Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Sonoma County, CA May, 2014

There are some things that no photograph, video, or verbal description can ever do justice to – you can only experience them fully in real life. Machu Picchu is once example. I have been there and it is an indescribable experience.  I suspect standing atop Mt. Everest is also, but I won’t be trying that any time soon. Just recently I was reminded that the feeling of standing alone in a redwood forest surely belongs on that list.

The magnificent giant (or coastal) redwood tree stands out as one of the great natural wonders of the northwestern United States and, indeed, the world. Hundreds of feet high, centuries, even millennia, old, 10, 20 or more feet in diameter, no photograph will ever give you the full sense of what it feels like to stand in front of one – or to stand in a forest full of them.

These trees are amazingly resilient, surviving lightening strikes, burrowing animals and high winds. They are also remarkably fragile, with a shallow root system that seems so inappropriate to the giant plant it supports. Picture a 7-foot tall basketball player with a size 6 shoe.

While the giant redwoods and their higher elevation cousins, the sequoias, were logged almost to extinction, some stands of very old trees survive and there are now parks and reserves that will allow not just our children and grandchildren to see them, but children 100 generations down the line.

For some, spending time in a redwood forest is a mystical experience. They feel a connection to the earth and to nature flowing through them. For others, it is a religious experience as they feel the peace of God and see the magnificence of creation all around them. Even those who profess no spiritual or religious beliefs cannot help but feel something special in the presence of these ancient giants.

If you have not had a chance to visit a redwood forest, do add it to your bucket list. If you have already been there, remember how it felt and think about going again.