The Red WoodsPosted: Jul 13, 2005 2:56:31 AM
California has a thing about redwoods. A quick browse through the phone book will yield Redwood Plumbing, Redwood Credit Union, Redwood Bagel Company, Redwood Sewer and Drain Service, Redwood Hand Therapy, and dozens of others. A quick look through the local maps will show you Redwood Avenue, Boulevard, Circle, Court, Drive, Glade, Lane, Rise, Road, and Way, and the motorway that runs straight through the county from San Francisco is Redwood Highway 101. I don't blame them; the redwood is magnificent, and this weekend Siobhan and I went to Armstrong State Park, an 805 acre reserve of virgin woodlands dominated by just that tree.
Armstrong is not the biggest redwood forest, nor does it have the biggest trees, but it is very quiet, and it is exceptionally beautiful. The redwood tree itself is enormous, literally the tallest breed in the world, and ancient, sometimes lasting three thousand years or more. In New Zealand we have a very big, very thick, very stocky tree called the Kauri, but in contrast to that species the redwood is thin, almost delicate-looking, with branches way up in the canopy and a dead-straight trunk all that exists below. They are so large that you can walk inside them - in Sequoia National Park further south you can drive through them, but here the gaps at the base can be large enough for you to enter and stand up, with hundreds of years of tree directly above you.
Redwoods are also a very distinctive tree. Their bark is deep red, soft, and furry. The tree sheds it frequently, covering the ground below completely and coating your shoes as you walk through it. The smell is difficult to describe, but it is warm, and as rich as chocolate; the high trees house trilling birds. They are completely magnificent. But only the second most beautiful thing in the area.
The redwoods are best featured in a huge open area known as the Forest Theater: it overwhelms you with its enormity, ceiling higher than a cathedral, abbey-like quietude, isolated as a mountain shrine. I figured that it would be the perfect spot for what I had planned. After a lovely dinner of brie and chardonnay I smuggled Siobhan over to the front of the glade, got down on one knee, and proposed. What can I say? The redwoods are magnificent, but she is more beautiful. And she said yes!
So it's a very good weekend! This is the ring I picked for her: white gold and diamonds (I wanted something classic and stylish). She's happy and so am I, and we'll be getting married some time next year. Um ... surprise?
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