Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Redwood National Park

This Summer we decided to visit the amazing Redwoods of northern California. We started our trek by heading west on I 80 across the salt flats of Utah. They are quite a sight. The ground is white as snow, but the outside temperature reached the 90's while we were there.

During the drive, we passed a Morton Salt production facility. They had salt piles that were two story high. That would be a great field trip!

It takes fourteen hours to reach California so we stopped in Reno for the night before continuing on. The room we chose was supposed to have a trundle for Stella to use, but when we got there we were told that the trundle was unavailable because of fire safety so we had to place Stella in a crib. 

She got pretty good at climbing in and jumping out of it on her own. In my mind she's still my baby, but in reality she's not so little any more -she doesn't even fit in a crib. She had to sleep diagonally with her head touching one side of the crib and her feet sticking out through the bars on the opposite side.

Our first full day in California a ranger from New Zealand gave us a tour of the woods. The information and insights he shared really set the tone for our visit. Only 5% of the Redwood trees that constituted the forest are still standing. Native tribes used the trees for sustenance. In the late 1800's settlers who had arrived into the area looking for gold discovered 'green gold'. They became rich by harvesting and shipping the trees to San Francisco. Unfortunately it takes thousands of years to grow what those men cut down in just two weeks so in a matter of a few decades, most of the trees were gone. 

Aside from being one of the tallest trees in the entire world, Redwood trees are incredibly resilient. Their root system is really shallow and forms a web that allows the trees to keep each other from falling over due to strong winds.  Another interesting fact is how these trees grow in families. It is hard to find a redwood pine cone anywhere on the ground yet we saw several small redwoods growing along the way. 

The trees' burl hold unsprouted bud tissue. If the parent tree becomes ill or damaged, the burl will sprout another tree. The same goes for it's roots. It is not uncommon to see a 'grandma' tree surrounded by younger trees all around it or in a perfect straight line depending on how the root system developed. 

The redwoods are part of a temperate rain forest. As you can imagine the humidity was pretty high and the vegetation was really green (even though California has been in a drought for the past four years).

We walk among ferns that were five to six feet tall. Beautiful pink Rhododendrons were in bloom all around us. The tree canopy blocks a lot of the sun light so you get one type of ecosystem on the ground and a second one hundreds of feet up, where animals, trees and shrubs grow, supported by the trees.

One of our favorite walks was Lady Bird Johnson Grove named after the wife of past US President Lyndon B. Johnson who was a dedicated advocate for the preservation of America's natural history and beauty.