I'm now back in British Summer time, the post holiday washing is all done and I've answered all my emails and dealt with the post; I'm starting to remember what a wonderful adventure Cliff and I had on our long journey from Seattle down the Pacific North West coast of the USA to San Francisco.
One of the reasons for deciding to go back to the US west coast . . . well actually it was THE main reason . . . we both wanted to see the Coastal Redwood forests.
After a lovely train journey from Seattle, we spent a weekend in Portland - which was fabulous and fun; followed by a week in the Cascade Mountains before driving down the stunningly beautiful Oregon coast before we reached California and the Coastal Redwoods.
So far, the sun had shone every day of the trip (yes, even in Portland!) but as soon as we reached California the mornings were cool and foggy; we stopped at The Lady Bird Johnson Grove to meet our first giant trees . . .
We walked along a short trail into the forest and soon reached the Redwoods, their straight trunks like columns disappearing high above us into the mist.
These photographs remind me of the experience, but I'm not sure they really show you the sheer vastness of the trees that we saw here, and in the Redwood forests through Humbolt County over the following three days.
This photo may help you to grasp the scale . . . that teeny little toy-person propped against a tree is in fact really me standing against 'BIG TREE' one of the biggest of the ancient 'old stand' Redwoods still in existance.
This tree is 304 feet (92.6 metres) tall, that is roughly the same height as the Statue of Liberty in New York or Big Ben's Clock Tower (The Elizabeth Tower) in London.
The diametre of its trunk is 21.6ft (6.6 metres) and the circumference is 68 feet (20.7 metres).
The estimated age of BIG Tree is 1500 years.
For such huge trees the leaves and cones are surprisingly small scale, here are some leaves I picked up from the forest floor to stick into my travel diary - they are very similar to and not much larger than English Yew tree leaves. The tiny cones are about the size of acorns, and are full of hundreds of seeds.
But, although some Readwoods do grow from the scattered seeds, the more usual method of reproduction is by side shoots - which explains their scientific name: Sequoia sempervirons, meaning 'everlasting'.
The life cycle of the tree spans a millennium . . . one thousand years . . . new growth from the knobbly 'buds' around the base of the trunk is triggered when a mature tree becomes stressed - a severe drought or a lightning strike starting a forest fire is often the cause. The side-shoots grow fast and straight, it is the survival of the fittest and one, two or sometimes three eventually out-grow the others.
The side shoot has the same dna as the parent . . . in all respects it is the same tree with the same roots.
The parent tree often already weakened by fire damage, is gradually broken down by winter storms and the ring of new giant trees takes its place around the ancient stump.
Fire can burn away the dry heart-wood but this rarely kills the Redwwod - its thick bark holds a huge amount of water and protects the vital outer layer of the trunk - the tree survives until it's off-shoot is tall and strong. The ancient burnt out trees provide safe winter shelters for forest animals . . . cougar, bobcat and bear.
Eventually the biggest giants fall . . . the tree in the photo below was, until 1991 the biggest in this area of forest . . . a bigger and older neighbour of 'BIG TREE', it toppled over in a storm. The sound of it crashing onto the forest floor was heard miles away and people feared they had heard a train crash!
Twenty years later the fallen giant is providing nutrients for the ferns that have colonized its thick, soft bark; the succession of decomposing fern leaves make compost for various smaller shrubs and trees to colonise a 300ft long seed bed.
The legacy will eventually be a straight line of trees through the forest, and the vast trunk returned to the forest floor.
The Redwood timber was prized by logging companies who had already felled almost 2 million acres before a few concerned people in the early 20th century woke up to the fact that the unique habitat was about to disappear for ever. Even so, the biggest of the giants had been felled - here is a slice of the largest tree felled in Medocina County with the saw that was used to cut through it's vast trunk.
It was estimated to have been 1900 years old when it was felled in 1943. By the early 1960s, about 95% of the original Californian Coastal Redwoods had gone, but thankfully the voices of those who fought for the protection of the remaining 100,000 acres were being heard and state parks were created around the last remaining pockets of the forests.
I can't find the right words to thank the sense and foresight of those who saved the trees, just being able to stand in the forest is a deeply moving experience and unforgettable.
These trees are as old as our written history and hopefully they will survive far into the future.
I hope you got an idea of what it's like to walk though the Coastal Redwood Forests . . . it really is magical.