Wednesday, June 18, 2014


This photo shows my hiking buddies and me, at the base of a "humongous" coast redwood tree that our group witnessed, on a recent visit to Redwood National and State Parks ( ) .  We were part of a Road Scholar program ( ) called "Hiking the Redwoods in Northern California". 

During the six days that the program lasted, I took hundreds of photos of redwood trees, but none of the photos I took could portray the sheer awesomeness of being in the presence of these magnificent creations!  And apparently, I am not the only person who has had this feeling.  Famous writer John Steinbeck wrote this about them:  "The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.  No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree.  The feeling they produce is not transferable.  From them comes silence and awe.  It is not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color that seems to shift and vary under your eyes; no, not like any trees we may know , they are ambassadors from another time."

One thing that made this particular Road Scholar program so special, is that our guides for the hikes through the redwoods, were Jerry and Gisela Rohde, who literally "wrote the book", on hikes within the California coast redwood groves.  I bought a copy of their book at the Visitor's Center for the Redwoods National Park, and was able to have them autograph it, and be photographed with it!  The book is entitled Best Short Hikes in Redwood National and State Parks, and is available at Park Visitor Centers, as well as online at .  So even though you may not have the benefit of actually getting to hike with the Rohdes, you can at least benefit from their wisdom and experience, by purchasing their book!

A reader may wonder why someone from Arkansas would travel so far, just to see some big trees?  One of our Road Scholar instructors, Jenny Hanson, is holding the National Geographic Magazine ( )from December/2012, that partially explains the answer to this question.  I had the delightful experience of attending a program in Fayetteville, Arkansas, sponsored by the University of Arkansas Division of Student Affairs Distinguished Lecture Series  last fall.  The speaker was acclaimed National Geographic photographer Michael "Nick" Nichols.  Mr. Nichols showed photos and videos taken during the two weeks he was commanding the team of climbers, equipment specialists, and photographers who produced this amazing fold-out magazine insert of a forest giant.  Immediately upon returning home from the Nichols lecture, I googled "hiking California redwoods" on the Road Scholar website, and the information came up that there was indeed such a program, scheduled for June 8 - 13, 2014.  All it took was a phone call, and my dream was on its way to becoming a reality!

For decades, I have had a poster of the redwoods hanging in my house, similar to the photo on the left, with the quote saying "The starting points of human destiny are little things".  During this Redwoods Road Scholar program, I learned just how true that is!  The photo on the right side of the collage shows the tiny seed (about the size of a tomato seed) and cone, that serves as one of the starting points of a coast redwood.  ( The tree can reproduce itself in more than one way, which I will explain later).

This photo shows me starting to count the rings on a fallen redwood, that would tell its age.  Needless to say, I did not finish my counting, for fear of being left behind by my hiking buddies!

The Save-The-Redwoods-League was founded in 1918 to stop clear cut logging and preserve remaining old growth redwoods.  One way this group funded their conservation efforts was through private donations, where the donors could have a memorial plaque placed on a park bench or within a particular grove of trees.  For this reason, maps of the hiking trails usually show the location of various memorial plaques along a route, so that the hiker will know if they are on the right trail.  This photo also illustrates the other reason I wanted to go to this program in California---to see my son, whose nickname is "Grove"!

This photo shows Jerry Rohde pointing out a fallen redwood that has become a natural "planter box" of sorts, providing the growth medium for a variety of additional plants that have taken root, since the tree fell over.  This phenomena explains why it sometimes appears as if  trees in a redwood grove have been planted by humans, because they are in a straight line.  The actual reason is that the trees have grown on top of a decaying, fallen redwood!

In this photo, Jerry is standing at the base of a redwood tree, where the original tree (shown in the center without bark) has been damaged, but new "sprouts" have arisen from the base of the damaged tree.  This phenomena is even mentioned in the Bible (Job 4:7) that says: "For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease, though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground."

You may have seen photos of a tree in California that one can drive their car through ( for a fee, of course!).  However, there are "tunnel trees"  along the hiking trails of Redwood National and State Parks that you can WALK through, without paying an additional fee!

This photo shows me standing in a type of redwood tree called a "goose pen" tree.  I saw trees similar to this when I attended a Road Scholar program in Southern Illinois last fall.  The trees in Illinois were Cyprus trees, which is in the same family as the coast redwood tree.

Not all of our time in the Redwoods National Park was spent looking upward at the tree canopy.  Sometimes, we saw interesting creatures on the forest floor, such as this slimy Banana Slug.  We saw several of these critters, which averaged about six inches in length. Glass or plastic reproductions of them are a popular souvenir item, for sale in area gift shops.

This goose pen tree is a familiar landmark along one of the trails, and reminds one of a tripod with its three large openings, that come together into a single tree trunk about thirty feet from its base.

This photo of the Dyerville Giant tree trunk shows the remains of a redwood that originally was as tall, as a football field is long!  In fact, the hikers shown in the photo, will be able to follow it beside the hiking trail for about 200 feet, before the path turns to complete its loop. 

This photo shows Gisela Rohde telling our group about the "albino" redwood, that is growing out of the left side of the parent redwood.  In order to survive, the albino redwood must join its roots to the roots of a normal redwood, usually the parent tree, from whose base it has sprouted. 

An albino redwood cannot produce chlorophyll, so it has white foliage, which shows up more readily, when contrasted to the neon pink color of my shirt sleeve.  There are only about sixty known examples of albino redwoods, and their locations are not publicized, for fear of the harm that can be done by over visitation of us humans!

Many coastal redwood trees have both gigantic and small burls on their sides.  These burls have been popular among wood carvers for making bowls and furniture.  However, cutting of burls is against the law within the parks!  While I was attending the Road Scholar program, the local newspaper had a story about a man who had just been convicted of "burl poaching", and was awaiting sentencing.  The penalties can include jail time and heavy fines.

In this photo, Jerry Rohde is telling us about the symmetrical holes shown in this old growth tree trunk, that was logged before the area came under the protection of the National/State Park Service.  The holes were hacked out by a team of loggers and were used to hold the "scaffolding" that would be assembled up the sides of the tree, to facilitate chopping it down.  These practices were common before the days of mechanized logging. 

Today's modern lumber mills practice sustainable forestry, and the National Park Service is working to rehabilitate sites that were damaged due to logging.  This photo was taken at the large lumber mill in Scotia, California. 

Our Road Scholar group was treated to a visit by some Bird Rehabilitators with the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.  The bird in this photo is the Northern Spotted Owl, and is completely oblivious to the fact that it represents a species that was the flash point for controversy in the 1990's.  It is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, with the stated reason that it was losing its old growth habitat due to logging.  As a result of a court order in 1991, logging in National Forests containing the northern spotted owl was stopped .  After the ruling, timber harvests in the Northwest were reduced by 80%, decreasing the supply of lumber and increasing lumber prices.  The controversy pitted loggers and saw mill owners against environmentalists, and as a result, the logging industry started the Sustainable Forest Initiative.  The goal is for all of God's creatures to be able to live together on this beautiful planet we call Earth!  This will help maintain what I call the "Sustainable Smile Initiative", so that we can all enjoy "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia