A&A As 'Stewards Of The Redwood Forest' In Northern California
End of Week #61
Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala CA
Miles traveled since last week's post = 0
Total miles traveled to date = 7,955 with trailer
This week's post falls on another #TravelTuesday as A&A spent the entire day yesterday exploring more of what northern California has to offer. Sunday night after work we road-tripped 3.5 hours north to Humboldt Redwoods State Park to spend the night and explore Avenue of the Giants all day yesterday. As the summer continues to whiz by we are checking things off our adventure list and learning more and more about the beautiful area we have been calling home. Spending the day with the ancient giants of the Jurassic jungle was just what my soul needed and I feel like every new encounter with the Redwood forests of NorCal leave me feeling even more humbled, wild and raw.
As protectors of the forest in our campground with our workamping positions, I can't help but feel that same level of duty when I am off frolicking through the Redwood groves of other state parks and preserves too. I feel honored to walk amongst the giants and want nothing more than for every other soul who encounters them to feel the same way too. These trees are special, they are spiritual, and they are the immortal, 'ever-being' organisms of the coast.
A&A As 'Stewards Of The Redwood Forest' In Northern California
Steward (n) – a person or group who protects or is responsible for property or managing the land of another.
We are walking amongst giants out here, on the California coast - a beautiful place we get to call home for the entire summer. When we signed on to our first workamping job out here I don't think we fully understood what it would mean in terms of our relationship with the land, the campground, and most importantly the vast forests of coastal Redwood trees that call this place home too.
But now we have been a part of this beautiful place over 3 months, and have come to love it as our own familiar home. Never in my life have I felt more like a forest fairy, basking in the Redwood light than I do right now. It's a whole other world out here! And the Redwood trees have quickly carved a special place in my heart, that I will take with me for the rest of eternity. I feel protective over them, sentimental about them, and inspired to continue to learn more about them. The other day we stopped at a gift shop and I almost bought a seedling to replant, but I figured it's best if I start by loving the ones around me before I try to tend to one of my own. :)
The tallest trees in the world
The ancient coastal Redwood tree is the tallest living thing on our planet. Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the coastal Redwood, stand together as a testament to the wonders of the natural world. These remarkable trees live to be 500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and soar from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2,000-3,000 years old and tower above 350 feet. Coastal Redwoods are classified as temperate rainforests and they need wet and mild climates to survive, which makes sense as to why they grow so dense along the California coast, as it is some of the dampest climate around!
History - Redwood trees date back thousands of years, with the first fossils dating 200 million years. (Which also makes sense why I refer to Redwood forests as Jurassic jungles...) Way back before commercial logging became a thing in the 1850's, Redwoods scoured the northern hemisphere with over 2 million acres of natural growth estimated just along the California coast and into Oregon. To this day there is sadly only around 5% of original old-growth Redwood forests remaining, with most of the coastal forest left being relatively young growth. The largest standing ancient Redwood survivors can be found in places like Redwoods National Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Biology - By nature, Redwoods are some of nature's fastest growing conifers, or cone-bearing trees. It seems strange that in contrast to how large these trees are, their cones are only about an inch long, but each cone contains a few dozen tiny seedlings. The seeds can grow quite rapidly though, sometimes more than a foot in just one year! New trees can also sprout from the base of their 'parent trucks', by taking advantage of all the nutrients that are in the root system. Redwoods also have a protective bark, that helps them survive natural forest fires, and can accumulate up to 12 inches thick! Their bark is soft and fibrous, with a beautiful red hue that gives them their name.
If you want to learn more specifically about Redwood tree facts, check out my recent blog post exploring unique facts about these gentle giants. Here is the link!
Conservation & research
Since the early 1900's, organizations have been doing their part to help save and protect the Redwood forests and the ancient growth trees that remain on the western coast of California and Oregon. One specific organization that has done a tremendous amount for this cause is called Save The Redwoods League. Since 1918 they have been working to protect, restore and conserve the remaining Redwood forests that are left. Their work protects more than 200,000 acres of trees, and they work closely with scientists and land managers to help ensure these enchanted forests will be around for thousands of years to come.
To continue to help save and protect the Redwood forests, it is crucial that we as humans continue to research them. From tree diseases that kill them, to climate change, and to all the other animals and biodiversity that share the forest with the Redwoods - it's important we keep learning more about them every day.
"Advice from a Redwood: Stand tall and proud. Sink your roots into the earth. Be content with your natural beauty. Go out on a limb. Drink plenty of water. Enjoy the view!"
Workamping in the Redwoods
Coastal Redwoods, Gualala, CA - Like I mentioned above already, I think that when we took our first workamping job out here we really didn't fully understand what impact the Redwood forest would have on us, and us on them. We arrived here having never been to this region of the US before, and even among the new growth trees here in our campground, we were immediately taken away by their sheer size and color. We had never seen trees like this before and had never stayed in a forest quite like this one. They soared to the sky. They blocked out the sunlight. They grew among ferns and clovers and all kinds of green shrubbery. They had large yellow slugs on them, called banana slugs. They had the smallest cones we had ever seen. They were beautiful, and that was just the start of our relationship.
Ever since we began here at Gualala River Redwood Park, our managers have been telling us all that we are to become 'stewards of the forest', keepers of the land. They told us from day one that we would start to develop a relationship with the forest and that it is our job to help preserve and protect the trees in the park. I remember sitting in orientation with everyone when they told us that once the park opened, we may start to feel extra protective over the forest. If we see kids doing anything to the trees or even the plants around them, we may start to feel defensive and angry. This has been circulating in my mind ever since they brought it up and I've now had about 5-6 weeks of steady campers to show me how true this really is. When I see kids riding over berms, ripping out fern leaves, or trying to touch the slugs it literally makes me shudder inside. I have heard about on a few occasions, someone trying to nail things into the trees and that makes me want to cry. I feel so much sentimental attachment to this part of the country, and to these trees, that I want everyone to understand their history and their importance.
This job has already helped inspire me to learn so much about the most magnificent trees on the planet and I know it will continue to inspire me down the road to become more involved in their protection. I already find myself constantly learning new facts about them, seeking out every park within driving distance to visit them, and doing my part to education others about them on my blog and other social media platforms.
Adventuring in the Redwoods
Montgomery Woods State Preserve (2 hours from Gualala) - A 1,323-acre state-owned park located in Mendocino County that occupies the headwaters of Montgomery Creek, a tributary of Big River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at Mendocino Headlands State Park. In the park, a 367.5-foot Redwood tree was once thought to be the tallest tree in the world. Taller trees have since been found in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Redwoods National Park, but Montgomery Woods is still noted for its lofty giants. The only downside at Montgomery is that the tallest tree there was not labeled so you have to do your best to guess which one it was. There is a two-mile-long loop trail that leads you through and around the grove to enjoy the Redwoods. This was our first in person experience with ancient old-growth Redwoods and after leaving and coming back to the park in Gualala we felt like the trees in our campground were just toothpicks. It's amazing how you think they can't get any bigger and they just keep shocking you!
Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (3.5 hours from Gualala) - This state park contains the Rockefeller Forest, the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods. Avenue of the Giants is a scenic highway running through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and is a former alignment of U.S. Route 101. Both are a popular tourist destination, as they feature some of the largest and tallest Redwoods recorded on the planet. The famed Avenue, easily the most scenic drive among the Redwoods, has been called the finest forest drive in the world.
There are several campgrounds in Humboldt SP, and on Sunday night we camped in Burlington. We had to drive along part of the Avenue in the dark and everytime the headlights would bounce off a new giant it would give me the chills, like we were driving amongst another planet altogether. The next morning we completed the entire 31 mile drive along the Avenue, stopping at various groves of Redwoods to hike and explore their majestic beauty. Some of the best stops included the "Big Trees" area of the Rockefeller forest (the world's largest stand of old growth redwoods, at 10,000 acres) where we came face to face with "Giant Tree", towering in at 360+ feet tall and over 50 feet in diameter. Without a doubt this is the largest tree I have ever seen in my entire life and I can't ever forget it. Much of the same awestruck emotion was felt when we walked through the Bull Creek grove, the Drury-Chaney Loop, and Founders Grove. We also got to soak up some of the sweltering sun when we stopped at various parts of the south fork of the Eel river (as it was about 30 degrees warmer here than in Gualala), offering incredible views of the surrounding mountains, hills and thick forests that make up Humboldt County.
We even stopped at the famous Shrine Thru Tree, but unfortunately it was too narrow for Frank the Tank to fit, so I instead had to walk through it. :)
Other Redwood points of interest
Redwoods State & National Parks (About 5.5 hours from Gualala) - Redwood State and National Parks are a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands along the coast. They are made up of dense old-growth forests, Fern Canyon (plant covered walls), Elk Prairie and giant Redwood clusters. I had really wanted to add this one to the list to cross off this summer as well but I'm not sure we will be able to make the long drive, as driving along highway one is bad enough for 3 hours, let alone more than 5. This is also such a rural area I don't think we will be able to tow the trailer here, but I'm not giving up yet. I have no doubt that someday I will be back to explore even more of the magical Redwood forests of coastal northern California. Redwood National Park currently houses the 2 tallest Redwoods on the entire planet!
Richardson Grove State Park (About 3 hours from Gualala) - We actually drove past this park on the way to the Avenue, however we did not end up adding this to our itinerary. This is one of the first Redwood state parks in California, beginning with 120 acres.. With the help of Save the Redwoods League, the park has grown to 1,800 acres.
Navarro River Redwoods State Park (About 1 hour from Gualala) - To be honest I didn't even know this State Park was there - but we totally drove by some of it on the way to Montgomery Woods! So now I'm definitely adding further explorations here to my summer list. This park consists of 660 acres of second-growth redwood forest in a narrow stretch 11 miles long on both banks of the Navarro River.
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (About 1.5 hours from Gualala) - We probably drive pretty close by here every time we head south to Santa Rosa for groceries. It is literally on my list to stop here next time and check it out, do a hike, and soak in more Redwood trees! This area was established to preserve 805 acres of coastal Redwoods. The reserve is located in Sonoma County, just north of Guerneville. The reserve is in a temperate rainforest.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park (About 4 hours from Gualala) - Located south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz mountains. Established in 1902, this is California’s oldest state park. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. Home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, park vegetation consists of old-growth and recovering second-growth redwood forest, with mixed conifer, oaks, chaparral, and riparian habitats. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet! If we can make it down here at all in our travels, you best believe I will be exploring this park!
How you can help
I hope I can say that the Redwood forests are here to stay. I hope that my generation teaches the generation before me, and the generation after that, just how important it is to love and care for the environment around you. Protecting the ancient Redwoods that have roamed this coast millions of years is our job, it is our duty - we owe this much to the planet. Not enough of us will get to experience the giants in person, but that doesn't mean that we can't still do our part to educate ourselves and others about them.
Trees give us breathe, they give us life, and they are life itself. Trees talk to, connect with and support one another through intricate roots holding them together. They support diverse wildlife in their branches, and they heal us with their grounding spiritual powers as if we are experiencing Mother Gaia herself. If we can't care for them in return, then what are we even doing with ourselves? There are plenty of ways to get started - but let me just tell you a few:
Save The Redwoods League - There are a lot of ways you can become involved with this organization through donations, education, pledging to help the trees (geared towards kiddos), and more. Check out their website to learn more and get involved today. (Here is a link to their learning center.)
Plant or sponsor a Redwood tree - If you live on the California or Oregon coast, consider planting your own seedling. You can find them at various gift shops, through local farmers, or even possibly online. If you live far from the coast then consider connecting with someone who could grow one for you or that you could sponsor in some way. Hell, let's start a social media trend with this and connect people to those that could help continue to plant more Redwood trees for futures to come!
Become your own 'steward of the forest' - Do your part to advocate and educate! Teach yourself about the ancient giants that roam the California coast. Advocate for their safety, advocate for the cleanliness of state and national parks, and advocate to other campers and explorers to look after and take care of the lands they experience.
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a Redwood forest wilderness." - Spark Fire Swan
Holy summer batman, next week is already August! My original plan of weekly blog posts took me through the end of July, so I will be preparing a fresh batch of content ideas to start sharing with you right away. Next week will be surprise content!
*Currently under construction and paused at this time.*
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