Friday, December 5, 2008



Ever seen a tree almost as tall as the Qutb Minar (273.8 feet) or Rajabhai Tower (280 feet) or one that is over 1000 years old? This tree was flourishing when the Magna Carta was signed by King John in the year 1215 and this tree had grown to over 100 feet when the Pilgrim Fathers landed in Plymouth Harbour in 1620. This is the most famous Redwood Tree found in northern California. A few miles from another famous monument of this state--the Golden Gate Bridge, we have a place called Muir Woods full of redwoods slightly shorter . “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world," declared conservationist John Muir when describing the majestic coast redwoods of Muir Woods.

The tallest redwood tree here is 252 feet high and the widest over 14 feet. Some redwoods are at least 1000 years old. Most mature trees are 500 to 800 years old. The world’s tallest living thing is a coast redwood in northern California, measuring 379.1 feet. The redwood trees are expected to live up to a 2000 years but hold your breath the Giant Sequoia has a life span of 3200 years. We saw the Sequoia in Yosemite. Noting that Redwood Creek contained one of the San Francisco Bay Area's last uncut stands of old-growth redwood, Congressman William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Kent, bought 295 acres here for $45,000 in 1905. To protect the redwoods the Kents donated the land to the United States Federal Government and, in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared it a national monument. Roosevelt suggested naming the area after Kent, but Kent wanted it named for conservationist John Muir.
You walk away from the clamour of the city into an oasis where slanting beams of sunlight caress rugged red trunks that have stood for hundreds of years .There was a time when these trees came close to feeling the bite of loggers' saws. But stout efforts by early preservationists turned the area into a national monument in 1908. Parks officials are marking the centennial with a year of events including a day-long celebration April 21, the birthday of Sierra Club founder John Muir.
Muir Woods, just a dozen miles north of San Francisco, gets a million visitors a year and we heard the sounds of Mandarin, French, Spanish or a score of other languages in the park . Mostly they seem to be saying the same thing: These trees are big.
The park includes redwoods over 260 feet high; some are more than 1,200 years old. Of special interest is Cathedral Grove, where delegates who drafted the charter of the United Nations held a commemorative ceremony on May 19, 1945, in tribute to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April of that year.
The grove can be reached on a loop walk of only one mile, which was hugely enjoyed by the two family groups I went with who wanted to experience California's famous redwoods after driving for two hours.
On certain days, Cathedral Grove is designated a "quiet zone" with a sign to that effect to heighten the experience of the magic and majesty of the woods — all the more remarkable for being about 30 minutes from the cosmopolitan bustle of San Francisco. Listen to the birds and the wind rustling in the branches; gaze up at trees soaring into the sky, their leafy tops forming graceful arches, and you'll understand how this spot got its name.
President Theodore Roosevelt, a big supporter of the nascent conservation movement, played a pivotal role in preserving the woods.Most of the coastal redwoods that once covered the California coast were chopped down to build the homes and cities of new California. But the Muir trees, tucked in a hard-to-access Redwood Canyon survived until the turn of the 19th century.
Businessman William Kent bought the land in hopes of preserving it. Kent, who later became a congressman, donated the land to the government and Roosevelt turned the woods into a national monument using the powers of the recently passed Antiquities Act.
It was Kent who wanted the woods named for naturalist Muir. In an exchange of letters, Roosevelt advocated for putting Kent's name on the new monument, but Kent replied that he had "five good husky boys," and if they couldn't keep the name of Kent alive, "I am willing it should be forgotten."
Kent, whose name is commemorated in the Marin County town of Kentfield among other things, went on to co-author the act creating the National Park Service in 1916.In a letter to Kent, Muir wrote: "Saving these woods from the axe & saw, from money-changers and water-changers & giving them to our country & the world is in many ways the most notable service to God & man I've heard of since my forest wanderings began."

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