Redwood Bathing

redwood burlsMy sweetheart and I went on a guided hike put on by the Greenbelt Alliance and the Sierra Club through Muir Woods last weekend. Our guide was Mia Monroe, a gifted storyteller who also happens to be a park ranger well versed in both the history and the ecology of the park.

We learned a lot about redwoods — the picture above is of burls that carry the genetic material of the parent tree. If the tree should be damaged, a clone of it may sprout. These particular burls have put out four trees on the site of the parent tree.

We also learned that redwoods get most of their water from fog, which is why they grow so well along the very foggy northern California coast. They also soak up a lot of carbon, so encouraging them is of benefit to us all as 2016 sets another record for global temperature.

Muir Woods is known for its old growth redwoods, but it’s actually a mixed forest, with lots of younger trees coming along. Here’s one of those:

new growthTrees that are damaged by fire often survive, and the resulting cave-like openings have other uses. This one is used as a bat nursery every year:

bat caveMia described the various projects underway to work with the creatures who live in the forest. Misguided efforts in the past to tame Redwood Creek has led to problems for the coho salmon who spawn in it, so volunteers are building “coho cabanas” — a den of sticks that protects the young — for them.

Spotted owls live in Muir Woods, despite efforts by another species of owl to drive them out. The rangers are keeping a close watch on this situation. Monarch butterflies also spend time on the nearby beach every year, though we didn’t get to see any of them.

One thing that I found interesting is that the National Park Service is working together with state and local officials to combine resources along Redwood Creek, which runs through the forest but is also on non-federal land. Given the likelihood that the Park Service will continue to get less-than-adequate funding, it is good that they’ve figured out how to work with the other entities to protect this crucial area.

As we reached the end of our hike, a couple asked us to take their picture. After we did so, it suddenly occurred to Jim and me that we’d like a picture of ourselves in the woods as well. So here we are in front of a nice old redwood:

Jim and NancyBathing in the redwoods was a good salve for our souls, given all the stress of the world of late. But it’s impossible not to worry about the future of our national treasures in the face of climate change and efforts to curtail our public lands.

Sometimes I feel like all my outdoor activities are an effort to see what we have before it disappears. I hope I’m wrong about that.

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Redwood Bathing — 8 Comments

  1. Awesome pictures. Yeah, protecting environments like this needs to go on our watch lists, especially now.

    • Edward O. Wilson says that we need for half the Earth to be returned to its natural state. I suspect much of it will need to be nurtured as people are learning to do now (and as the indigenous Californians did before the Europeans came in).

  2. I’ve been reading Steven Mithen’s After the Ice, A Global Human History, 20,000 – 5,000 BC. It seems like every few dozen pages, I stop and try and imagine a world so different . . . so rooted. I run into sentences like these: “For more than a thousand years the hunter-gatherers at Abu Hureyra will continue to hunt the gazelle. The animals are so numerous that their slaughter has no impact on the size of the herds. The women and children will continue to tend their wild gardens and reap a rich harvest.” and it makes want to cry.

    • I know what you mean.

      The indigenous Californians managed the forests around here for centuries, at least, using controlled fire to keep them healthy and to prevent the kind of uncontrolled burns we have today. Thinking about all the damage done since first the Spanish and then the Americans came in depresses me.

  3. Thanks, Nancy Jane, for the lovely tour and photos. Yes, I share your feeling that I want to witness what’s left of the wild while it is still alive. I am heartened when we’re hiking and we meet young people out there carrying on the traditions of caring for the wilderness. We all need to be vigilant, especially now with the rapacious corporate/political pressures, to save what we can.

  4. In my teens I used to rejoice watching the clouds of Monarchs moving down the shore of Long Island. It has been years since I have seen more then the occasional individual butterfly. I grieve every autumn.

    • We weren’t able to see the monarchs that stop on Muir Beach, alas, because they weren’t on public land on the day we were there. I’m grieving all the critters I know are disappearing — frogs, birds, butterflies, some bats. So many more I don’t even know about.