hacker emblem
jaegerfesting
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Redwoods

Started: 2020-12-18 23:11:35

Submitted: 2020-12-19 21:38:33

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator takes his kids through an old-growth redwood forest

The week of Thanksgiving my employer gave me the whole week off work, which conveniently coincided with my kids getting the whole week off school. We couldn't actually travel anywhere, because we're in the middle of a global pandemic (leading us to observe a virtual Zoomsgiving later in the week) locked in an endless cycle of re-open and re-close so we stayed at home and occasionally ventured out of the house within Santa Cruz County.

Julian runs down the Redwood Grove trail
Julian runs down the Redwood Grove trail

On Tuesday, during the week of Thanksgiving, I took Calvin and Julian to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, taking advantage of my recently-acquired state parks pass, and walked around the redwood loop trail through the grove of old-growth redwood trees.

Julian and Calvin look at the redwood tree section
Julian and Calvin look at the redwood tree section

Because of the pandemic (apparently to reduce the number of surfaces we might touch, or something) the park wasn't distributing its self-guided tour brochure for the redwood grove, but they did have the brochure (front and back) taped to the inside of the window, along with a QR code with a link to a PDF on their website. I followed the QR code link on my phone, then tried to zoom in and follow along with the brochure on my phone's screen. This was the same link that I'd found for the brochure on the park's website, which confused me on my desktop browser because it didn't flow linearly in any obvious fashion; I quickly realized that this was the print-ready brochure copy, intended to be folded multiple times, so the front of the brochure wasn't the top left pane of the PDF. This was still somewhat awkward to follow, but I figured it out on the fly and followed along as we walked around the grove.

Julian in a hollow redwood tree
Julian in a hollow redwood tree

Some of the trees had burned in forest fires, but they were still alive and well, despite massive fire scars on their sides, some more than a hundred years old. This seemed like an encouraging sign in the aftermath of the devastating fire that burned through Santa Cruz County this year, burning redwood groves at Big Basin State Park (and closing the park while the state figures out what to do with the park now).

Towering trees at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Towering trees at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

In this redwood grove, though, there were no signs of the recent fires on the ground or in the redwood canopy towering hundreds of feet above our heads. The only sign of this year's other crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, was the one-way sign advising us to go counter-clockwise around the loop, and the masks that every visitor wore.

Julian outside the Fremont Tree
Julian outside the Fremont Tree

At the half-way point around the loop we stopped to step inside the Fremont Tree, named after the explorer John C. Fremont, who allegedly slept inside the hollow tree in the nineteenth century. (Even he acknowledged the story was apocryphal, though; forty years later he responded to the story with "It makes a great story, let it stand.") The tree had a small triangular opening about a meter high leading into the hollow void inside the tree; inside there was about as much space on the ground as my three-person tent, plus enough vertical clearance for me to stand up. Stepping inside the tree reminded me of playing around hollowed-out redwoods as a kid in the sierras in California, though I don't think I ever encountered a tree with a space quite as well enclosed as this one.

Calvin and Julian look up at redwood trees
Calvin and Julian look up at redwood trees

On our way back to the parking lot I spotted a bright-yellow banana slug next to the trail, venturing out into the open on the redwood mulch at the beginning of the rainy season. (By the end of November it had rained twice, effectively ending the fire season in Santa Cruz County, but the La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean meant we received less rainfall than normal by this time of year.)

Julian points to a banana slug
Julian points to a banana slug

Back at the parking lot we took a brief detour to watch a Shay geared locomotive pulling a collection of passenger carriages for a tourist excursion train pull into the Roaring Camp Railroad, its shrill whistle loud and sharp in the crisp afternoon air. Then we returned to the car and drove back home, after a brief excursion in the tall ancient redwood trees.

If you haven't dreamt about conversing with your loved ones in
a programming language, you haven't programmed enough.
- Slashdot poll, Favorite Language?