Photography: California Vacation, Part Three

CS Sherin, August 14, 2019

A slice of a fallen redwood with dated rings, at the entrance to the trails at Muir National Monument in Mill Valley, CA; July 2019. “909 AD tree is born…1930 tree falls.”

It was a beautiful day this past July when we drove up to Mill Valley from the Bay Area in order to visit Muir National Monument, aka Muir woods, where some of the ancient redwoods have been protected as a National Park by Sierra Club founder, John Muir, since 1908.

Looking up at a congregation of ancient redwood trees bathed in sunlight, July 2019, Muir National Monument (Muir Woods State Park). Photo by CS Sherin

We were enthralled with the forest that is home to countless ancient trees (the oldest in these woods is at least 1200 years old, and redwoods can live well over 2000 years old) as well as so many groves of baby redwoods. The tallest redwoods in this forest are almost 300 feet tall. Further north they get to be closer to 400 feet tall. We spent over four hours simply hiking the trails there, from top to bottom, and all around. While there wasn’t overwhelming evidence of wildlife, the further we got from the crowds of people below on the walking trail, we did encounter tiny birds, a curious chipmunk, and ravens flying silently above us.

My daughter, Samara, inside and beneath a mammoth redwood. July 2019. Photo by CS Sherin

Being among the tallest and oldest trees I have ever seen, for a short while, was a beautiful experience. I experienced it as an atmosphere of complete goodness, as if the ancient rootedness exudes an aura of deep peace, and contentment ripples outward.

Towering giants of Muir woods, July 2019, Mill Valley, CA. Photo by CS Sherin

Giant clover, the main ground cover along the floor of the redwood forest in Muir National Monument, July 2019. Photo by CS Sherin

The ground cover, amazingly, was mostly a bigger than usual kind of clover. I would say that it is 3- times bigger than the clover leaves I am accustomed to. Since Wild Clover is my brand name, I have to say, it meant a lot and surprised me to see the clover there. No one talks about the giant clover dressing the ground around the ancient giants in northern California, and I completely understand why that detail would be lost. As I spoke about this with a fellow writer and friend, it pleased our humor when I mentioned that perhaps the average wild clover would be inspired to become giant among such companions towering above. My friend suggested that perhaps they are, in fact, aspirational clover. This made us laugh happily. Brilliant!

Here I am stretching up to photograph the upward view, beside Samara, July 2019. Photo by Jeff Sherin

After coming back to the Midwest’s Driftless area, the trees here who stand the tallest and oldest now look like children to us, because of the tree world scale we now know. It is a strange and welcome awareness.

Impossibly tall redwood trees leave us feeling smaller than I felt the first time we walked through Manhattan; July 2019. Photo by CS Sherin

Most of all, I come away from Muir woods with, first, a deep sense of gratitude for National and State parks and beaches. Second, and just as deeply, I am thankful that the redwoods and other ancient and giant beings still exist in this world. At times, all the destruction being waged against many things — including health, biodiversity, and nature — overwhelms.

My first encounter with these giants has left me with a sense that some great natural magic of this world is and has been protected.

From that deep gratitude, I say to you and all: may we arise from the current attacks by hatred and corruption upon many fronts — stronger, wiser, and with greater measures of caution, restoration, and protection for all that is precious, naturally magical, and irreplaceable in this world and life.

This is not quite the conclusion of the California Vacation photography series! Stay tuned next week for the conclusion. 🙂


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