I’m sitting inside the hollowed base of a very tall tree. How tall? I don’t know. Maybe 200 feet? Its circumference is at least 25 feet around the base. I know because I just tried to spoon it six times.
They say you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you get lost in details you miss the big picture. With a tree of this size, it’s all about the details. Why? Because you can’t get far enough away from a Coastal Redwood to see the whole thing.
At Yosemite, I tried to photograph a Giant Sequoia. I failed. Then I figured out panorama mode. I failed again. I’d try again today with a Redwood, but I dropped my camera in a tide pool earlier today. Oh well. There’s no chance I’d capture this entire majestic Redwood in a single shot.
The base is massive. The bark is moist and springy to the touch like a very dense sponge. Inches deep wrinkles run the vertical length of the ancient trunk. The air inside these crevices is musty and old.
Each chunk of bark and each deep winkle is an ecosystem unto itself. Moss and funguses cling to the surface. Small spiders call the crevices home.
And when one of the giants falls, countless plants – including new Redwoods – grow from its corpse as it decomposes slowly over the decades.
You look up. The green branches don’t start sprouting for at least 40 feet above the forest floor. And then the tree just keep going and going, reaching toward a sun that’s obscured by dense fog from the coast.
The trees grow in such tight proximity that their fallen needles and their skyscraping tops mingle to enclose the space between a cushioned floor and a dark canopy. The trees are so overpowering that they not only block cell service but they also block consumer GPS signals.
There’s no sound. Redwoods are impervious to insects, so even the chirp of birds is rare. Occasionally, you hear water dripping down the sides of ravines. That’s about it.
To me, it feels claustrophobic. After an hour or so in the forest, I’m ready to retreat to the sunny meadows. The Redwoods are truly a force. A force of nature. And, for me, a force of spirit.
The oldest Redwoods are 2,200 years old. That places their birth sometime around 200 B.C. – right in the spiritual sweet spot that spawned three of the world’s four largest religions. Buddha was born around 550 B.C., Jesus around 4 B.C., and Muhammed around 570 A.D.
(Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion, doesn’t really have a founder.)
Often, we nature-loving folks are lumped in with atheists or agnostics or stamped with Match.com’s ridiculous spiritual not religious designation. That is unless we live in an aboriginal culture, in which case we’re dumped into the folk religion category.
I propose that nature-lovers are given our own category. Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, and the Hudson River School painters will be our apostles. The Redwoods will be our prophets.
Got a question about my trip? I’m compiling a mailbag to commemorate one month on the road. Leave your question in the comments!