West Coast Report Nine: Thursday

The densest biomass in the world . . .

Tribute to the Redwoods

We trespassed. We weren’t unwelcome, just unimportant.

The redwood sentinels did their job of protecting the forest floor from the sun. Occasional rays were admitted, but the 300-foot guards absorbed most of the light themselves. Down at our feet, the sword ferns, lady ferns, and clover-shaped sorrel flourished in the dimness.

The light that trickled in was sufficient for the occasional leaf-losing tree. Several junior sentinels, much thinner and shorter than the official guards, reached toward the sky. They were in no hurry to push past their larger kin. When one of the old guard ended his tour of duty, he’d lay down in the forest. Then the junior redwoods in the sun-drenched hole would spring into action, filling the void, once again allowing the ferns and sorrel to escape the burning sun.

Silently the redwoods did their job. A few birds would call to each other. Most other creatures went about their days quietly. Only the humans, not needed in the forest but awed by its beauty, spoke quietly to one another, walking along the barely noticeable trails and reveling in the splendor of being irrelevant.

Fun in the Redwoods

But in the midst of the awe, we had some just plain fun as well.

Along the road, a couple enterprising folks bought up some land and started charging folks for the privilege of seeing some special redwoods. Actually, I don't mind anybody taking responsibility to make some money on attractions that they build and maintain. And I'm glad that these particular folks invited us to their land at reasonable prices.

There are two trees that you can actually drive through. And we did.

The first tree was being held up by a strong cable. Apparently the winds have been a little much for it recently. But the upper trunk still supported several live branches despite a seven-and-a-half foot culvert cut through the base and root system. Kathy took a couple pictures as we went through, then she got out and stood by a Kentucky couple who watched as others drove through, one of the others then being myself so that Kathy could get a picture from outside.

We learned how to pull our mirrors in, since we were a bit nervous about the deductible the rental car company threatened to access if we weren't careful. Even so, there wasn't much room. The fellow from Kentucky threatened to go around behind the next car to go through and bang on it just as the nervous driver thought he or she had successfully negotiated the tree.

The owners had made a little park out of redwood buildings and statuettes, so that when the cable is finally unable to hold the tree up (and it already leans quite a bit) people may still want to visit their property.

The next spot to offer a drive-through tree was about forty miles down the road in a beautiful park setting. This tree was still in great shape, with probably seven-plus feet of tree on each side of the six-foot opening and much more altitude than the tilting tree. That's right, cars had to be skinnier to get through this one. So, as we were driving through, who should be standing there watching cars drive through but our Kentucky car-swiper. I rolled down the window and warned him not to touch our car!

Along the way, we also stopped at a couple of beautiful streams. C. S. Lewis once alluded to the pattern of lights evident as one approached a stream in a forest. Sure enough, the undersides of the leaves were dancing with the light that glanced off the water's surface. We could see the fingerlings (minnows? eensy-beensy fish?) in the shallows. At the second stream, the rock and sand bottom kept the much deeper water transparent. I could see the larger fish darting in the water and make out the shapes of the stones that must have been six or seven feet under the water.

Next day