Yup, I Wrote a Book About Logging and Now I Want to Talk About Driving through the Coastal Redwoods of California

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There! I’ve said it and it’s out there in the open—finally. Now I can continue on with my native plants but I had to let that out to explain why I love trees so much, and logging. My drive from the vineyard to Brookings, Oregon had me thinking a lot about trees and of my family history.
I may be an Italian-American, a descendant of New Amsterdam, and of early Southern tobacco growing colonists, but my Mama’s people, several of them were loggers out here in the West beginning with Hastin Butcher. After he’d worked as an Indian Agent in Oklahoma, the American Civil War vet moved to California to find his fortune in the Big Timber. His daughter married several loggers, and her son Bill became one too, and he was my grandfather. My grandmother remarried, and my step-grandfather was a logger and a proud union man as well.
As I left Lake County to head toward Mendocino and Humboldt counties, that feeling of homecoming was upon me. As soon as I saw the trees, I relaxed. That’s always what happens and it’s when I think about the logging book the most.
When I was 18, I published a book. Really it was a collection of historic logging photographs that I essentially curated and then wrote captions for to create the narrative. My father published the book and it sold out in a few years and it is currently out-of-print. I really hate the name, but I need to complete my confession so here is a link: Ancient Forests and Western Man.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my timber. At the first rest stop I was shocked, amazed and delighted to discover that someone is making modern faux bois fences that look really great. I wonder if it was someone who’d been retrained to work in masonry after the mill closed? That would be priceless.
Contemporary faux bois fence.
There is nothing like standing beside a Sequoia sempervirens aka a California redwood. These trees can live for 1200-1800 years, reaching up to 379 feet (115.52 m) and they can be as wide as 26 feet (7.9 m). It is safe to say that these trees are truly breathtaking.

Note the size of the car to the right of the tree. This tree is huge.

Taking photographs of trees has been something I have been puzzled by for years. I like little flowers on perennials much more. Even landscapes are easier than this. Trees are really difficult to capture, especially ones this tall.

I would hug this tree, if there were about 25 of me to encircle the behemoth.

Due to a time crunch, I was not able to hunt as many plants as I’d wanted to, but since this was my first exploratory mission in many years I decided that any great plant matter found on this trip was a bonus since I really did not expect much. Little did I know how many amazing plants I’d find over the next few days.

First off was the Fetid Adders Tongue (Scoliopus bigelovii). I wish I’d caught the plant in bloom but maybe next time I will have better luck! They are plentiful in Northern California in dark, shady, and damp areas. These were found just off Highway 101 and I plan to keep watching them over time to see what they do. So far, I am a huge fan.

Fetid Adders Tongue (Scoliopus bigelovii).

Not far away I found this lovely native Oxalis. On the forest floor this carpet seemed magical in a way I’d never seen before. The size of the trees made the plant appear tiny and somehow this made the whole forest feel more magical. I could hear the Eel River nearby, and I could see the leaves wiggle as if blown by some breeze I didn’t feel, and the giant trees blanketed out so many other sounds I would have expected to have heard at home in the woods.

Redwood Sorrel, Oregon Oxalis (Oxalis oregana).
Walk-thru Redwood Tree.
After the long drive through the woods, eventually I ended up near the coast and the towns of Eureka and Arcata on Humboldt Bay. Seeing this bus cracked me up because it is something you only see in certain areas of the NW and California. I may not take part in this lifestyle, but I get it. Part of me is actually curious about what kind of expedition this is here.

Back on the Hippie Highway: It’s not about where you are or where you’re going. It’s a state of mind.
(They are probably migrating north to Oregon for the spring & summer.)

I drove through a Roosevelt elk refuge after that and I was really having fun by then. It if pretty funny to have to wait for a herd of elk to cross the road right in front of your car. They are amazing animals especially when the largest males have nice racks on their noggins.

I drove as fast as I could to get to my favorite beach, and I made it.

I sat there, taking pictures, and my thoughts went out to Japan.

When I went up the hillside, and looked out at the ocean, I said some prayers to those who’d lost their lives in the tsunami. We share the same ocean. I studied the trees’ silhouettes and could not quite put my finger on why their outlines were so beautiful. So much I’d seen that day was beautiful and I was truly heart happy.

I kept driving north that night in the dark to my campground, making it through the last large stand of redwoods in the dark. I drove through lily fields and cow pastures before reaching the Oregon border. In the dark, I watched as the border agents questioned folks heading south into California. “Do you have any fruit or plants?”

4 thoughts on “Yup, I Wrote a Book About Logging and Now I Want to Talk About Driving through the Coastal Redwoods of California

  1. Wow. Wonderful pictures. I love trees too. And logging. And wood. Do you ever wonder what it was like for the first Europeans landing in such a superabundance of timber. No wonder the Puritans were content to stay in Massachusetts in winter.

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  2. What a grogeous place to live in and explore…you did an excellent job capturing that tree…I love trees too and find strength in them…I really love your exploring posts…fun to come along on the trip…

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  3. Thanks for the comments! I had fun writing this and I have two more to go so that I can get caught up.

    Where I live and who I am goes into my gardening. I think many of us do that. Some of us may be gardening more in the present, focusing on who we are now, enjoying the growth we've had away from our past. Some of us solely garden in the past, remembering our grandmothers' gardens, and I think I'm in the middle of this.

    My travels in the region contribute to this too and the fact that my father is a well-known sports fisherman also adds to how I see the West. I think I knew more river names than cities as a kid so I've enjoyed painting that picture with a wider brush. I think growing up on a navigable creek makes me really want one now in my backyard too but instead I collect rocks.

    Lastly, Chris, many of the Europeans likened the forests to the cathedrals of Europe. What is creepy is that the experience of both are very similar. Makes me think my Catholic forefathers were more pagan than they believed! Ha! There! I said that too!

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