A Walk in the Redwoods

I took a walk in the redwoods recently.

A young friend works as a ranger for Redwood National Park along the northern California coast.

Laura teaches outdoor education to students from all over northern California and southern Oregon, this year near Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

I visited her there between camps and got my own special tour.

It’s wonderful to see a young person flourish in their profession.

Laura gave me the kid tour as we walked through alder trees along a stream and then climbed a plateau into an old growth forest of shaggy trees.

We had a lovely and magical outing.redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, banana slugs, redwood tree facts, black bear, forest mushrooms, elk, squirrels, outdoor education

Redwoods, themselves

I’m quite familiar with redwoods as they’re all over northern California where I live. Several live across the street.

They’re majestic and what most of my friends want to see when they visit from other states.

We usually take tourists to Armstrong Woods in Guerneville where you have to stand with the back of your head touching your shoulders to see the tops of the trees.

Magnificent.

Fire and insect resistant, they provide an entire world for the microbes, insects and birds that call them home.

Their roots are not deep–which is why a stand of redwoods is so much safer than a solitary tree–but they stretch and intertwine for long distances.

You can find them relatively far from water because their roots not only intertwine but interconnect and can draw resources from each other.

redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, banana slugs, redwood tree facts, black bear, forest mushrooms, elk, squirrels, outdoor education

One of the tallest and oldest trees in this forest

Fascinating.

The trees can live a long time with this root sharing system and one of the oldest trees I saw was 1200 years old–a seedling long before Charlemagne became emperor of Europe.

As it happens the tallest tree in the world is at Redwood National Park.

I didn’t see it.

(Rangers measure the heights of trees by flying over forests with sophisticated equipment. Once the tallest ones are determined, foresters climb the trees with very, very long measuring ropes!)

The seed of a redwood tree, by the way, is the same size as a mustard seed–tiny. Most of the time new trees grow in the boles developing out of the bark.

What about the fauna?

Laura showed me examples of black bear claw marks, and ruffled beds where elk lay.

We paused several times to make sure we wouldn’t encounter either one and laughed with relief when a squirrel chittered past.

redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, banana slugs, redwood tree facts, black bear, forest mushrooms, elk, squirrels, outdoor education

Bear claw marks with a hand for context

A springing baby deer in the underbrush, however, shocked both of us!

We paused at a young redwood tree missing bark–a favorite spot for bears hunting insect snacks.

Mushrooms popped up here and there and we stepped over mating banana slugs.

Laura described finding all the little signs they use to explain forest facts to students, knocked to the ground one morning.

As they puzzled as to why, another ranger called to report an elk wandering through the nearby prairie with a sign dangling from its horns.

Obviously, he had decided to scramble the trail!

Wild animals can be surprisingly stubborn and uncooperative.

“If we find a cow lounging on the trail when we bring the students along, we can’t make enough noise to convince them to move,” Laura said.

“We have to turn around and walk the students back to camp the way we came. There’s no way we can move her.”

Outdoor Education

redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, banana slugs, redwood tree facts, black bear, forest mushrooms, elk, squirrels, outdoor educationI appreciate programs like the one at Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. Schools bring out groups of 45 students at a time, to sleep in huts and walk along forested pathways. They can see stars if the night is clear.

They can hear bear and elk in the woods and step over bananas slugs crossing the path.

Laura and her colleagues teach them about the salmon that come up the street. (Laura held her hands wide apart to demonstrate how big the salmon can be!)

Students get out of the city and breath the fresh cooling air of the redwoods.

While not exactly camping, it’s as close as many children ever get to the wild, unnatural world.

I loved taking a walk through the forest–particularly with such an able guide to point out things I might not have noticed.

(One of my most read blog posts also features a redwood forest walk. Click here to read The Nudist Colony Field Trip.)

When was the last time you took a walk in the woods?

Tweetables

A walk in a redwood forest; flora and fauna. Click to Tweet

redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, banana slugs, redwood tree facts, black bear, forest mushrooms, elk, squirrels, outdoor education

Romance in the forest

Bear scat, redwoods and romantic banana slugs. Click to Tweet

The importance of ranger-led outdoor education for students. Click to Tweet

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. *happy sigh* I miss redwoods! Thank you for sharing the lovely photos and for taking me along on your hike through the woods.

    A couple years ago we discovered a mother deer had hidden her newborn fawn in our woodpile. The toddler found it first…not sure which was more scared! I think I’ve been startled more by deer than any other wild critter.

    Reply
  2. Michelle Ule

     /  October 3, 2017

    LOL, those pesky baby deer! My ranger was on top of it–she’d already told me what to do if we met a bear . . . 🙂

    Reply

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