Taking a long, slow walk amongst the Redwoods in Muir Woods, I deliberately slowed down, lingered, and sometimes stood still to feel the forest. Looking straight up I watched water drops formed in the tree tops from the light mist fall a few hundred feet. There are trees here that have stood here for more than a thousand years, my visit was just one blip in their lifespan. And here I found what I’d been looking for, what I’d hoped I’d find on this twisting drive through the hills. Here were the ancient forests of my imagination.
Seeking quiet, reverent space amongst the giants is tricky business if you only stay on the main path. No matter how much signage they put up, tourists chat like they’re at the mall, oblivious to the glorious silence. You must go there expecting this careless chatter, but you don’t have to participate in it. The best option for silence is to take the paths less taken, and Muir Woods offers these opportunities. Take any trail that scares the masses – be it mud or the promise of exertion or even a dead end sign and you quickly find yourself in relative quiet.
There are other old growth redwood forests, not enough of them we might agree, but they’re out there as state and national parks throughout the region. These offer more opportunities for isolation. Muir Woods is both the most famous and the most crowded. The trees won’t ever disappoint you, but your fellow man might.
If we lost all the money we have and saved these trees, it would be worthwhile, wouldn’t it?” – William Kent
William Kent purchased this land and fended off those who planned to log the redwoods to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and then flood the valley as a reservoir. He might have named it after himself but chose to honor John Muir. Modest? No doubt, but there’s an element of brand recognition at work here too. Since 1908, the Muir Woods National Monument has stood as protected land, surely thrilling Kent and those who worked so hard to save the trees, and capturing the imagination of reverent pilgrims ever since.
If you visit, make a parking reservation well in advance. Go as early as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds. Wear appropriate footwear for hiking the side trails. And save the casual conversation for later. For you’ll have plenty to talk about.