Tag Archives: Redwoods

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Happy 50th Avenue of the Giant Redwoods

50 years may be a lot to us, but it’s a mere blip to some redwood trees, the oldest of which live 2,000 years. (Most live 500-700 years.)

Regardless, the Golden birthday is nothing to sneeze at, particularly in regard to the Avenue of the Giants Parkway,  the 32-mile-long road that stretches from Garberville to Scotia, a bit inland from the Northern California coast, that is home to some of the oldest-growth redwoods in the world.

Originally a stagecoach road, the Avenue of the Giants was officially dedicated by CA Governor Edmund G. Brown on August 27, 1960. It seemed that the new,  high-speed Highway 101 allowed the Redwood route to become, in Brown’s words, “a serene drive where kids and families can cross the road at will, where traffic moves at a far slower pace.”

Luckily for us!

I had always wanted to take this drive, which my family did last summer. It was amazing to be in a tunnel of truly majestic redwoods.

We also visited one of the three world-famous drive-through coast redwoods, which I’d seen on postcards most of my life.

We drove through the Leggett Chandelier Tree.

We also got to walk through it.

The whole area is rich with wonderful and strange tourist stops, like the One Log House and Hobbiton, USA, both in Phillipsville, and various redwood-themed amusements and artisan shops along Highway 101.

I highly recommend driving the Avenue of the Giants and Highway 101, perhaps in conjunction with a trip to San Francisco, or the northern CA or southern OR coast.

The Save the Redwoods League offers fun activities to help families explore the Avenue of the Giants.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

A Walk in Nearby Woods

I last posted about the treehouse we built for my daughter in the redwoods near our house. It’s a lovely spot and, in addition to being a great place to relax beneath the trees, one of its bonuses is that, once you’re in it, the surrounding forest opens up to you. Our family recently took a little walk through it, lured by the beauty of the shafts of sunlight that beamed through the tree branches and by the call of owls — perhaps the same ones who spent part of last summer living in a tree close to our house.

We walked on the forest floor, which was soft with needles, leaves, mud and duff. We came upon these whimsical Trilliums (also called Wake Robins), an early spring wildflower that proliferates in the shade.

Forget-me-nots are another sweet shade-loving flower. Our property will be blanketed with them soon.

Three-cornered leeks (wild onions) have a lovely bell-shaped flower and a distinctly sharp spring smell.

We started to see owl droppings, and looked up to find our friends. We spotted their nest, high up in the redwoods. (We believe there to be at least one pair of Northern Spotted Owls, because we saw a male and a female last summer, and heard them now.) On the ground were owl pellets, the remains of small animals and plant material that the owls had eaten. We identified mouse bones. (I promise I will go up again and get a better picture!)

We looked up to see the owls’ nest.

While looking for the nest, we saw a basket high up in the trees. This is a very isolated spot and we were mystified as to how it could have gotten there. A person could have placed it there, but that’s not likely — it’s more than 50 feet up in a very isolated spot on private property. We wondered if the basket would be light enough for birds to have carried up, in the hopes of making a nest out of it.

After a while, the land opened up as we reached another path, which was sunnier.

Pretty yellow Goldfields were sprinkled along the path.

We saw Miner’s Lettuce, which of course we imagined generations of people before us — Native Americans, trailblazers, miners — eating. (We later learned that Miner’s Lettuce is appropriately named, and edible, but I remain very hesitant about grazing for food along the road.)

We circled around and came home, knowing that, with the weather turning warmer, and our newfound knowledge of the woods and path by our house, we would be back often.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Treehouse in the Woods

We recently built our daughter a treehouse nestled in the redwood trees by our house. She had long enjoyed a special stand of Cathedral Redwoods, which get their name by growing in a circle around a host stump or tree. This circle has about half a dozen trees, each about 150 feet tall.

But she needed a better way to get there – our land is extremely steep, and soft and slippery with needles, leaves, branches and, often, mud. There was no trail. Even if you were to make your way up on foot, chances are you’d slide back down on your bottom. This is what much of the land looks like. It’s shady redwood forest with lots of ferns and bay trees.

Being more visionary than handy, we called on some handy friends to help design and build a trail with a switchback, and then some stairs to get up the steepest part of the hill.

The trail is one that was already used by local deer and just had to be widened. (We’re hoping the deer appreciate it.)

The steps are made of copper-injected wood. We wanted something that would stand up to the weather in this damp spot. We also wanted a banister for safety.

The deck has a pier-and-post cement foundation, to make it sturdy and raise it above the forest floor.

The platform is close to our house but far enough away and in deep foliage, so that it feels private. It’s a great place to read and daydream, to the sounds of birds and frogs and, if it has rained hard enough, water running down a natural stream.

Anna is very happy there. She wants to decorate with prayer flags and chairs for friends (she says a sofa). When the rain stops we are going to hang this colorful, handwoven Mayan hammock that she picked out from a mother-daughter company called La Casa Mexicana.

We know the treehouse is going to get a lot of use. One of its great benefits, which we have already experienced, is that it gets us up into the land by our house, which we had been looking at but not walking on because of the steepness. It’s still steep past the treehouse, but not quite as much, and from there, the forest opens up. We took a walk through it the other day and found early spring wildflowers and all sorts of other things. I will tell you about them in my next post.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, La Casa Mexicana

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Books for Children

While, for many, Winter’s major celebrations have come and gone, others are still celebrating — in ways lavish or cozy – whether by giving and receiving gifts on the 12 days that have just begun, or by simply relaxing together with a little time off from work and school.

Either way, there is hardly a better time to enjoy a book, the most beloved of which provide beauty and provoke thought in a measure that far surpasses their price. I’ve uncovered a few wonderful books for children that share a message of stewardship and of slowing down. In my next blog post, I’ll do the same for adults.

All in a Day, by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure, is a very sweet and beautiful book that illustrates some of the simple things that can be done in a day – planting a seed, gazing at the sky. With pleasing rhymes and gentle and lovely two-color cut out illustrations, the message becomes clear, though never heavy-handed: A day is a gift, full of possibility, companionship and simple beauty. This is a book to be read again and again.

The message is somewhat similar in One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey, an older sweet favorite that follows a girl, her father, and her little sister for a day of boating and clamming on Maine’s shore, only to lose a tooth and have the day go a little differently, but no less adventurously, than planned. It’s a lovely, gentle book (as are McCloskey’s other titles) that’s full of wonder, both of the natural world and in the relationships that pepper a family’s life.

The setting in Jason Chin’s new book, Redwoods, is the U.S.’s west coast, where a boy emerges from a city subway into an ancient, and awe-inspiring redwood forest. Chin offers an adventure story and a lot off information, along with great watercolor illustrations that capture the misty beauty and intensity of these giant trees.

A lot of older children are appropriately concerned about the environment and wondering how they can contribute toward making things better. Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Help Protect Our Planet,
by Harriet Rohmer, offers a dozen inspiring tales about real people, of all ages, who decided to truly make a difference in their world. They include a teenage girl who acted to remove an industrial pollutant from the Ohio River and a teenage boy who helped his state recycle electronic waste and keep it out of the landfill. Photos and illustrations help carry the stories, which let readers know that they can each have an impact.

Two very lovely and colorful tried-and-true books help children understand the cycle of nature in the garden: Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow and Ruth Heller’s The Reason for a Flower. Both are brightly illustrated, and simply and wonderfully show nature’s variety and the way each aspect of the ecosystem helps one another.

Aunt Ippy’s Museum of Junk, by Rodney Alan Greenblat, features the highly original Aunt Ippy, an early recycler and highly creative individual who never met an object she couldn’t make something useful and fun from. This is a delightful book, brimming with wonder, resourcefulness and an offbeat style of cheer that speaks to the free spirit in a lot of kids.

Marilyn Singer’s On The Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather takes readers on a round-the-world tour at a time of year when dramatic and contrasting weather events are occurring. Bold illustrations and simple prose help explain how and why different types of weather occur on the same day, and also help make the planet feel a little more familiar and connected.

Happy exploring through books!

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

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