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Wednesday 16 Oct 2013
Fortuna, USA

I drove into a tree... and out the other side!

Yesterday’s long drive took me through some interesting scenery, but my real reason for heading this far north was to see the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of scenic highway winding through groves of Giant Redwoods.  I left the coast behind and headed for Gerberville, the gateway to Redwood country.  On the way there I saw a sign for the ‘Chandelier Drive-thru Tree’ at Leggett.  It was a no-brainer to turn right and head for the tree.  I have memories of driving through a tree in Yosemite, back in 1988, but the ranger we spoke to there last week said the only one they had fell in 1969, so I am not sure what it actually was that we saw then.  This time, there was no mistaking the giant tree ahead of me.  The drive wound down among the trees until it opened out into a clearing with a very large single tree in the centre.  Through the base of the trunk was a neatly carved tunnel.  I crawled forwards excitedly, filming the car in front as it drove through and lining up for my turn.  It wasn’t until I got halfway in that it dawned on me that I couldn’t take photos of myself – where was Verity when I needed her!?  I wound my window down and waved my camera at a nearby couple asked them to take pictures of me driving through.   I made it through unscathed, though I had barely a couple of inches either side of the wing mirrors, and parked up with a big triumphant grin on my face.  So much fun for such a simple thing.  It took me another half hour to get on my way again because I was so fascinated by the tree.  According to the sign, the tree was 315’ tall, 21’ in diameter and at least 2400 years old.  Despite the tunnel carved through its centre, it was still standing strong and healthy. 

The Avenue of the Giants may only be 31 miles long, but it took me two and a half hours to drive through because there was so much to see.  The first section of the road past Gerberville was marked off as closed, with the diversion going up the main highway.  Rather than risk missing the whole Avenue of the Giants, I followed the road for seven miles through the woods, feeling absolutely dwarfed by the tall trees on either side.  I used to love driving through tree tunnels when we visited my relatives in South Devon as a child, and there is still something fun and familiar about doing the same now, but these tree tunnels were something else entirely.  The trunks grew right up to the edge of the road, making it feel like driving through a tree canyon.  Sometimes the only glimpse of sky was when the road straightened out ahead.  I stopped several times just to take it in and drove along with my camera filming from the dashboard for a few miles.  I reached the road closure where the road crossed the river and backtracked to the highway.  Luckily, this only took me up one junction and I was able to rejoin the Avenue of the Giants at the other end of the closed bridge.

The Avenue links up a number of small towns and curiosity stops through the Humboldt State Park – thank goodness it wasn’t a National Park! I stopped to see the Shrine Drive-thru Tree, but this one looked neither as wide nor as stable as the first one – there were cables holding it up – so I settled for watching other people drive through instead.  Further on, I had a look inside the Chimney Tree, a hollowed out stump of a tree still over 70’ tall, and admired a polished cross-section of a felled tree labelled up with date markers showing key events in human history during the tree’s long lifetime.

My last stop on the Avenue of the Giants was at Founders’ Grove to see some of the tallest Redwoods in the world. I followed the trail to see the Founders’ Tree (still standing) and the Dyerville Giant (sadly fallen).  The Dyerville Giant was 362’ tall and over 52’ in circumference when it fell.  It is estimated that this 2000-year-old tree will take another 400 years to fully decompose. It was a lovely walk in the forest, very peaceful among the giant trees, but the light was beginning to fade so I continued my drive.  I stayed in Fortuna and had an excellent fajita dinner at the Eel Creek Brewing Co. along with a couple of their delicious blonde ales. 

The breaking news of the day is that Washington has agreed a deal on the Debt Ceiling.  It still remains to be seen if this means the Shutdown will be lifted, but it looks hopeful…  Maybe I will reach Lassen and Yosemite after all?


Mileage: 466

Running total: 3,256


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