Friday was a day off for Ingrid so she asked me if I wanted to go to Muir Woods with her, Finny and her friend Claudia, I have heard much about Muir Woods and the Giant Redwoods that reside there that I just had to say yes. Muir woods was definitely on my list of places to go in California, I love trees and a chance to see the oldest in the world was something that really excited me, the weather was lovely so we set off to pick Claudia up, who lives quite close to Ingrid, the traffic was very busy but we set off from Claudia’s and began our trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County to the National Park that is Muir Woods.
It took about an hour to get there in the car, passing through wonderful scenery, we also happened to go through Mount Tamalpais National Park on the way there which was very beautiful.
On arrival at Muir Woods, the delights that await you are not immediately apparent; there is an entrance gate with car parking and a small café with a toilet block available. The charge for entry is $10 but we were all allowed in free because we were with Claudia who has a pass.
Once through the entrance gate the sheer enormity of the trees hits you, there are several just through the gate and as you walk along the designated pathway more and more Giant Redwoods loom over you. The forest is made up of other trees and flora and fauna and is a protected area.
Many of the Redwoods are over 600 years old, a few are 1,000 years old and cover most of the forest, as well as Bay Laurels and Big Leaf Maples and the large Douglas Firs which all compete with Redwoods on height. The forest also has a very diverse undergrowth, many trees have fallen over or have been uprooted due to bad weather over the years but the conservationists advise to leave them disintegrate over time on the forest floor, thereby providing habitat for various insect species and nourishment for the soil.
Because of low light on the forest floor, many of the plants that cover the ground are shade loving plants, the sun does not reach these plants at any time during the day so the sword ferns, mosses and redwood sorrel thrive under the shade of the Giant Redwoods.
While walking through the forest it’s not just the enormity of the Redwoods which catches the attention but also the ground cover of beautiful spring wild flowers such as trillium, clintonia and redwood violet. The silence is captivating and the energy you feel from being in amongst such great trees is truly revitalising. There is one area called Cathedral Grove where silence is encouraged in order not to disturb the flora and fauna and the peace you feel in this area adds to the huge sense of wellbeing you feel just being around such greatness!
Ingrid and Claudia decided to go to the café for something to eat and a drink so Finbarr took me on one of the trails which takes you higher into the forest, where more and more Redwoods reside, some with such huge circumferences that you can stand inside part of the tree. I am a bit of a tree hugger and once I found one thin enough to hug I just had to go for it. I can feel the energy being absorbed into my body when I hug trees; well that’s what I believe anyway.
In Japan they have scientifically proven that the practice of “forest bathing” can improve your health. It is believed to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. So what’s not to love about visiting forests especially one as special as this one?
I have always wondered what it would be like if trees could tell stories, imagine how many they could tell, they have seen so many people pass beneath their branches, so many world changes while they just continue to grow majestically higher.
Some facts about the Redwoods you might not know are; they are specific to the California Coast and have been growing there for hundreds of years. There are two species in California, the Coast Redwood which can be found at Muir Woods and the Pacific Coast Highway from southern Oregon to Big Sur. Closely related is the Sequoia Dendron gigantem, which grows larger in bulk but is less tall than the Coast Redwood. Giant Sequoias can be seen in Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I am going there on my road trip next week, so I really hope I get to see these giants!
Redwoods thrive so well on California Coast because of the fog which provides enough moisture during dry spells. Surprisingly they also benefit from fire, which gets rid of duff on the forest floor so redwood seeds can reach mineral soil.
The information centre at the park has lots of information about the animals which frequent the forest including deer, raccoons, and many different types of bird and insect. They also have a little shop selling mementos of your day at Muir Woods.
I had the most wonderful day, not only because I got to see the beauty of the Giant Redwoods but because I met a lovely new friend, Claudia and I got to spend the day with her and Finny and Ingrid, the places I have visited are always enhanced by the friends I make along the way.