Walking with giants
We saw the most majestic of creatures on our first day in California: Wendy took us to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Redwoods are the tallest tree species on earth, and this park is an incredible 40-acre grove of coastal redwoods.
It's hard not to be awe-struck by these beautiful trees. Trees that grow in family circles, which can be ravaged by fire and then heal themselves. Trees that can live to be 2000 years old and stretch over 91 metres tall. Their roots are surprisingly shallow - only 6-12 feet below the surface, but they create stability with breadth, extending their roots hundreds of feet to each side.
We stood inside the Fremont Tree, which has been hollowed out by fire. The fire had rendered enough room for us to stand and lots more clear space above us. This tree is slowly healing itself: in addition to the fire damage it once had a window cut in it's trunk which has now closed over. It is over 100 years since fire passed through this grove, and many of the trees still bear the scars of fire. Healing takes time.
But the force is strong in redwoods: even if a tree has been felled it's root system is still alive and can regenerate, sprouting new family members from it's base. Today's massive family circles began thousands of years ago from a long-gone eye-popping-sized parent tree. They are giant versions of the mushroom fairy circles I picked as a girl.
I never post pictures here in portrait format, because they turn out so huge. But if any subject deserves to be represented in uber-large format - these redwoods are it! Looking back on our whole trip I wonder if the people who built the skyscrapers of New York were inspired by redwoods.
There was the most wonderful stillness in the grove. Although the place is teeming with life, the trees' huge and solid presence envelopes you and creates a cool shield. It is incredibly peaceful: whether because of the physical barrier the trees create or because you are so aware of the passage of time: these redwoods have witnessed the passing of thousands of years. They remind you of your insignificance while making you feel totally alive.
The park was full of people - some visiting and some walking well-worn daily paths. One gentleman asked us to move aside as he needed to walk his daily route between two trunks. The grove opened to us all, and held us gently for the time we stayed.
I could have stood here for a long time.