Growing up on the east coast, redwoods carried a certain mystique, representing the exoticism of the west coast in contrast to the Puritan roots of New England and surrounding areas. The idea of a tree so wide you could drive a car through it seemed more fitting for a fantasy novel, along with fire-breathing dragons and talking rocks. In first-grade we proudly sang Woodie Guthrie’s classic, “This Land is Your Land,” voices rising as we sung out the line “…from the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,” but the concept of a redwood tree was completely foreign to us. None of these images or explanations could have prepared me for the sheer immensity of California’s coastal redwoods.
On our first trip to Big Basin State Park, still suffering a slight headache from navigating those impossibly curvy roads, my boyfriend and I could not stop marveling over just how very big these trees were. There was something almost magical about these statuesque trees that had survived throughout the history of California’s development. I cannot even imagine what the first Europeans who arrived in this Golden State must have thought when they first saw the coastal redwoods. Big Basin has the distinction of being the very first state park in California, established as such in 1902. More than one million people visit the nearly 20,000-acre park in the Santa Cruz Mountains each year, according to parks officials.
On our first visit back in August we traversed the park’s best-known trail, the Redwood Loop, an easy, wheelchair accessible 1/2 mile trail that provides views of some of the tallest trees in the entire park. The massive Mother of the Forest rises more than 300-foot from the ground, seeming to almost scrape the sky. Her partner, the Father of the Forest, has presided over the forest for an estimated 2,000 years, and ranks as one of the widest trees in the park.
When relatives and friends visit from back home, Big Basin is high on the list of places to take them, stopping as we walk the trail to pose with these wooden giants and take photographs for posterity. Despite the prevalence of skyscrapers and office buildings that seem to stretch straight toward the heavens, there remains something absolutely exquisite about nature’s own statuesque giants. Even the least impressed amongst us can not help but be overcome by the power and beauty of these trees. I often wonder if those who have been fortunate enough to grow up around these trees maintain a similar sense or whether their omnipresence makes most long-time residents somewhat indifferent. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case.