Exploring the Redwoods of California
This summer our family spent a week in the North Coast region of California on a mission to explore the ancient California coast redwood groves. California coast redwood trees get their common name of “redwood” from their bark and heartwood which contains high levels of tannin. The bark can be up to one foot thick helping keep them fire, fungal and pest resistant. Despite the large size of the tree, the pinecone of this giant is only one inch in length and contains a few dozen seeds. In the summer months, the coastal redwoods depend on the fog for life sustaining water. As the fog condenses on the needles it is absorbed and provides about forty percent of their moisture intake a year!
Our trip took us west from the Sierra Nevada region to a small town near Mendocino, California, which is about three hours north of San Francisco. On our drive to the coast we opted to take Highway 128 which takes you through the 660 acre preserve of Navarro River Redwoods State Park in Elk, California. This 11 mile portion of road runs along the Navarro River and takes you through a continuous winding tunnel of second growth redwood trees before ending at Highway 1 on the coast. If you head north on Highway 1 towards Fort Bragg, California, you can take a scenic ride on the Skunk Train to Glen Blair Junction to enjoy the redwoods up close. Since 1885 the train has made its way through the old-growth redwoods carrying cargo and passengers.
Glen Blair Junction
Continuing our quest for all things redwood, we decided to venture out about two hours from the coast to Leggett, California, in Humboldt County for the promise of being able to actually drive a car through a giant redwood tree. The Chandelier Tree located in Drive-Thru Tree Park, stands 315 feet high, has a diameter of 21 feet and is estimated to be up to 2,400 years old! I know you’re wondering how is it that this tree is still living with a hole large enough for a mid-sized SUV to drive through? Redwoods continue to live after being hollowed out because the only living tissue in the trunk is a thin layer of tissue beneath the bark called cambium. As long as the tree maintains enough other wood tissue to keep it standing and move the needed nutrients and water up to the needles the redwood can continue to stand for centuries to come.
For our last redwood adventure we headed to Anderson Valley home of Hendy Woods State Park in Philo, California. This state park boasts two ancient, virgin, or untouched redwood groves. Big Hendy Grove is the larger of the redwood groves with 80 acres of pristine redwoods followed by Little Hendy Grove with 20 acres. The trees in these groves are estimated to be 1,000 years old and reach up to 300 feet tall and surrounded by redwood sorrel, a clover like plant found only near redwood trees.
If you’ve now found yourself yearning for a glimpse of these giants but you don’t want to travel all the way to California, I have some good news for you! We actually have a California redwood tree here in Charleston. The tree can be found at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
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