Muir Woods & Muir Beach

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This entrance to the boardwalk makes it look like no one else was here today. The opposite was true—it was packed! Reality is that I sat in front of the entrance long enough, helping the kids with their Junior Ranger programs, that I jumped up when I saw a chance to get a photo without anyone in it. This was the second time we *tried* to visit. The first was on a Saturday a couple weeks ago, while we were staying at the Marin RV Park in Greenbrae. The kids and I drove down, thinking we’d spend the day here. Uh, no. NO parking in the main parking lot, NO parking in the overflow lot, and NO parking for MILES down the road. I finally gave up after driving around a few times and we headed for Marin Headlands, but ended up back at Rocky after the car-sickness bug bit Sweet Pea in a major way. (The road to and from Muir Woods is VERY windy, steep, and narrow… bad combination for her.) Anyway, this is one popular place! The ranger today told me that in the summer, weekdays are like that Saturday was for us, and that weekends are impossible to visit here without riding the shuttle bus. I’ve wanted to visit here from the first moment I heard about it, and was so thankful it worked out today!

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The main boardwalk path takes visitors through a peaceful, lush, green valley filled with Coastal Redwoods (the TALL old giants, as opposed to their cousins, the Giant Sequoias, which are shorter and thicker and grow further inland), wildflowers, ferns, chirping birds, babbling brooks….aaahh! It’s a naturalist’s dream!

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We first met these ancient giants while we were staying in Santa Cruz (at Henry Cowell State Park) but we were happy to visit their relatives and learn even more about the fascinating way they were designed. One thing I very quickly learned is that it is impossible (at least with my skills and camera) to take a picture of an entire tree in one shot! The tallest tree at Muir Woods is 248 feet. Growing in one of the last remaining Old Growth Forests in the country, the trees here average 600-800 years old, with the oldest being 1200 years old! I enjoyed seeing the Bicentennial Tree—named so in 1976 because it was dated to be 200 years old at that time (and it was one of the smaller ones!).

We learned that the trees are red because of tannic acid in their bark, which also makes them pest- and fire-resistant. They have small pinecones, about the size of a grape, and reproduce either from seeds in these cones, or from their root system. New trees can sprout from the parent tree’s root, or from a dormant bud in a “burl”—a gnarled structure at the base of the trunk of the parent tree. We saw several “family circles” where a “mother” tree had lived in the center and sent out genetically identical shoots before she died, so the offspring grow in a circle around where the mother tree had been living.

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One very memorable fact we learned about the trees is that although their roots spread out wide, they don’t go very deep, so to increase their stability, they intertwine their roots with those of the other family trees—keeps them from falling over! (A life lesson from the tree?)

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Walking through this forest can make one feel pretty small! Until you look down and realize there are a FEW things smaller than you….

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I can see why so many people come here—it’s hard to imagine when you are here in this very peaceful, quiet, still forest, that you are within an hour’s drive of one of the largest cities in the country, in the most populous state. The Kent family purchased 611 acres of this land in 1905 for $45,000. In 1906, the big earthquake and fire in San Francisco happened, in which 3000 people died and 80% of the city was destroyed. In 1908, a utilities company involved with rebuilding San Francisco decided they wanted to take the land by eminent domain, build a dam and log the trees. The owners of the land felt it was special and it needed to be preserved, so they gave it to the federal government on the condition it be made into a national monument, which it was. They also wanted it to be named after their friend, naturalist John Muir, and that’s how this gem came to be the public land that it is today.

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Another badge! This one was special—it was made from recycled redwood!

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Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.—John Muir

After we finished at Muir Woods, we drove to nearby Muir Beach. This is a small beach where the Redwood Creek which runs through Muir Woods, joins the ocean—an estuary. Coho salmon and Steelhead Trout spawn in this creek, but if you see one, don’t bother it—it’s a $25,000 fine if you do! We climbed to the top of one of the nearby hills, where we could see miles out over the ocean and watched ships coming into the Golden Gate strait. A very steep and muddy climb, but oh, so worth it!

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The city of San Francisco in the background, across the Golden Gate Bridge (would be to the far left in the picture…can’t quite see it) and on the very last rock jutting out into the coast, Point Bonita Lighthouse we visited earlier, at Marin Headlands.

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The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent—Psalm 104:2

 

This will probably be our last look at the California coast on this trip—so thankful for one more glance.

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A couple pictures from the drive home…

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Note to self for future trips: DO NOT TAKE ROCKY ON HWY 1 NORTH OF SAN FRANCISCO!! (Thankfully someone told us this beforehand and we took other routes, but we’ve driven on it a few times in the car, and it’s been tough on Sweet Pea! THE curviest road I’ve been on!) Oh, and do you notice what the GPS thinks the speed limit is on this road?!? WHAT?? I don’t think so. 20mph feels like the car is going to go careening off the cliff into the rock-studded valley…anyway…(I could write an entire blog post about the times the GPS has led us astray.…)

I’ve always liked rows of mailboxes, and found a surprisingly long one! This was only half of it. Hmmm…I wonder why the mailman doesn’t like to drive to each house?! (Hint…this was taken after we came down Scary Curvy road.)

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This last one is along Highway 101 (or THE 101, as they say here) north of San Francisco. The rolling green hills with sweet dairy cows grazing on them are lovely enough on their own, but this rainbow just puts them over the top in my book!

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