Straggler in the Redwood Forest


My son William is just a couple of years old, and he’s growing every day. But he’s got a lot of catching up to do if he ever wants to get as tall as these redwoods.

As you can see from this photo, he’s also got some literal catching up to do.

Our small church family had come to the Northern California coast for the weekend. Our agenda included good people, good food, and good times. Because there was no shortage of children, we knew that there had to be abundance of adventure. There would be little hope of adults relaxing if we didn’t offer these kiddos a healthy dose of fun — like the fun that wears them out before bedtime.

The day’s fun began at a local winery where the kids enjoyed the farm animals and games of Cornhole while the adults enjoyed some tasty cheese and wine. The more industrious folks in our group were already scanning their phones for ideas of what to do next while waiting for another helping of truffle oil fries. It wasn’t long before someone discovered word of a redwood forest just a few miles further down the road.

Maybe it was my fond memories of camping in the redwoods at the Jedediah Smith State Park. Then again, it could have been my childhood love affair with the Ewoks and their redwood forest city high in the trees (you know, from Return of the Jedi). Perhaps it was thinking back to misty hikes among the Muir Redwoods further down Highway 101. When I heard “redwoods”, I was all in.

We arrived at Armstrong Redwoods State Park in two shakes, or in my daughter’s standard unit of time measurement, one episode of whatever PBS kids’ show comes to mind. Our plan was to make the easy one-and-a-half mile Pioneer Nature walk to soak in the sights with out the sort of inclines that would incite bellyaching from kids or adults. Our caravan unloaded snacks, kids, and bug repellent and slipped underneath the towering canopy of shade provided by these massive trees.

I never fail to awe at the effect of entering a redwood grove as the transition is so jarring and refreshing. It is as though I’ve been magically shrunken, standing beneath trees that can grow up to 350 feet tall. And for Pete’s sake, these things can live for up to 2000 years! So while the scale of this slice of the world makes me feel small, the sweet scent of the tree bark and the dimmed lighting puts me at peace.

I think my little boy William was sharing in that same experience during his first visit to a redwood forest. While most of our group moved together along the trail, I often spotted him running ahead of us to see what was further down the trail. Or he would stop and wonder at fallen tree trunks the size of buses, or pet nearby ferns … who needed petting, evidently. It made me smile inside and out to see William losing himself in this new environment.

I snapped this photo of William during one of those times where he surged ahead, or lagged behind. I honestly can’t remember which it was at this point. The sense of smallness of this little boy and the grandeur of the redwood forest is a great contrast. Even though you don’t see his face, his body language gives away the fact that he is an intrepid explorer, fully alive in his adventure. Good times indeed.

This little guy made the whole hike without being carried, as it would happen. And as a result he was tuckered out by bedtime. Mission accomplished, on so many levels.

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Where is your favorite forest to explore? Tell us about it in the comments!

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