After a few days of Sonoma’s temptations — wine, farm fresh food and more wine — it is time for a walk.
On a recent sunny Monday after a gluttonous weekend, I was ready to see a different side of Sonoma County. Far from my full e-mail inbox, I stepped into the silent forest of the Armstrong Redwoods State Park in Sonoma County, California. Google maps was most definitely not working here. In fact, I had no signal on my phone at all. I had a paper map with a dotted line for a trail, no where I needed to be, and no way for anyone to reach me. This walk in the woods was far from my usual Monday morning routine.
I didn’t know that a short 30-minute drive through wine country could end at the edge of a redwoods reserve, home to trees over 300-feet tall and 1300 years old. I strolled along the path towards Parson Jones, an ancient redwood with a diameter of 13.8 feet. On this April morning, bright green clover was starting to blanket the ground surrounding the trees. The only sound, besides my shoes crunching leaves on the trail, was a woodpecker at work.
These giants can’t truly be captured in photos. Walk these trails and you come across other visitors trying to overcome the challenge. They lay on the ground and point their lens up. They back up further and further, almost tripping and falling into a shallow brook, to try and capture the treetops. After a few attempts myself, I put my camera away and just let my mind wander.
These redwoods are the tallest living thing on the planet. Along the trail there is a cross section of a tree, revealing all of its interior rings. Substantial growth indicates a year with good conditions, rings very close together suggests a bad year. Tags throughout the cross section indicated moments in history: Christopher Columbus landing in the US. The signing of the Declaration of Independence. These tags were no where near the center of the trunk.
That’s how the next couple of hours went. A slow amble along the dirt trails. Stopping to read and learn about the trees. An awareness of heightened sensitivity to sounds and smells. Maybe twenty minutes sitting on a bench and watching the birds go about their spring business. As the morning drifted on towards the afternoon, I started to encounter others on the trails. A mother and daughter sat with a picnic. A couple in fitness gear laid down on the trail to gaze up at the treetops.
With a few miles under my belt, it was time to head back and see what Sonoma was cooking up for lunch.