I could barely move my legs the next day…let alone my entire body, after our first hike in a redwood forest…
We had just moved to San Francisco from Germany, and decided to visit Tilden Park in the East Bay with my younger sister and her friend, Reggie.
We followed a trail, which brought us to what felt like the middle of the earth, surrounded by majestic coast redwood trees.
Beautiful…peaceful…but now we had to get back up and out of the Earth’s belly, and find our starting point. Our daughter was about 3 then, and pretty much rode on her Dad’s shoulders (Jeff) for the entire hike.
We were young and inexperienced, new to the area, and most definitely unaware of the size of the East Bay Redwood Regional Park. After all, we just went across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco…and the park bordered Oakland and Berkeley.
The San Francisco Bay area — with a population of 7 million — is California’s second largest urban area, after the greater Los Angeles area. Since the SF Bay area is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, getting lost inside a redwood forest did not even cross our minds.
A map of the park would have been helpful, but of course, we did not have one. And there where no websites to visit, or smart phones back then.
After an entire day of hiking (of what was supposed to be a “two-hour tour”) we emerged from the forest and finally found our way back to the parking lot and to the car.
It turns out that the area we were in is 700 acres of an original redwood grove and part of 38 miles of trails in this gem of an urban park in the East Bay.
Despite my sad physical state and condition the following day, I’ve been in awe of redwoods ever since that visit to Tilden Park in the Berkeley / Oakland hills.
Photo above of tent next to redwood trees, and below are from Jeff’s camping trip to King’s Canyon National Park in California – a “Land of Giants” and part of the U.S. National Park System. The widest sequoia redwood is 34 feet wide, and found in the King’s Canyon Park.
You can see a silhouette of a coast redwood in the middle, from his photo below. Note: Much wiser than in our 20’s, Jeff had maps, and a GPS device for his solo camping trip to King’s Canyon in 2011.
Redwoods are ancient trees — and Earth’s tallest, growing taller than a 30-floor skyscraper. They also live for a very long time.
There are redwoods that are over 2,000 years old, which means there are living trees here in California that started to grow around the time of the Roman Empire.
From the Save the Redwoods League website:
Redwoods once grew throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The first redwood fossils date back more than 200 million years to the Jurassic period.
Before commercial logging and clearing began in the 1850s, coast redwoods naturally occurred in an estimated 2 million acres (the size of three Rhode Islands) along California’s coast from south of Big Sur to just over the Oregon border.
When gold was discovered in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people came to California, and redwoods were logged extensively to satisfy the explosive demand for lumber and resources. Today, only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, along a 450-mile coastal strip. Most of the coast redwood forest is now young.
Besides being the tallest trees on Earth, redwoods are also among the fastest growing trees in the world.
From the Sequoia National Park website:
Sequoias get so large because they grow fast over a long lifetime. They live so long because they are resistant to many insects and diseases, and because they can survive most fires. Sequoias do have a weakness — a shallow root system. The main cause of death among mature sequoias is toppling.
When my daughter was young, we drove out to the California “Gold Country” in the Sierra Nevada to visit Sequoia National Park. We went with my friend Nancy in the winter, so my daughter could see snow, and play in the snow.
My daughter is in the middle of the photo below — at around 10 years old — standing on a giant sequoia redwood tree stump at Sequoia National Park. The photo was sun-faded, but you can see the stairs at the left side of the tree stump, and get an idea of its size. There is snow around the base…and yes, that was one huge redwood tree!
Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 — for the purpose of protecting the giant sequoia trees from logging. Though Yellowstone Park in Wyoming is the first official U.S. National Park, Sequoia was the first national park designated to protect a living organism – the giant sequoia redwood (sequoiadendron giganteum). Even back then, they knew how special these trees where, and that the remaining trees needed protection.
Giant trees — with teeny tiny seeds
What is curious about redwoods is that despite being the largest and tallest trees on our planet, among conifers (pines), they have the smallest pine cones — only about 1″ inch long!
More from the Save the Redwoods League website:
Each cone contains a few dozen tiny seeds: it would take well over 100,000 seeds to weigh a pound! In good conditions, redwood seedlings grow rapidly, sometimes more than a foot annually. Young trees also sprout from the base of their parent’s trunk, taking advantage of the energy and nutrient reserves contained within the established root system.
I mention how tiny the seeds are, because it brings me back to the Monterey Bay area where we now live, and about a special coastal redwood tree, planted in Monterey’s Friendly Plaza (in downtown, historic Monterey, by the City Hall).
It is a special redwood tree because the tiny seed was carried to the moon by Major Stuart Allen “Stu” Roosa, a pilot for the Apollo 14 mission.
The Apollo program is the third NASA manned spaceflight program and landed the first 12 human beings on the Moon, from 1969 to 1972.
The U.S. Forest service nurtured and planted the seed into a seedling, and in July of 1976 — to commemorate the Bicentennial or 200th birthday of the United States — it was planted in this beautiful park in the center of old Monterey.
The moon is 384,400 km / 238,900 miles from the center of our planet Earth — so the little seed already traveled for almost half a million miles before being planted in Placerville, California by the U.S. Forest Service.
That is one special redwood tree!
I wonder how many other commemorative trees were planted all over the U.S. for the bicentennial, and if any other seeds made it to the moon and back…
If you are a Monterey Bay resident, or have visited this area, did you know there was a “Moon Tree” downtown?
I did not know about the “Moon Tree” until I participated in “The Changing Season” WordPress photo challenge. Another reason I love blogging and photography.
- Photos from historic downtown Monterey (where the redwood “moon tree” is planted), posted for the challenge “The Changing Seasons”
- A bonsai — the ancient Japanese art form — of a redwood tree is posted on the article about The Annual Obon Festival at the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple.
About another fast growing plant that can grow to 150 feet in the Philippines – The rattan, and the difference between rattan and bamboo plants. Photo is close up of spikes on rattan palms. Rattans have spikes to help it climb over other plants, and also to deter animals from eating the plant.
I originally wanted to post photos of the Monterey redwood moon tree this month but was inspired to expand this article about redwood trees after reading a post by my blogging friend Jane in Training. Her post titled “Get Lost” and forest photographs, reminded me of seeing redwoods for the first time and getting lost at Tilden Park’s redwood grove. Thank you for the inspiration, Jane!
May, 2015 — looking at our family photos, I am adding this photo of my cousin and her daughter admiring redwood trees, during their visit to California. We went to the Strybing Arboretum at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which is another place to see redwoods as well as a wonderful collection of plants from all over the world.
June, 2015 – This photo of the Drive-Thru Coast Redwood by Allan of Ohm Sweet Ohm is another great image of the size of these trees. My daughter and I stopped to visit this park during our visit to the Eel River in Leggett, California on the way to Ashland, Oregon.