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Muir Woods National Monument ~ Old Growth Forest near San Francisco
California Sites of Interest
Now, while I live in Houston, Texas which is a far distance from California as the crow flies, I have been fortunate enough to have been able to visit that western state on several occasions by way of vacationing.
California is the third largest state in the U.S. (after Alaska and Texas) but ranks as the most populous of states. Known as "the Golden State" it is blessed with having an over-abundance of natural beauty. It has some of the highest as well as the lowest areas of elevation in all of the United States.
Sites which range from the pounding surf of the scenic Pacific coastline to lofty and majestic mountain ranges, stark desert landscapes and rich abundant farmlands...this merely scratches the surface when trying to describe California in a few words.
Fortunately numerous State and National Parks as well as National Monuments have been set aside to preserve some of their stunning natural features for long into the future.
Interesting man made features and structures of historic interest also dot the State from north to south. Who hasn't heard of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, as one example?
Instead of simply making an itemization of sites, I thought that it might be more satisfying to focus on one place of pristine and exceptional beauty and explain why I think that it should be put on a list of places to see for visitors to California.
It is the Muir Woods National Monument.
This portion of primeval forest that has been preserved as a national monument is located just to the north of San Francisco, a mere 16 miles away.
As one passes the Golden Gate Bridge with the City of Sausalito on the right and the Golden Gate National Recreation area on your left, Muir Woods would be your next stop on the Marin Peninsula.
It is close enough in proximity for people who wish to escape the crowded city life of San Francisco to access easily, whether it be for a few hours or a full day of rest and relaxation in one of nature's most glorious of cathedrals.
Of course long before San Francisco was settled, native Indians known as the Coast Miwok people lived amidst these glorious ancient redwoods and hunted as well as fished and gathered berries and other foods from the surrounding areas.
Sadly, when the Europeans started settling in the nearby areas, diseases wiped out the majority of the resident Indians who had no natural immunity.
Old Growth Forest
These amazing old-growth coastal redwoods are some of the tallest living things in the world reaching ages of 1200 to 1800 years or more! There are some other parks in California and some in Oregon also containing these magnificent redwood tree specimens.
Everywhere the redwoods are to be viewed, they seemingly reach up towards the sky, some of them getting up to 379 feet (115.5 meters) in height. Often one catches just glimpses of the sky between these monarchs of the forest.
The shafts of sunlight piercing those evergreen trees and shining down upon the ground covered with mosses, ferns and mushrooms is a beautiful sight to behold. No man-made cathedral, no matter how lofty or how richly embellished can match this type of resplendent scenery provided by Mother Nature in my opinion.
The actual name of these coastal redwoods is Sequoia sempervirens. They have been able to live these long lives by human standards because of their thick bark rich with tannins which resists damage from not only insects but also fires. The bark on a full grown tree can get to be up to twelve inches (30 cm) in thickness.
They survived nicely up until the logging industry was in full swing by the 1850's. Redwood was also found to be resistant to decay so this tree was in much demand for not only furniture but also outside uses such as railroad trestles.
I cannot even imagine what the sound of one of those towering beauties crashing to the forest floor must have sounded like! It must have been thunderous!
Sadly before preservationists started getting really active and saw the need to save these redwoods from total destruction, almost 95% of them had been logged and clear cut.
Muir Woods National Monument
Fortunately in the case of this site we can thank the generosity of William and Elizabeth Kent who had purchased many acres of land, which was a part of Redwood Canyon back in 1905. They decided to donate 298 acres of it to the Federal Government in December of 1907.
On January 9, 1908 it was declared to be a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt and became the tenth (so named) in the U.S.
The National Park service was created in 1916 and management of Muir Woods was transferred to that department by the following year. A few years later in 1921, Mr. Kent donated another 150 acres which expanded the national monument.
Working for the Civilian Conservations Corps ( CCC ) after the Great Depression, miles of paved trails were established with foot bridges, picnic facilities and boardwalks among other things which enabled visitors to more readily enjoy this preserved sanctuary.
People who would have been jobless had something to do, and many such projects (like this one in Muir Woods) created lasting legacies for enjoyment of places that they touched by way of their labor for long into the future.
Interestingly enough, William Kent had never met the well known wilderness preservationist John Muir when this national monument was given Muir's name.
John Muir had devoted a major portion of his life to studying wild areas in nature and documenting facts about the intricacies of how everything in nature is intertwined and how important it is.
A quote by John Muir is the following: "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
He was greatly honored by the accolade given him when this newly created national monument was given his name.
John Muir was a co-founder of the Sierra Club and because of their influence after Muir's death, his beloved Yosemite where Muir had spent so much of his time, along with Sequoia, were both named National Parks.
Many books were authored by John Muir and his biography is an interesting one to be sure!
Learn more about John Muir here:
I have enjoyed reading about John Muir and his long lasting legacy related to nature spots now reserved as national monuments and national parks. We owe him a debt of gratitude!
An interesting side note:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had spent some time with William Kent who was active in influencing preservation efforts. Kent had gone on to be a member of Congress from California.
One month after the death of FDR in 1945 a ceremony was held in Muir Woods National Monument in the President's honor.
A fitting tribute, all things considered!
"Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”
The above is another quote from John Muir.
Walking through the quietude of Muir Woods is something that cannot fully be described. It must be experienced to get the full effect.
Despite the fact of others being on the same path most people feel a reverence for those towering living and breathing redwoods that have graced the earth for so long a time. Now that they are protected they will continue to do so for long into the future.
Sounds are muted and this is a place where one can truly let the cares of the day melt away while opening one's mind and spirit into contemplating what are the more important things in life and beyond.
My husband along with some friends of ours from Dallas spent some time in the Muir Woods National Monument many years ago prior to heading on up into the wine country.
If you have never seen this national monument and are planning a trip to California anytime in the future, this is surely one of the great places to visit within that state.
Have you visited the Muir Woods National Monument?
© 2012 Peggy Woods