There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
Those words were written by one of my idols, Lord Byron, and they sang in my mind as I walked along a winding track in California’s soaring Redwood Forest.
I don’t have his way with words, but after nearly five months of travelling from city to city and town to town in the United States I have come to agree more and more with old George – nature is freaking awesome.
Check out our video of the Redwoods forest:
We have seen some amazing cities in our time – New York, London, Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, Berlin, Krakow, Sydney – but America’s natural beauty blows them all way. The lush dales of New Hampshire, the crystal waters of the Great Lakes, the desert glow of the Badlands – I’m starting to sound like Woodie Guthrie…
Getting to the Redwood Forest
By far my favourite natural sight has been California’s Redwood Forest. To get there we drove for nine hours – yes, nine hours – on the Pacific Coast Highway that runs down the coast of Oregon and California. Every twist and turn of the road reveals a new vista of the pounding ocean below where weird rock formations rise from the surf like sentinels.
We hopped out of the car at our Airbnb accommodation in Crescent City and felt utterly refreshed. The drive was invigorating and I want to do it again soon – preferably in an Audi S8 – there are still a few man made things I love.
We were welcomed into our host Patree’s brightly painted home with a freshly made sourdough crust pizza topped with herbs and tomatoes grown in her garden. She showed us to our lovely room and in the morning drove us out to the Jebediah Smith Redwood State Park. Patree had moved near the Redwood Forest a few years before as she had always loved them and decided it was time to get close to them.
Into the Redwood Forest
She knew almost everything there was to know about this giant species of tree and the forest was like her backyard. It’s hard to describe the scale of the trees; even in pictures they don’t look as big as they truly are. But I think they are as thick as the Doric pillars at the British Museum and as tall as Nelson’s column – and there are hundreds of them packed in so close together so it looks like a cathedral of wood, light and leaves.
Patree pointed out the huge burls growing on the trunks of many of the Redwoods. These oddly shaped growths can host a new tree growth and often grow to huge sizes. She also showed us scores of other species growing on the lush forest floor – spiky ferns and mushrooms called British Soldiers because of their red coats. Her car was utterly dwarfed by the natural city crowding either side of the dirt road and as we drove deeper into the forest the air became crisper and clearer; the perfect place for a long hike.
Hiking in the Redwoods
Patree left us to explore on our own and we set off down a hiking track called The Boy Scouts Trail. It wound its way up and down a long valley filled with Redwoods and we passed quite a few nature photographers trying to get the perfect shot. We even saw one bloke with an old school accordion camera.
We reached a crashing waterfall at the end of the track and sat down on a fallen trunk to catch our breath. There was no one else around, no cars or planes or iphones. Just me and Carmen and a grove of soaring Redwood trees, chinks of sunlight like shot silk and a bubbling pool. Byron would have approved.
Have you visited the Redwoods? What did you think? Comment, go on!
Dave – The Redwood Forests of California are a must see. These immense trees grow for hundreds of miles in thick cathedrals of light and shade – simply looking at them is a magical experience.
Carmen – So we didn’t get lost in the woods we had our own personal guide- Patree Shied, who was also hosting us at her home through Air Bnb – she’s lived with the Redwoods as her backyard for more than a decade and knows them like the back of her hand.
Patree – It was a passion for me. When I decided I was going to move here I decided I was coming to the Redwoods and I’ve never been disappointed. I started coming here regularly, I’ve come here more than a thousand times in the ten years, way more than a thousand times in the time that I’ve been here and I think part of it had to do with the fact that in Ohio I knew everything because I’d lived there for fifty-eight years. When I came here nothing looked the same and I just had to figure out this world and see how these trees fit in with the environment part of it was for my own curiosity and part of it was to show people in Ohio what a Redwood forest looks like.
Dave – She certainly showed two Aussie tourists what the forest is all about – as she led us deeper into the woods we saw lots of places a passing visitor would have missed.
Carmen – Some of the Redwoods have been burned out and their hollow trunks are an amazing sight. But Patree told us most of the wounded trees are still very much alive and that fire, though dangerous, is an essential part of the life cycle in the forest.
Dave PTC – So Patree is going to show us inside, what’s it called again? The scary tree…
Carmen – It wasn’t that scary in there, just very dark!
Back out in the light Patree showed us how Redwoods that have died sprout new life by breaking down and enriching the soil
We saw these huge mushrooms- big as dinner plates – growing on the fallen trunks. The circle of life was everywhere.
Dave – The Redwoods are like something out of a dream, and Patree’s tour through this wonderland was unforgettable.