Saturday, November 14, 2015

Armstrong Redwoods

Dylan, Mark, Chris, and Sarah at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.
Saturday, October 10, 2015

The day before we left Northern California, we enjoyed one final day of sightseeing. I really wanted my family to see the giant redwoods of the area. The most awesome of those redwood forests are, of course, located in the more distant northern parts of the state, as well as Oregon and Washington. We didn't have time to travel so far, though, so I found a redwood forest not too far from Windsor where we could still see some fine examples of the mighty redwood tree.

My original plan was to picnic and hike at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve on Friday, but we were all still worn out from our long beach drive on Thursday, so we put it off for a day. On Saturday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the condo and didn't leave the resort until about 11:00. Then we headed south to the next town, Santa Rosa (where the mission office where Jacob served his mission is located). 

Inside Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, California.
Subway is directly ahead, at the end, where my family was buying lunch.

I thought we'd pick up something for our picnic lunch along our way to the redwood forest, so we stopped at the Whole Foods Market at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa. It has a very nice takeout buffet that's horribly overpriced, so we went looking for another, cheaper option. We decided to grab sandwiches at a Subway, which turned out to also be located at Coddingtown Mall, so we went back and I sent the family in to order sandwiches while I found a place to park.

I should have waited in the car. Instead, I went in to find my family, but I never made it all the way to Subway because, along the way, I found a See's Candies instead. See's Candies is a part of my culture. When I was a baby, my mom worked at a See's Candies and she was very partial to it. Often, throughout my childhood and youth, she would bring home those little white boxes filled with chocolates and toffees and brittles and lollipops. A box of See's Candies was always one of Mom's favorite gifts to receive.

So many delectable choices!

With all those pleasant childhood memories flooding in, I couldn't resist. I waited for my family inside See's, and after they joined me I spent almost $30 on chocolate goodies! That included a box of sugar-free dark chocolate walnut turtles to enjoy after I returned home to Arizona and started eating healthy again. Which I did a few weeks later... Meanwhile, I gained almost 8 lbs. during our 12 days of vacation... Groan...

The view from our picnic table.

We left Santa Rosa just after 12:30 and headed west to the tiny town of Guerneville, about a half-hour drive. At the north end of town in Guerneville is the entrance to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. It was packed. To drive into the park costs $8.00 per vehicle, but if you park outside and hike in, it's free. The lot outside the entrance was overflowing and cars were parking along the highway all the way back into town. Because of my knee, I had already decided to drive inside to limit the amount of walking I'd have to do beyond our planned hike, but I was beginning to worry that we wouldn't get in.

The parking and picnic area.

Fortunately, there were fewer people who were willing to pay to drive in, so the man at the entrance gate reassured us that we'd find plenty of parking inside. Although there were many other vehicles and fellow picnickers inside the forest, too, we drove right to the picnic area and quickly found room to park and a selection of tables at which to enjoy our Subway sandwiches. 

Mark and Mary inside a redwood near the picnic area.

Once we entered the park, it was like we'd passed through a time machine and into some long-past Jurassic period. The air was warm and moist, we were surrounded by towering trees, and the ground was covered with thick ferns, moss-covered stones, and fallen logs. Most striking to everyone in our group, though, was the sense of stillness. The air was quiet and the largeness around us seemed to swallow up all sound, even our voices. It made me feel small. Not insignificant, but as if I were in the presence of incomprehensible greatness. I wonder if this is a tiny taste of how it would feel to meet God.

Chris and Sarah inside the same redwood near the picnic area.

After eating, we began by exploring the area around the parking lot and picnic tables. Even there, we found much to see that was unique. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until we were in Santa Rosa that I'd left my memory card in my laptop at the resort, so I wasn't able to use my camera. I had to settle for my cell phone camera, so these photos of the redwoods aren't quite the quality I would have liked. Still, I hope they capture some of the beauty and the feel of the place.

Fife Creek's dry stream bed.

Dylan jumps down into Fife Creek's dry bed.

Fallen logs on a hillside.

Fallen logs and Dylan.

The sun shining through the trees was inspiringly lovely.

Fife Creek: I can imagine this place with flowing waters in the spring,
at least when California is not in a serious state of drought.

Four redwoods that grew together into one trunk.

After we'd fully explored the parking area, we drove down to the place where we wanted to start our hike. This time the few parking spaces available were taken, so Sarah, Chris, and I got out of the car. Dylan and Mark drove back to the main parking area, and we all agreed to meet up on the footpath by the Icicle Tree. Then, as soon as the guys drove away, the three of us proceeded to take the wrong path and lose ourselves! 

We were lost, but it was still beautiful.

Off the path was rugged...

...but the path itself wasn't all that smooth! Steeply down, then steeply up.

Mary and Sarah with the park's oldest tree.
Remember, as always, you can click any picture to enlarge it.

After we'd hiked for about 15 minutes, we realized we weren't going in the right direction, so we turned around and hiked another 15 minutes back to where Dylan and Mark had left us. There they were, waiting and wondering where we'd disappeared to. They'd already passed the Icicle Tree and the Colonel Armstrong Tree on their way back, so they were able to show us the correct trail.

The Colonel Armstrong Tree, 1,400 years old.
That means it was a seedling around 600 A.D.

Looking up at the Colonel Armstrong Tree. 
308 feet tall, but not quite the tallest in the park.

Chris, Dylan, Mark, and Sarah take a break at the Colonel Armstrong Tree.

Dylan and Mark pose for Sarah's camera.

Chris, Dylan, and Mark stop to check out something on Dylan's phone.
I don't recall what it was . There was no phone or Internet reception here.
Maybe it was a photo he took? Look at the size of that trunk over their heads!

Scenery along the path.

Mark and Dylan cross a bridge over Fife Creek.

After we'd hiked for about 20 more minutes (including stops along the way), we came to the Icicle Tree. This is a redwood that is covered with burls, which are like tumors that grow on different trees (not just redwoods) for some inexplicable reason. Many people value burls for a variety of reasons. Often they are collected and used in artwork, furniture, and architecture. Some are quite huge, weighing tons. 

Finally, we come to the Icicle Tree.

We saw a lot of burls on trees along our hike, but the ones on the Icicle Tree are unusual in form. Most burls are like huge knots, but this tree used to be covered with many narrow, downward-pointing burls, making it look like it was covered in brown icicles. Unfortunately, vandals have cut or broken off and carried away many of the burls over the years, but it's still an interesting specimen. There are a couple of those specific burls left, enough to help me imagine what it used to look like.

The Icicle Tree with hanging burls.

The Icicle Tree with one dangling burl visible.

Another tree on our path.

Too gorgeous for words!

When we came to the end of our path, Mark and Dylan went back for the car and Dylan drove back down to pick us up. We headed toward the entrance, with just one stop left to make.

We made one last stop to see the park's tallest tree, at 310 feet.
The Parson Jones Tree only beats the height of the Colonel Armstrong Tree by two feet,
but the Colonel Armstrong Tree beats the age of the Parson Jones Tree by 100 years!

The Parson Jones Tree

Looking up 310 feet to the top of the Parson Jones Tree.

After 3 hours in the forest of redwoods, we turned back toward the resort in Windsor for our last night. At noon the next day, Sunday, we checked out and started our journey home. As always, there were the mixed feelings of wishing it didn't have to end and looking forward to our own beds. But what an awesome vacation it was!

We return to the resort for one final night.
10 Oct 2015

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