Walking among giants: the magical California Redwoods

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Experiencing the ancient redwoods has long been a bucket list item for Marc. It’s one of the things we enjoy most about this lifestyle – the ability to achieve many of our bucket list dreams and goals amidst our everyday life. During our research, we learned that redwoods grow from Big Sur to the Oregon border, but it’s only on the California Redwood Coast that the most tall, magnificent and untouched groves can be found. 

Marc inside a redwood tree that has been burnt and hollowed out, yet still stands

We were already traveling south down Highway 101 from the Oregon Coast to California in search of warmer weather and sunshine. As it turns out, our drive would take us right through these redwoods – what a perfect way to celebrate Marc’s birthday! So he took the Monday (October 20) off work to make it a three day weekend and we literally headed for the woods!

The rugged Oregon coast

Leaving rainy Florence, Oregon on Friday afternoon gave us a good start on the 300 mile drive ahead. Despite the rain and grey skies, the Oregon Coastline with its rugged terrain, jagged rocks and pounding waves were a spectacular sight to see. The Oregon Coast is another ‘must see’ destination, worthy of a dedicated post with more photos.

We arrived in Crescent City, CA in the dark around 7.40pm and scored a great “pull-through” site, nestled among the beautiful trees at Redwoods RV Resort. Marc was not only excited about this, but also the fact that we had 50amp electrical service at our site. Yes, it is truly the little things that can make your day.

You see, in the RV world, if you’re mostly used to 30amp sites (as we have been), little things like additional electrical capacity are a big thing as we can run multiple appliances simultaneously – tea kettle, toaster, microwave, heater etc. Oh yes, we were living large! I managed to capture some of Marc’s excitement as he gave a demo, which you can see in this fun, short video clip.

And of course, waking up to our first sight of redwoods in our campground was a great way to start the day! 

Waking up among redwoods at the Redwoods RV Resort, Crescent City, CA

With glorious, clear blue skies ahead, we left Crescent City on Saturday around 11.15am and spent the next 5 hours leisurely meandering our way down the beautiful and ever changing Coastal Highway 101 – past beaches, rocky coastline, barking seals and redwoods – headed toward our next destination, Fortuna, where we would spend the next couple of days exploring the California redwood forest up close.

The glistening Pacific Ocean on Highway 101, south of Crescent City, CA 

Coda on the beach at Redwood State Park in Humboldt County, off Highway 101

Road to the California Redwood Trees

Sunday morning we packed a picnic lunch, dropped the top on the MINI and headed south to the world-famous “Avenue of the Giants”  – a 31 mile scenic drive which parallels and intersects Highway 101 and boasts 51,222 acres of magnificent redwood groves. The Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, with the most outstanding display of these giant trees along the 500 mile redwood belt, and the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants – 31 miles of magic

Some amazing facts about California Coast Redwoods

  • Located on the Pacific Coast from central California to southern Oregon
  • Appeared about 20 million years ago, after dinosaurs and before flowers, birds, spiders and of course, humans
  • Live up to 2,200 years, with an average lifespan of 500-700 years
  • Weigh up to 1.6 million pounds (730,000 kilograms)
  • Grow up to 367 feet (111.2 meters) tall
  • Diameter up to 22 feet (6.7 meters)
  • Bark thickness up to 12 inches (30 centimeters)
  • Over 160,000 acres are protected by federal, state, county and local parks

Redwood forest panorama view

Driving Avenue of the Giants

Driving through the forest was awe-inspiring. With every turn, the scenery changes, taking your breath away with their sheer magnitude and proximity.

We were lucky to visit the redwoods at a quiet time of year, being late October, so traffic was minimal. Our visit was slightly thwarted by a Sunday marathon taking place along the Avenue of the Giants!

Mini & the Giants

MINI and the Giants

We managed to drive about a third of it before we had to take a detour back to Highway 101. We decided to drive south to Leggett and drive through the “Chandelier Tree”. Yes, you can really drive through a redwood!

In fact, there are three redwoods that you can drive through in California – we didn’t catch the first one, just south of Crescent City, but we did drive through the Chandelier Tree. It was a fun and unusual thing to do, and a breeze in the MINI, compared with the close calls we witnessed of a few trucks, as they inched their way through very slowly with literally millimeters (fraction of an inch) to spare on either side! Here’s a short 1 minute video of what it’s like to drive through a tree!

Finally, figuring the marathon would be over, we headed back to finish our drive along the Avenue of the Giants from south to north and also drove through the “Shrine Drive-Thru Tree” at Myers Flat along the way. 

Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree

Driving through the Chandelier Tree. Age: up to 2,400 years. Height: 315 feet. Diameter: 21 feet

Walking Among Giants

Along our drive, we stopped off to take a walk through the forest to get up close and personal with these giants. It is from these towering redwoods that the Avenue of the Giants takes its name, and yet, they are so much more than the world’s tallest trees. There is a quiet magnificence, a power, an ancient wisdom to be found and felt among these trees. Almost impossible to describe and do them justice at the same time.

Julie and the Giants

Julie walks among the giants

Walking through these trees connects you to their incredible life force in an entirely profound way, invoking such a sense of peace and grandeur, that it’s actually quite humbling. And surprisingly, it is so very, very quiet.

Standing among the towering giants, it’s easy to feel small and insignificant. Not that we felt minimized, but instead, it seems that their very presence helps you to put things in perspective. Remember, these trees have been through so much more than we could ever possibly know and yet, they are still standing tall. I believe the quote below sums this concept up perfectly.

"Imagine if trees could talk! Many of these trees are thousands of years old. When we get troubled by the thoughts of current circumstances, a walk in the trees can bring new perspective to our concerns. These trees have been standing prior to current wars, civil wars, stock market crashes, floods and earthquakes. They were here before the explorers first sought and landed on this continent. Before there were kings in Europe ruling, these trees ruled in silence. The concept of something living that long boggles the mind and changes the thoughts of the impossible into possibilities."

Source: victorianvillageinn.com Tweet

In awe of the majestic beauty of these redwoods

As we stood among the eerily peaceful silence of these ancient trees, breathing in the lush, green richness of the forest, I had the sense that perhaps all we need to do ourselves to connect with the essence of great power and presence that the redwoods seem to do so effortlessly, is to simply just be… in silence.

Walking among the redwoods is truly a magical and spiritual experience. It was impossible for me to capture this magic in our photographs or in writing, you simply need to get among them, touch them, feel them and yes, even hug them! Having experienced them in person, it is now easy for us to understand why the California Redwood Forest is often referred to as “nature’s cathedral.” 

So, you’ll just have to trust us when we say you just need to visit these incredible redwood trees in California, at least once in your lifetime.

Family photo in the redwood forest

Driving beside the giants, again!

We loved our time on Avenue of the Giants so much that we did it again the next day in the coach with the MINI in tow, on our way down south to Cloverdale, CA.

The second experience – in the coach – was completely different and we’re so glad we did it in both vehicles! With the MINI being so small and low to the ground, driving through the Redwoods with the top down is FUN, hugging the curvy roads and gazing up at the enormous trees right beside us, positively dwarfing us!

Driving the Avenue of the Giants in the coach was a much slower journey – it took us close to an hour – and it actually felt quite tight a few times, as some of the giant redwoods literally hung over into the road.

Marc had to keep a close eye on our side mirrors, to make sure the passenger side mirror wasn’t sideswiped by a redwood tree! Sitting up so high with the large, expansive windshield, we were able to take it all in from an entirely different vantage point.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and experience – one that we’ll never forget and plan to do again when we are next in the area.

Rocky and the Giants

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10 thoughts on “Walking among giants: the magical California Redwoods”

  1. My uncle and cousin worked for a redwood logging company Crescent City. Got to go watch some of theses trees being harvested . They had to make special beds for the trees too land on so they wouldn’t fall apart when they hit the ground. Also the land my cousin worked is where they filmed Star Wars return of the Jedi and the Ewok scenes.

    Reply
  2. Awesome photos you guys. If you can visit Sequoia National Park East of Visalia. We met in Cloverdale on Halloween night. Have a great adventure.

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  3. Marc & Julie, oh I’m sorry I forgot Coda; I read your blog religiously and find it to be a great narrative of not only your trips but your new life style that you have embraced completely.
    The very best to all 3 of you, good weather and safe travels.
    Manuel & Liz

    Reply
    • Catherine, It was so wonderful to meet you both as well! Let’s hope our paths cross again soon. Would love to see your cool bus sometime too. Glad you are enjoying out blog 🙂 Safe travels, until next time! Au revoir!

      Reply

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