The Avenue of the Giants

Today is all about the trees. Big ones. Giant Redwoods. The oldest and tallest trees on earth.

But first, an opportunity to visit an old landfill…. how could I resist? A more accurate term might be a ‘sea-fill’. A little further up the California coast from Mendocino is a small town called Fort Bragg. From 1906 to 1967, the official waste disposal area for the residents of Fort Bragg was a series of three beaches. When one filled, they moved on the the next one, dumping everything at these ‘water dump’ sites from household rubbish, glass, appliances and even vehicles. The sites were closed in 1967, and efforts made to clean up and remediate the beaches. Organic waste was simply left to biodegrade, the metal and other large items were removed. Over the years, the sea worked to smooth the sharp edges of the glass and ceramics that remained, resulting in a beach made of small, smooth, colourful pieces. Ironically, the thousands of visitors who visit the glass beaches each year are being discouraged from taking any glass away, in order to preserve this unique feature of the landscape. However, between the beachcombers and the further weathering by the pounding waves, it is likely that in decades to come the beach will be fully restored to sand and pebbles.

From here, we continued north on US 101, until we reached the detour option of the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants follows what was the original North-South California highway. The 31 mile long road runs through the Humboldt Redwood State Park, and is named in honour of the giant redwoods which surround it. 51,222 acres of redwood groves. From the avenue, there are various places to stop and explore further in to the forest. The first place we stopped was one of several drive-through trees in the region. As a way of making money towards conservation and awareness raising in the 1950’s, it became popular to carve out a channel through a redwood and charging people money for the dubious pleasure of driving through it. I decided to give Paul this pleasure and walked ahead to take photos. I watched with amusement as a car in front of Paul’s barely squeezed through. Paul did need a bit of encouragement to give it a go, and was on the verge of reversing and aborting his attempt, but I called him through and he had more room than it seemed from the drivers perspective.

The highlight of the day was a walk through the forest to Founders Grove. This was a grove of redwoods dedicated to those who led the campaigns to save the redwoods. The grove is particularly poignant, as it includes several ‘fallen Giants’. Only when the giants have fallen, can you truly appreciate their size and scale, as can be seen in the photographs below. Some of the giants fell over 30 years ago, but it will be many, many more years before they eventually disappear in to the ground from which they grew.

Some of the Redwoods are over 950 years old. It is the sort of place where photographs will never do justice to how it feels to walk amongst them. It is such a privilege to walk amongst these trees.

We ended the day in Ferndale. Nope, not that Ferndale – Ferndale California, an immaculately preserved Victorian town. Our home for the night was the Victorian Inn. Other than the cars, the Main Street appears little changed since the 1890’s.

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