Endor park ranger reporting for duty: My first adventure in the Redwood National Park

The colossal trees of the Redwood National Park tower over the hiking trails at 
Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Lauren J. Mapp

While walking along a path in the Redwood National Park during my honeymoon in June, one thought kept on popping up in my head: These are some big ass trees. 

It may sound silly to harp on this given that the tallest living trees in the world can be found in the Redwoods National and State Parks, but until you've stood next to – or inside – one of these massive plants, it's hard to imagine how large they truly are.

Our adventure into the Redwoods was during the second week of our honeymoon in the Pacific Northwest — a two night stop during our drive from Crater Lake to San Francisco. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Eureka, The Carter House Inns, which allowed us to easily drive into the forest during the day for an easy hike and visit to the nearby beach.

A moss covered branch at Redwood National Park. Lauren J. Mapp

After hiking in Olympic National Park and seeing some of the tallest trees I have ever seen for a week, I worried that the Redwoods wouldn't seem quite as magnificent as if we were only visiting them. I was happy to discover that they do in fact feel even more colossal than the ones we'd seen during the first week of our trip.

Coast Redwoods, or Sequoia sempervirens, are evergreen trees found along the coast of Northern California and Southwestern Oregon, according to "Northwest Know-How: Trees" by Karen Gaudette Brewer.

They have have one inch-long woody cones, grow to more than 200 feet, and are often greater than 300 feet tall. Brewer adds that Coast Redwoods act as a habitat for several animal species, including spotted owls, black-tailed deer and pileated woodpeckers.

Standing next to — or inside of — a redwood tree really highlights
how large these trees are. Peter Hefti

Many of these trees are protected within the Redwood National and State Parks in California, a state that is also home to the oldest living tree – the 5,070-year-old Methuselah bristlecone pine in the White Mountains – and largest tree – General Sherman, a tree with a 27 foot diameter located in Sequoia National Park.

Standing at 380 feet 9.7 inches, Hyperion is considered to be the tallest living tree in the world and is estimated to be somewhere between 600 and 800 years old, according to the Guinness World Records

Its location within the park is kept secret, so we aren't quite sure if we saw the absolute tallest tree in the world, but its siblings in the forest were daunting enough.  

Two salmonberries at different stages of ripeness hang underneath the leaves of their bush,
 protected from the sunbeams. Lauren J. Mapp

Just as interesting as the giant trees throughout the Redwoods are all the smaller plants scattered across the forest floor. 

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, we saw salmonberry bushes alongside roads and hiking trails,  bejeweled with their prominent peach-colored berries. 

These berries are a member of the rose family and can be found as far north as Alaska, according to the U.S. Forest Service. 

Salmonberries are often used in jellies, jams and baked goods, or served with smoked salmon, but they have been a staple for the Indigenous communities in Alaska for thousands of years. 

Various Indigenous communities in Alaska use them to make an ice cream dish from a mixture of berries (including salmonberries), animal fat and fish. The name of the dish varies by community and language, but is sometimes called either akutaq, nathdlod or navagi.

Flowering rhododendron bushes provided a beautiful pop of color along the hiking trail
at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail. Lauren J. Mapp

Ferns can be seen from almost every angle, along with moss dangling from the branches of trees and covering the ground. There was also a microforest of some of the largest clovers I've ever seen. 

We also saw rhododendrons along the sides of the hiking trail at Lady Bird Johnson Grove, an easy to moderate, 1.5 mile-long trail loop without significant elevation gain and loss. 

The former first lady initially traveled to the grove on Nov. 25, 1968 for the dedication ceremony of Redwood National Park, returning the next year when former President Richard Nixon named the trail in her honor.

Young redwood trees at Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the
Redwood National Park. Lauren J. Mapp

There was this moment during our hike where my husband and I were sitting on a bench under the trees and couldn't help but tell him, with tears in welling in the corners of my eyes, "I cannot imagine being here with anyone else but you."

Walking amongst the trees in the Redwoods — or, as I like to call it, Endor Forest — was such a powerful experience that I had to include that moment in my vows when we finally had our full, in-person wedding in September. 

My husband Peter stands under the looming arch of one of the tallest trees 
in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Lauren J. Mapp


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