange land, so there were a few times when we wished we had picked up one of these great compass watches from The Gear Hut.
It was also hard to keep a perspective of size in this extraordinary world without something or someone near the trees for reference.
Hence, David making his debut as a “tree model” for our photos and video.
The legendary Grove of Titans is also within this park but is nearly impossible to reach because its whereabouts remain a closely guarded secret.
It’s heartening to know that a grove of these magnificent monster trees is being kept pristine.
We headed south from old Jed’s place along US 101, known as The Redwood Highway in these parts.
The road connects all of the parks and feels like a trip through time. Mature coastal redwoods average over five hundred years old with
a few documented to have lived over two thousand years. They are among the longest-living organisms on earth and the forests have
a dreamlike prehistoric feel.
These are the tallest, most massive plants on Earth.
Many are over three hundred feet high, taller than a thirty story building and weigh in at well over a million pounds.
Currently the tallest is Hyperion in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, towering just over three hundred and seventy-nine feet, but others may have been larger.
A tree claimed to be three hundred and eighty feet was cut down in 1912. Humboldt is home to the oldest of the redwoods as well — one goliath is known to be 2,200 years old.
When US 101 was expanded a few years back, a new path was chosen to avoid disturbing the redwoods. Inside Humboldt Redwoods State Park the old highway, known as The Avenue of The Giants, was saved.
This is a road like no other.
Meandering into the forest, bright sunny days turn to twilight as the trees envelope the road.
The thirty-two miles of the old route running directly through the park were officially renamed California State Highway 254.
Once a stagecoach road to Oregon, later a US highway, now a national treasure, the narrow blacktop winds through the trees with the giants sometimes standing just inches from the pavement.
The temptation to gawk upward is great but keeping the rearview mirrors attached to the vehicle requires forward focus.
There are several interesting sights along the way and most are easily accessible. Founder’s Grove, The Immortal Tree, and the cheesy Drive Through Tree are all just off the road.
Further into the woods, The Rockefeller Forest is certainly worth the extra effort.
A very long couple of miles down the winding, beat up Mattole (rhythms with pothole) Road is rewarded with a walk through an untouched
stand along the banks of Bull Creek.
This is the largest old-growth coastal redwood forest remaining in the world. In the center of the grove stands Giant Tree.
Aptly named, it is an absolutely mammoth specimen, touching the sky at three hundred and sixty-three towering feet.
Continuing on 101 south of The Avenue of The Giants we would periodically pass through another grove, the headlights would come on and our necks would crane again.
After a while these giants began to seem almost normal. Weird as it seems, we had been desensitized.
Waking up the next morning, our memories were jogged as to just how huge these Sequoia Sempervirens really are.
And our necks were killing us from looking up so much.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
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