Into the Woods

April 23, 2018

The second day of our road trip dawned overcast, and it drizzled off and on as we headed out. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy the novelty of wearing a jacket!

Our first stop was the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex where we took a blowy, drizzly walk, searching for birds. Most of them were too far away to see well, but we saw red-winged blackbirds both male and female, Canada geese, sandpipers, and a few others I couldn’t identify.

After that, we headed south through the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile road running parallel to Highway 101, through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Humboldt is the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world, and one of California’s largest and oldest state parks. Avenue of the Giants is called one of the finest forest drives in the world—you’ll get no argument from me.

An old-growth or ancient forest has the following characteristics: trees of all ages; may layers of canopy (the uppermost branchy layer); large, standing dead trees, known as snags; large downed logs; large fallen logs in streams; and trees aged over 200 years. The redwoods growing in this area are Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)—they’re not the oldest, but they are believed to be the tallest, growing up to 370 feet tall. Coast redwoods only grow naturally in a 40-mile wide by 450-mile long strip from southern Oregon to southern Monterey County in California.
The redwood forest is an ideal place to learn about the interconnectedness of life. During a redwood’s lifespan, 1,700 species of plants and animals depend on it. After it dies, 600 species live on a snag, and 4,000 live on or in a downed log.

Redwood sorrel

Redwoods are so large that the base of the tree, the stem, and the crown each lives in a different climactic zone. There are two types of needles, depending on the conditions where they live on the tree.

We took short walks at the Drury Cheney Grove and the Founders Grove. Because of the slightly drizzly weather, we saw few people, and we didn’t hear any birds or other creatures. The woods were hushed and damp and cool.

This fire-damaged tree is still living

I learned a cool new word: “windthrow”—the blowing over of trees, and leading cause of redwood death. When the older trees die and blow down, the younger trees have a chance to grow.

This downed tree is known as the Dyerville Giant. Can you see Kerri standing on the right?
In fact, we were forced to detour from the Avenue of the Giants because a tree fell and blocked the road!

We wrapped up the day with a cold and windy sunset on the beach by our hotel in Fort Bragg.

Goodnight sun

Next up: a lighthouse, a light station, and a botanical garden by the sea. Read about the first part of this trip here

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  1. Gosh Kathy - those redwoods are simply amazing. Have always wanted to see them. Truly a gorgeous picture of the road that winds through them. Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful photos. Hugs!

    1. You're most welcome. Thanks for coming along! Hope you do get to see the redwoods someday, as they are truly awe inspiring.