The tips of the tallest trees

Muir Woods Travel Blog

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We spent today in the Muir woods, among the coastal redwoods.

The Muir woods is only minutes from San Francisco, north across the Golden Gate, but it survived the logging that destroyed 97% of the redwood forest, due to the steep valley sides. The woods were later bought up by William Kent in 1905, and avid out-doors-man. Soon after the water supply utility tried to buy the woods, to log and then turn into a reservior, and started legal action to force the sale by emminent domain. On advice from his friend Theodore Roosevelt, Kent evaded this law suit by gifting the land to the government and allowing Teddy to proclaim the area a National Monument in 1908 (National Monuments are similar to National Parks but with less protection. The advantage to National Monument status is that it does not have to be approved by Congress, and under the Antiquities Act of 1906 they can be created instantly by the President.
Probably the best action of George W Bush was to use this power to over-ride the Republican Congress and create Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in 2006 to protect 360,000 km2 of ocean waters around Hawaii). The woods are named after Kent's friend John Muir, a noted geologist, mountaineer, conservationalist and author.

The coastal redwoods are the tallest living things on the planet. At their tallest they can grow to 115 metres tall and nearly 7 metres in diameter (a taller and more slender version of the giant sequoia we saw yesterday), although this height is only achieved in the far north of California and our giants were comparative babies at 77 metres tall. They grow only in the thin "fog belt" along the California coast, created by the summer upwelling of the ocean just off the coast due to the closeness of the continential shelf to the coast.
Redwoods need at least 400 000 litres of water a day to survive, and with their shallow root system they draw most of it from the fog.

Logging has been the biggest threat to redwoods, leaving only 3% (and only half of that is protected). The biology of the tree makes it highly attractive. The tallest trees in the world obviously produce a lot of wood, and with tall straight trunks. In order to survive for thousands of years in a moist damp environment, the trees (and hence the wood) are extremely resistant to fungus and insects, with a thick layer of bark and high concentrations of tannic acid. But there are other threats to the redwood. One is fire - the thick bark and moist environment protects redwoods from light fire and allows seedlings to grow, but fire suppression has allowed the tinder to build up in the redwood forests, creating the potential for hot fires beyod the tolerance of redwoods.
The invasion of eukalyptus trees from Australia, supremely adapted to create fire and thrive in the aftermath, make the problem muuch worse.

We hiked a loop along the ocean view trail, the lost trail, fern creek and the main trail. It was quiet, peaceful and above all beautiful. We came across a loveliness of ladybirds (the official collective noun) on the trail, caused by the convergence of thousands of ladybirds from the inland areas at the start of winter. The ladybirds gather in the warmer coastal areas and become semi-dormant for nine months, in a process called estivation. It is done in clusters for warmth and to ward off predators.

The towering redwoods rose far above us, with chipmonks, squirrels and wrens flittering among the undergrowth. Tranquil and relaxing, another one of the world's natural wonders.
tanyaPoetzl says:
Thank you for your blog we wanted to visit the red woods so now it is even more inspiring. Tanya
Posted on: Jul 02, 2011
sylviandavid says:
So lady bugs graduated to lady birds if there are many..... good promotion.... Nice story and nice photos...
Posted on: Jan 31, 2009
Vikram says:
Muir Woods is one of my absolute favourites in the Bay Area. Surprisingly, none of my friends that live there like the area. A visit to Muir Woods capped up with tea at Salsolito.... aaah the joy!
Posted on: Nov 11, 2008
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Muir Woods
photo by: Adrian_Liston