It’s impossible to miss the magnificent stands of redwoods in northern California. Along Highway 101, there are several outstanding preserves, which include a national park and a good number of state parks. At one time, they were much more abundant.
Redwood trees appeared all over the world 20 million years ago when climates were warmer and more humid than today. Changing climate caused their disappearance to the point that they now only exist naturally along a coastal stretch between Monterey and just past the California-Oregon state line. To subsist, they require a tremendous amount of moisture in the form of rain or fog.
With their understory of azaleas, rhododendrons, huckleberries and ferns, stands of giant redwood look like an ancient virgin forest. There is an unmistakeable sound when you are in the middle of an old growth forest, a combination of the quiet caused by the thick ground cover, punctuated by birdsong overhead echoing between the trees.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove gave us an opportunity to experience the redwoods up close, purportedly the most popular trail in Redwood National Park. There are specimens of Douglas Fir trees that are the equal in size to the redwoods.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park
The grove was dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson by President Nixon as a result of her well-known support of environmental causes. Rhododendrons were in bloom in the understory, which added nice color against the canvas of green everywhere, but they were much more abundant as we drove through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park further north.
Rhododendrons in the understory
We didn’t see the famed Western azaleas until we stopped at Prairie Creek State Park. Ferns, so abundant in the understory all through redwood country, make a spectacular display in Fern Canyon.
Having seen stands of these magnificent trees will stay in my memory for a long time.