I have had visits to many California State Parks, including Yosemite with the hikes and Half Dome climb, but none have surprised me more than my most recent summer trip to the Hendy Woods. It is a place of gigantic redwood trees that have been preserved since the late 1800’s. They are massively breathtaking from their roots to as high as you can see! Such an amazing survivor of the test of time, and so peaceful in their hidden pocket on Earth.
I went with a couple of friends and it was a Wednesday/Thursday trip so we basically had the park to ourselves. We explored all day long with a respectful awe of where we were. It seemed we had time travelled back to a day where dinosaurs may have roamed. The trees stood so tall and full of life and history, decorated at the bottom with bright green ferns and 3-leaf clovers that also spread and covered the entire grove. It was truly magical, as if we were actually living in the land of Ferngully and we were the little creatures of its playground. There were trees that had fallen, completely uprooted, and had smaller trees growing from the roots that stood facing the sky. And, these ‘smaller’ trees were half the size of the bigger ones! There is natural recycling here: Trees that fall create new ground while their roots create new trees. On one of the fallen you could even run the length of it for at least a hundred yards! Huge trees that had hallowed in the base (due to fire) but still held themselves up, and we could walk inside and through, even look up from within and ‘be’ the tree. Naturally, we all spread our arms out as long as we could just to compare our little tree selves…3 grown adults giggling at the sight of us and these giants. We could only imagine what it is like to be one of them. We learned about this one guy who had been an immigrant to America and eventually found home among the trees. They called him the ‘Hendy Hermit’ and he would make his stay in the hollowed stumps, occasionally changing tree locations. As we toured the paths around and through we could always count on one of us to make a friendly joke about how we could stay and live there for 18 years like he did. Hendy Woods completely inspired and humbled me.
I know it put us all into perspective about where and how we stand with nature. It was amazing to learn that the original owner of the land purchased it to save the trees and keep them just how they were, and to SHARE this love with others. His actions have allowed people from all around to come view a place that would have otherwise been destroyed and forgotten. Such a peaceful place that you could come and just be, like the trees, even like the hermit. That was a very special realization for me, that someone else could do something like that for both the environment and people together. I think it is a healing place for the fact that it hasn’t really changed much over my lifetime and before then. Aside from occasional stump fires and trees falling it seems virtually untouched, we were so conscious of this that we made sure to stay on the dirt paths and not step on one single clover…It was too beautiful and so rare of a place!
The feeling I had while visiting here was one of the most special parts for me. I felt the love. The love of life and the love the trees pass on to the Earth and each other, the love that people of the past felt in this same place that they even crafted and donated benches just to take it all in, and the love that continues with every person that has set eyes on it. That feeling definitely lives in me as I live my daily life: a love of what lives on this Earth and how I can take part in protecting it, so that it can one day be there for someone else when I am gone too.