California Redwood (Cupressaceae: Sequoia sempervirens)
Alternative common name: Kaliforniese rooihout (Afrikaans)
We dream of the day to experience a true giant of nature. Until that day, we will find the giants of our surroundings.
|(Time well spent amongst the Champion Californian Redwood Trees)|
We imagined ourselves standing at the foot of what is known as the tallest living tree. These colossal giants of North America have reached unimaginable heights. It is no wonder that the tallest of all is named “Stratosphere Giant”. Weighing in at a staggering 368,6 feet high, this is a true champion in the Humbold State Park in California. The Big Tree Hunters have recorded more than 26 Redwood trees over 360 feet high. The evergreen Redwood forests are regarded as the most impressive in America, and the Coastal Redwood trees are the most magnificent conifers.
|(Largest Living Tree in the world, Redwood Tree (Giant Sequoia)|
These were extensive forests covering more than 500 miles, but these forests have all vanished due to the high demand for lumber. A paltry 3% of the original forest has been granted protection in state parks and one National Park.
|(The Champion of Champions and it’s official)|
Some two hundred miles to the east in the Sierras, one will discover another kind of Redwood(Sequoiadendron giganteum); these trees are not as tall as their Californian cousins. What they lack in height, they make up for it in sheer volume and weight. The two main rivals are the “General Sherman” in the Sequoia National Park in California. To the north the giant of Kings Canyon National Park, “General Grant”.
|(size does matter, 2000-year Californian Redwood trees)|
After accurate measurements and careful evaluations, the “General Sherman” tree was declared the undisputed champion. We will cross the Atlantic one day and visit these 2000-year-old beasts and pay our respects. Visiting these Santuaries to admire and reflect on these iconic trees will allow us to decide who are the real Champions.
|(Breathtaking views of the Langeberg Mountains and the Duiwenhoks River Valley)|
For now, we have resigned ourselves to record our South African Campion Redwood Groves. As the demand for quality Lumber in South Africa grew, indigenous trees could not sustain and regrow quickly enough; eventually, the forest was all but gone. Experimentation with exotic trees began, eucalyptus, pines, and of course, Californian Redwood trees.
|(As straight as arrows, they dominated the scene)|
These stands we planted on the slopes of Table Mountain, Grootvadersbosch near Swellendam, Hogsback in the Eastern Cape, and Misty Grove, Magoebaskloos in Limpopo. The grove in Grootvadersbosch caught our attention, and soon we would be standing underneath one of these majestic Redwood Trees.
|(Heads in the clouds, almost impossible to get the complete tree in the frame)|
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is situated in the Langeberg Mountains near Swellendam in the Western Cape, comprising 250ha of natural forest. This indigenous forest is significant and most precious in the Langeberg; hence it was designated a World Heritage Site in 2015. This area now forms part of the extension of the Cape Floral Kingdom Protected Area World Heritage Site.
|(Main Entrance to the Grootvaderbosch Nature Reserve)|
This sanctuary was created to preserve one of the last remaining indigenous forests in the Western Cape. The Californian Redwood trees share the same protection from the chainsaws, thanks to their Champion Tree Status.
|(Dence indigenous forest, back roads on route to the self-catering cabins)|
We visited in April 2021, hoping to capture images portraying these iconic trees in our Afromontane forest. The grove was situated deep in the woods, and we had a one-hour hike to the point where they were marked on the map. As we made our way through the forest, admiring the lush greenery and streams along the way, nothing could have prepared us for the spectacle that was ahead.
|(Like Ghosts, they appeared, they took our breath away)|
With their heads in the clouds, they exploded out of the forest. It was impossible to capture the complete architecture. More than 100 strong, how they dominated the forest towering more than 66m high(198 feet), straight as arrows, like ballerinas, were in perfect step.
|(Hard at work looking for the right angle)|
Time seemed irrelevant as we surveyed the American conifers, recording the scene as we moved through the forest.
|(Bridge over the Duiwenhoks River, lush green forest smells and sounds, our happy place)|
While mesmerized by the sheer scale of these ancient trees, the eery, dark, moody lyrics of The Cure (A Forest) played in my mind.
“Come closer and see, see into the trees.
Find the girl, while you can
Come closer and see, see into the dark
Just follow your eyes, I hear her voice calling my name
The sound is deep. I hear her voice and start to run
into the trees, suddenly I stop, but I know its too late
I’m lost in a forest, all alone, the girl was never there
It’s always the same, I’m running towards nothing
Again and again” (Robert Smith)
|(As we moved through the forest, we listened to the chorus of bird song)|
This was an unforgettable experience connecting with these forest legends, motivated by the prospect of visiting the Goliaths of North America, and fortunately, they will not be going anywhere soon.
|(Captivated by the sheer beauty, mountains, forests, and the magical sounds of the wilderness)|
|(So many walking trails not completed, just as many mountain biking routes to explore)|