From the Redwood Forests...
After a few days of visiting the grand Oregon Coast and magnificent interior forests, we drove south toward Crescent City, California along route 199 in search of the Jedediah Smith Grove of Redwoods. At last we came to a park service headquarters ten miles outside of Crescent City to discover that all the redwood groves that are protected in state parks and Redwood National Park have been coordinated as one entity by the federal government.
We asked a park ranger where we could find the Jedediah Smith Park and he directed us eastward on route 199 by two miles to the Howland Ridge Drive and then to a dirt road turnoff into the Stout Grove of Jedediah Smith State Park. Soon we passed occasional giant trees rising skyward well over 150 feet.
Anxiously we drove into a parking space within the Stout Grove. The strong scent of a thickly vegetated undergrowth of sward ferns, mosses and many blossoms of wood rose and thimbleberries permeated the air as we took the loop trail into Stout Grove. Thanks to the tireless efforts of forest conservationists, this park was established in 1929 to protect these giant trees from the lumber industry forever.
These groves were named after the hunter and woodsman who was the first white man to explore interior northern California where he trapped such fur-bearing animals as black bears, mountain lions, beaver and river otters. Thankfully today this park not only preserves the redwoods but all of its animals including a rich variety of birds.
We rapidly approached the giant trees interspersed with Sitka spruce, cedars and Douglas firs. Maura, my wife, stopped to stare in wonder ever skyward where the tallest of trees rose well over 300 feet (the height of a thirty-story office building). She remarked that both here and in the John Muir Woods just north of San Francisco, these trees seemed to be a family, a great extended family. She couldn't help but feel the kinship.
While Stellar's jays squawked and chestnut-backed chickadees chirped in the deep woods, we approached a grandfather giant (perhaps 2,000 years old going back to the time of Christ). I decided to measure the tree by the number of paces it took to go around the tree. Want to guess? 60 feet is the answer! We kept our necks craned skyward, but surely our hearts went upward as well (Sursum corda). We came up to a fallen tree whose thickly barked trunk stretched out half the length of a football field! Its roots had been upended and exposed inside a pit perhaps ten feet deep. We had become Alice in wonderland, mere ants in an amazingly huge forest.
John Muir once remarked, "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,--only Uncle Sam can do that." And thanks to his efforts and other conservationists of over a hundred years ago, we can enjoy them today and perhaps sing Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land is Your Land, this land is my land from the Redwood Forests...."
© 2014 Richard Francis Fleck