Exploring Redwood National Park
Picture the following scene: You are walking on a trail roughly 3 feet wide, and covered with sandy, loamy hard packed dirt, wet pine needles, moss, sticks and limbs from fallen branches. You are in a forest, and it’s dark from the mass of the trees around you. Sunlight cuts through the fog, showing off diagonal sunrays that is highlighted by the white mist. You look off the trail, and you see the twisting trunks of the 250 ft tall redwoods elevating from a sea of green ferns and undergrowth. Upon closer inspection of the forest floor, you see a myriad of mushrooms, fungi and wildflowers. You crane your head back to see the tops, but you can’t see the top, just the first tiers of branches some 150 feet up. You barely hear the soft sounds of your footsteps on the moist, sound dampening earth. In the distance you hear a soft roar of a swollen stream, falling through rocks on it’s way to the ocean. It is a beautiful white noise. The air smells fresh, full of an earthy, moist, pine scented perfume. You can’t see it, but the forest is breathing too, symbiotic, taking your carbon dioxide and giving you oxygen. Only this is like being hooked up to the equivalent of an oxygen tank the size of a 30 story building, and far more invigorating. Its fresh, and cold, and quenching, like mountain spring water, and you are immersed in it.
The Redwood coastal forests of California must be some of the healthiest forests on earth. Walking through the groves of these ancient, magnificent trees makes me feel vigorous and strong. I love to breathe in the forest, and I often stop and take deep meditative breaths cleansing my lungs with the cool, fresh air. Redwood National Park in northern California, has a fantastic collection of humongous coniferous trees. Some of the trees are more than 2000 years old, and it puts my existence into perspective. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this park four times over the last 5 years, and have enjoyed each visit immensely.
I have an odd attraction to banana slugs. When in the redwoods, I’m more often than not looking down on the ground, or on the trunks of fallen trees covered in bright green moss, trying to spy this interesting slug. By day, banana slugs mostly lay dormant, looking like a 3” half melted yellow candle, moist and waxy in appearance, and hard to find. By night, they come alive, poking their tiny heads out of their shells, and oozing their way through the night. They can be found more easily at night, climbing up the redwood trunks, or sliding through the undergrowth leaving a tell-tale slime trail to track them. I’ve found banana slugs from California all the way north to the spruce forests of Alaska. Further north, they look more like rotten banana slugs, taking on a brown, dog doo appearance or even a rotten banana black. Fascinating. I assume they taste terrible, because if they didn’t, most animals could, and would, eat them. Think of one of those wax candies you used to buy as a kid, gnawing through wax to get an intense shot of sugar syrup to slurp. Gross.
I enjoy climbing trees. I’ve climbed trees every year for as long as I can remember. My current favorite trees to climb are the redwoods. I never get very high when I climb, not usually higher 10 feet off of the ground. Without protection, it would be foolish to climb up what you can’t climb down. The bark of the redwoods, offers decent hand holds and foot holds, and sometimes if you find a hollowed out trunk you can wedge your way up like a rock climbers chimney. There’s something therapeutic about climbing trees. It brings me back to the mindset of a 10 year old, playful, care-free and at one with my environment.
I like camping at Prairie Creek Campground in the redwood Nat’l park. I’m usually traveling in the winter months, so I get most of my parks deserted, and Prairie Creek is no different. On my first visit, the park ranger laughed at me when I asked if it was busy. I was the only one there. The campground has two loops, one in the dark, damp, oppressive groves of redwoods, or the one I prefer in the roadside field, open to the stars, and much nicer to my way of thinking. While I like playing in the deep forest of the redwoods, it’s a little too dark and cold for optimal camping. My campsite had a nice ambiance of the local wildlife. I could hear Elk bugling 300 yards away on the other side of the field, enjoying their winter staging area. Robins, White Capped Sparrows, and Stellar Jays, hopping around the campsite, poking around for seeds and worms distracted me from my journal. It’s quiet, and peaceful and an excellent place to contemplate the days adventures.
I find the redwoods a great place for day hiking adventures. There is a wide variety of interlacing trails through the forest, allowing me to make my hike as challenging as I want. The environment is interesting, and awe inspiring, and I recommend anyone who loves trees to come and see the magnificent redwoods.