Dasu Kesava Rao is awe-struck by the unbelievably tall and enormous redwood trees in northern California
It is our second sight-seeing trip to America. ‘Enough of the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, Capitol Hill and Washington Memorial’, my wife grumbles, ‘Why not something not many back home have seen or even heard of’?
Okay. Then let it be the Redwood Forests of northern California, home to arguably the largest chunk of primordial uncut redwood trees in the world, we decide. Excitement mounts as we learn that the redwoods are taller than any living thing and can be as old as 2000 years!
The five-hour drive on Highway 101 from San Francisco to the Redwood country unfolds stunning images rolling parklands, wineries, cows grazing on hill slopes, setting sun and so on. Giant trees, on the one side, and meandering streams in the valley below, on the other, vie for attention.
On the way, we see a signpost ‘Welcome to Legget, home of the world famous drive-through tree’ and decide to take a dekko. Suddenly, we find cars inching slowly towards what looks like a narrow underpass. A closer look leaves you speechless. The cars are moving on, yes, right through a giant redwood. ‘Oh. This is amazing. I cannot believe’, gasps my granddaughter.
The grandeur and enormity of the tree sinks in only after we get off the car and survey it. You may crane your neck until it twists, yet you will never see the tree’s crown. Rising 315 feet into the sky with a base diameter of 21 feet, Chandelier tree has a 6 x 9 feet opening cut by its owners in 1930s. The opening is large enough for a standard car to pass through easily, as did our Toyota Sienna. Motorists line up to enjoy the thrill of the drive-through experience. The tree derives its name from its shape. Starting at a height of 100 feet, it shoots off branches — far bigger than the trunks of full-grown trees, at different levels, giving it the look of a chandelier. Chandelier tree is not alone, the neighbourhood has hundreds of trees of comparable size.
The Humboldt Redwood State Park further north on Highway 101 has lot more to offer by way of Nature’s marvels. After an invigorating cuppa at Garberville, gateway town to the Redwood country and the dreaded Lost Coast on the Pacific, we enter paradise (read Humboldt Redwood Park) where the only sound one hears is that of the rustle of leaves, branches rubbing against one another, twitter of birds and the music of the flowing stream. The distant drone of Harley-Davidsons on the highway also adds to the music. Eel river, running parallel to the highway, shimmers under the bright sunlight filtering through the trees.
Located right in the heart of the park is the Avenue of Giants (AOG) — a 31-mile drive that leaves you agape in wonder at the tall, timeless redwood trees spread over 50,000 acres. The tranquil road, running parallel to the highway and the Eel, was originally built for stagecoaches and wagons in 1880s. Nature has endowed redwoods such resilience they can survive fires, windstorms and floods and live on and on. Some of these trees, they say, were around when Romans ruled the civilized world.
First of the natural wonders in the avenue is the Chimney tree which was hit by lightning, drilling a 12-foot hollow right from the top to the base. You can walk in, sign the visitors’ book, gaze at the sky and exclaim ‘Oh. God. This indeed is a chimney’. The chimney is alive and kicking at 1,500 years. Then you have ‘Shrine Drive Through’ in Myers Flat that allows the widest car to pass through. Immortal tree, true to its name, survived lightning strikes, fires, floods and loggers’ axe. Eternal Tree House in Redcrest is a 20-foot room inside a living redwood once used by native Americans. Nearby are 346-foot high Founders’ tree, dedicated to founders of the Save the Redwood League, and Dyerville Giant, which fell in 1991. It measured 362 feet, about 200 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Even in the fallen state, the redwood with a girth of 52 feet looks imposing. You can also camp, picnic, hike, swim, fish or bike in the area.
After this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you are bound to agree America is not only about Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty, Hollywood or Las Vegas.
How to reach: About 175 miles (281.6 kilometres) from San Francisco by Highway 101. Garberville, gateway to the Humboldt county, has airport, motels and other facilities. For more information log on to www.101things.com