Tamela driving through Chandelier Tree

I think it must have been in elementary school, while reading an article in Highlights Magazine, that I decided I wanted to drive through a redwood tree some day. I guess it was fitting that I would be introduced to the redwoods some forty years later by a teacher — my friend Dusty.

These magnificent trees inspire me to live my best life. Read on!

I started my exploration of the redwoods with a drive through the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California  (above) whose drive-through trunk was carved out in the 1930’s. These long-lived trees (they can live between 1200-1800 years) are so resilient that they continue living even after being such desecration.

Founder’s Grove

Check out the stats on Founder's TreeAfter the Chandelier Tree, I toured The Avenue of the Giants, a 32-mile stretch of mostly old US 101 that runs through California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Entering the quiet groves, what I learned about their perfect ecosystem made me a little ashamed of my drive-through sacrilege. What drives us humans to stamp our presence on everything? In some ways we are like animals marking our territories, I guess.

Redwoods are so immense that they live in three climactic zones at once: the base, the stem, and the crown. They create their own micro-climate through the transpiration of moisture from the leaves to the atmosphere. A very large tree can release up to 500 gallons of water into the air in a day.

Redwood resilience

Tam in the hole of a redwoodRedwoods are among the oldest living things. The oldest today is over 2200 years old. They live so long because they are nearly immune to termites and pests and they’re resistant to decay and even to fire.

Let’s think about this: if we don’t let the pests in our lives get to us, won’t we be healthier, too?

Scientists estimate that there are 1700 species of plants and animals that depend on a tree during its lifetime. Over 4000 live in or on a downed log.

Wow, what a parallel to human lives: while many depend upon us during our lifetimes, many generations will benefit from the work of our lives.

Me looking tiny at the overturned roots of the Dryerville Giant

The Dryerville Giant

This tree, The Dryerville Giant, stood for perhaps 1600 years. Windthrow (the blowing over of trees) is the leading cause of Coast Redwood death.

Before it fell it was at least 362 feet tall. That’s two feet taller than Niagara falls — the equivalent to a 30-story building.

Redwood roots only grow a few feet down into the soil, but they can grow laterally a hundred feet or more; the roots intertwine and graft onto one another, helping to hold each other up. This sounds to me like an ideal human community.