The wonderful author Kristina Knight recently wrote about summer essentials. Her post featured cute, comfy flip-flops and other summer must-haves. And it got me thinking. Because as a fair-skinned person who’s already had a few run-ins with skin cancer, my summer essentials have really changed. I’ve traded in my bathing suit tops for long sleeved swim shirts. A sunhat and strong sunscreen are a must if I venture into the sunshine for any length of time. And my summertime habits have changed too. Summer used to be about basking in the sunlight. Now I am constantly seeking my most essential of all summer essentials. Shade.
So on the longest, hottest days of summer, when my town’s streets clog with tourists heading for the beach, I head for the hills. Literally. Because the mountains behind my town are thick with redwood trees. And there’s no more delicious shade, in my opinion, than that provided by a redwood forest. Walk among them on a warm day and you can breathe in a delicious dusty, smoky smell. It's part pine tree, part soil, part, well… redwood! Look up and see the bright summer sky dappled and dimmed by millions of green needles. It’s an awe-inspiring sight!
Have you had a chance to walk among these giants, or their slightly smaller cousins, the sequoias? Coast redwoods are enormous, as tall as a thirty story building, the tallest trees on the planet. Even our local forests, heavily logged for years and containing almost no old-growth trees, are full of trees whose tops disappear into the sky. In the right conditions they can grow three feet in a year. A full grown tree might be three hundred feet tall and twenty-seven feet across.
When I asked my husband if he had any photos of redwood trees I could use for this blog he said “What part of the tree?” And he wasn’t joking. They are so big that it’s almost impossible to take a photo of the entire tree. You can choose the top, or the trunk, a branch or two, but good luck getting a full photo!
Walking in a redwood forest is like taking a trip back in time. The huge trunks and ferns make it easy to imagine a dinosaur peeking out from behind one of the trees. Plus, redwoods are real-life time travelers, living for over two thousand years. Stand next to an ancient redwood and you’re likely standing next to a tree that was alive during the Roman empire. It never fails to amaze me.
A visit to the redwoods requires you to slow down and take your time. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. Often you can find mossy creeks to wade in.
Strange creatures like banana slugs to observe.
Stumps begging to be climbed.
And occasionally, where the sun breaks through, a surprise of a flower.
Redwoods have fire-resistant bark, so when a wildfire occurs, they often burn in the center, leaving a hollowed out cave in the tree. You can climb inside and feel the enormous, still-living tree surrounding you. Find one and sit quietly inside. You’ll be amazed by the peace you can find there. And the deep, dark, blissful shade.
Where do you go to cool off, or hide from the summer sun? Do you have a shady peaceful spot that you love? Or a place you love to hike or visit? Please share!