Redwood National Park
Trip Start Aug 13, 2010
56Trip End Oct 14, 2010
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Coast redwoods are gentle giants. They are not the largest trees on earth (that honor goes to the giant sequoias), but are among the most resistant to threat and, therefore, among the oldest living things on earth. Whereas other trees in this area are affected by insects such as pine beetles, bugs don’t seem to like redwood bark. Redwoods also seem pretty adept at healing themselves. For example, we saw a coast redwood and Douglas fir that had both been hit by a truck. The truck took a large chunk out of the fir, and insects had bored significantly into that vulnerable area of the trunk. As a result, the fir wasn’t expected to live beyond 700 years (it was already about 400 years old), but the redwood had completely regenerated its bark along the impacted area. Redwoods also have a neat ability to grow in unconventional ways. Most of the coniferous trees in the forest can only germinate when their seeds find open soil with access to sunlight. Because there is so much forest undergrowth, however, finding open soil is pretty difficult. Redwoods, though, can basically clone themselves in addition to germinating seeds. The root of an existing redwood will begin to grow a genetically-identical tree once the root senses that the parent tree is weakened or in distress. The "new" tree sprouts from the root system and grows side-by-side with the parent. That way, the new tree doesn’t have to worry about open soil – it’s using the root system that already is in place
The coast redwoods fall victim only to wind, fire, or loggers. Even with fire, we saw some redwoods that had been completely hollowed out by fire, yet continued to grow
Apart from logging, redwoods often die when, after having been weakened by fire, are blown over. A park ranger told us that in the early 1990s, a redwood that was well over 300 feet tall blew over, and its impact actually measured on the Richter scale.
We went on a rainy afternoon ranger-led hike to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. This hike was about 2 miles long, and focused on life in the forest other than the redwoods. This actually turned out to be better than a redwood-focused talk, because on our own, we would have been unlikely to notice anything other than these trees. Among other things, the ranger showed us the 5 different types of edible berries in the park, and let us try several, including red huckleberries and salal berries. Both of these berries taste like very tart blueberries. (She also showed us the only poisonous berry in these forests which, fortunately, look very different.) After this hike, we made our way over to another area of the park to see the Big Tree
That night, we ate dinner at Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, CA, a restaurant that until the 1950s, used to provide local mill workers with their 3 daily meals. It no longer serves lumbermen, but these meals were, and continue to be, served family style on long, communal tables. The restaurant has a fixed-price menu that rotates every few months; that night, we had soup, salad, roast beef, fried chicken, and dessert. The next day, we drove through Avenue of the Giants, a scenic bypass off of Highway 101 where the road is flanked on both sides by coast redwoods and other large trees. While none were as large as the Big Tree, the drive was beautiful.