A spiritual moment inside a coastal Redwood
A spiritual moment inside a coastal Redwood

Matt Simpson

A spiritual moment inside a coastal Redwood

I spent an afternoon in northern California’s Redwood National Park sitting inside the hollowed base of a very tall tree. How tall? I don’t know. Maybe 200 feet? Its circumference was at least 25 feet around the base. I know because I tried to spoon it six times.

They say you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you get lost in details you miss the big picture. With a tree of this size, it’s all about the details. Why? Because you can’t get far enough away from a Coastal Redwood to see the whole thing.

giant coastal redwood with person

In Yosemite National Park, I tried to photograph a Giant Sequoia. I failed. Then I figured out panorama mode on my camera. I failed again. I’d have tried again with my Redwood, but I dropped my camera in a tide pool earlier that day. Oh well.

There’s no chance I could’ve captured this entire majestic Redwood in a single shot.

The base was massive. The bark was moist and springy to the touch like a very dense sponge. Inches deep wrinkles ran the vertical length of the ancient trunk. The air inside these crevices was musty and old.

Each chunk of bark and each deep winkle was an ecosystem unto itself. Moss and funguses clung to the surface. Small spiders called the crevices home.

And when one of the giants falls, countless plants – including new Redwoods – grow from its corpse as it decomposes slowly over the decades.

You look up. The green branches don’t start sprouting for at least 40 feet above the forest floor. And then the tree just keeps going and going, reaching toward a sun that’s obscured by dense fog from the coast.

giant coastal redwood scale

The trees grow in such tight proximity that their fallen needles and their skyscraping tops mingle to enclose the space between a cushioned floor and a dark canopy. The trees are so overpowering that they not only block cell service but they also block consumer GPS signals.

There’s no sound. Redwoods are impervious to insects, so even the chirp of birds is rare. Occasionally, you hear water dripping down the sides of ravines. That’s about it.

To me, it felt claustrophobic. After an hour or so in the forest, I was ready to retreat to the sunny meadows. The Redwoods are truly a force. A force of nature. And, for me, a force of spirit.

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