I remember when I was a junior high student thumbing through a National Geographic Magazine and coming across an article about the Redwoods of Northern California.
The article included a number of photos and one of them caught my eye. It was a picture of an old car driving through a Redwood tree! I thought it was pretty cool and something I would like to experience one day.
As the years went on the memory of that car lingered in my mind, but life’s road with its many twists and turns just did not seem to lead to Northern California until last year.
My wife and I like to use the summer to travel somewhere. As an educator the summer was ideal for finding new places to visit. Sometimes it was back east to our nation’s capital or the Maritimes. As a New Englander there were many visits to my parents home on Cape Cod.
In recent years we have reduced our cross-country journeys and now look closer to home. Last year my wife mentioned her desire to travel down the coastal highway on the west coast. It was then that the memory of that old car came back and I wondered if that tree still existed.
We planned for a two-week trip that would take us down the coastal highway to the Redwoods then inland to see the Sequoias, then to Death Valley and back home.
On the way we stopped in Bremerton, Washington. Bremerton has a huge naval yard and was where my Dad was stationed when my folks got married. It was a trip to a place and time before I was born when my parents began to share their lives. As we drove the streets I recognized some of the things that my Dad loved and understood why our yard was always full of certain types of flowers and shrubs.
From Bremerton we head south and are soon travelling down the coastal highway. Around every bend there is a photographic scene of the ocean meeting the land. One of my wife’s favorite buildings is a lighthouse and the west coast does not disappoint, with picturesque lighthouses dotting the coast.
Before you know it we arrive at the Redwood National Park. At one time the Redwood forest covered over 2 million acres. Today the Redwoods cover less than 113,000 acres.
These giants of the forest can grow to over 370 feet (115 m) and walking among them is like walking down the aisle of a cathedral. You are impressed by their size and how quite the forest has become as sound is absorbed by their majestic trunks. It is hard to believe how big these trees are even with a photo that clearly demonstrates their size.
After our walk we drive down the Avenue of the Giants and constantly stop to look in awe at both the beauty and size of these giants that have been growing on the planet before the birth of Christ.
As we leave the park we come across the Shine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat and a picture seen fifty years ago comes flashing back! It was at this location where the National Geographic photo was taken those many years ago.
The tree is over 5,000 years old, 275 feet tall, with a diameter of 21 feet and located on privately owned land where a small fee is charged to drive through.
As we approached the tree we get out so we could take a picture just like the one we saw those many years ago, but this time it was our car and my wife doing the driving!
Our plans to head for the Giant Sequoias were put on hold as the weather had turned causing concerns about road conditions and we decide it was time to head home. Some day we may return to visit the Sequoias but until then we will hold the memory of the quiet giants of the Redwoods and the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream as one of the best trips we have taken.