Scenes from Muir Woods (2003)

A delightful visit to the coastal redwoods of California. Experience the peaceful calm of an early morning stroll amongst these gentle giants, with serene scenes painted in soothing earth tones and the vibrant greens of a coastal forest.
A Comfortable Resting Place  This bench helps illustrate the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument. Sitting on a bench like this one and gazing up into the canopy of trees is a truly humbling experience.   It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods - trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools - only Uncle Sam can do that.    -- John Muir A Sense of Scale  I normally try to avoid having people in my nature pictures, but in this case the other photographer imbues the scene with a useful sense of scale.   When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them. I if in some vast hall pervaded by the deepest sanctities and solemnities that sway human souls. At sundown the trees seemed to cease their worship and breathe free.    -- John Muir A Splash of Green  Green and brown are the dominant colors of most forests, and nowhere is that more true than at Muir Woods National Monument. On the day that I visited, the coast was socked in with fog, as commonly occurs in the summer, which lent a soft warmth and vibrance to these essential hues of nature.   Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.    -- John Muir Bridge Over Gentle Waters  The stewards of Muir Woods endeavor to keep the park in a natural state as much as possible, and this includes usually leaving fallen trees and limbs in place rather than "cleaning them up". Here a large tree limb fell across Redwood Creek. The title of this image is shamelessly taken from a song by Simon and Garfunkel, but this water could hardly be considered "troubled" so I modified it accordingly.   This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.    -- John Muir By the Riverside  Giant redwood trees flank the sides of Redwood Creek, surrounded by green ferns and beds of fallen needles. Note the mossy branch on the right; in the summer, the constant humidity and fog allows the moss to grow everywhere.   One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.    -- John Muir Deep Green  Parts of Muir Woods are so overgrown with vegetation that it's hard to differentiate individual trees and plants. Photographers will generally advise you to avoid images like this one, where there is a lot of clutter and no central subject. In this case, however, I chose to view the whole of the forest as a single, wild mass of green.   We step into charming wild gardens....forming such sumptuous masses of bloom they make the gardens of civilization, however lovingly cared for, seem pathetic and silly.    -- John Muir
Green Banks  Here you can see even better just how little water was flowing through Redwood Creek on my visit. I really liked the contrast of the creekbed stones with the lush ferns here.   Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.    -- John Muir Low Tide  Redwood Creek flows through the middle of Muir Woods and is the focal point for the park and its network of trails. The water level is extremely low because this trip was in mid-September; California gets very little precipitation in the summer. I'd love to visit this spot in the spring sometime...   How infinitely superior to our physical senses are those of the mind! The spiritual eye sees not only rivers of water but of air. It sees the crystals of the rock in rapid sympathetic motion, giving enthusiastic obedience to the sun's rays, then sinking back to rest in the night. The whole world is in motion to the center. So also sounds. We hear only woodpeckers and squirrels and the rush of turbulent streams. But imagination gives us the sweet music of tiniest insect wings, enables us to hear, all around the world, the vibration of every needle, the waving of every bole and branch, the sound of stars in circulation like particles in the blood.    -- John Muir One Man Down  Redwoods are gentle giants that can live for centuries, but like all living things, they do eventually die; they are also subject to the ravages of inclement wather. This is a particularly pretty section of the trail in Muir Woods, where one tree has come down among a grove of even larger giants. I am not sure what caused this tree to fall over, but it must have been pretty significant!   Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.    -- John Muir Over the Streambed  I liked how this mossy tree's many limbs branched in different directions, including some over the stream.   Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer,.Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail.    -- John Muir Path of the Giants  Trying to capture the essence of the giant redwoods using a camera is a hopeless task. They are not only too big -- they are too  grand . While one can endeavor to indicate their size through the use of wide-angle lenses and panoramas, one cannot as easily capture their magnificence, and what it feels like to walk among them.   They never lose their god-like composure, never toss their arms or bow or wave like the pines, but only slowly, solemnly nod and sway, standing erect, making no sign of strife, none of rest, neither in alliance nor at war with the winds, too calmly unconsciously noble and strong to strive with or bid defiance to anything.    -- John Muir Path to the Woods  Muir Woods is accessed using a series of walkways and paths, which are paved in sections but mostly made of wood. The paths and the fences that surround them are often quite pretty in their own right, and complement the woods through which they flow.   Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.    -- John Muir
Smooth Flow  In this location, Redwood Creek is concentrated into a narrow channel. This made the water a bit deeper than elsewhere, allowing it to appear like an actual creek rather than, well, just a bunch of wet rocks. :) The gentle flow of the low stream suits well the soft moss the covers the rocks above it.   Everything is flowing -- going somewhere, animals and so- called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks... While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like Nature's warm heart.    -- John Muir The Clearing  A somewhat rare "open space" at Muir Woods allows a view deeper into the forest.   It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!    -- John Muir The Forest Goes On  Muir Woods National Monument isn't especially large; you can see it in a couple of hours (though you could easily wander among the giants for many more.) Many of the pathways also connect to longer trails that go all over the area. I wanted to keep going into the forest, but unfortunately, I eventually had to turn back... I hope I will be able to return someday soon.   People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word "saunter"? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "a la sainte terre" -- "to the Holy Land". And so they became known as "sainte-terre-ers" or "saunterers". Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not "hike" through them.    -- John Muir