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Muir Woods National Monument is one of nearly 400 parks in the U.S. National Park System.

Muir Woods: The "Best Tree-Lover's Monument"

July 31, 2013

As nighttime's stillness transitions to the peaceful early morning, tall tree tops awaken and gradually stretch their branches up toward the sky, seeking any bit of sunshine shining through the hazy blanket of fog creeping in.

Although a clear view of the earth below is most often obstructed inside this neck of the woods, Mother Nature's gentle giants are more than aware of the visitors headed their way. Their roots detect the slight trembling of several footsteps and vehicles-from motor coaches to packed family sedans-moseying their way through the winding roads above.

The calm, morning breeze gradually intensifies. As more tourists and nature-loving cyclists enter the shaded sanctuary, their heightened anticipation of the gorgeous views to come engulfs the path leading to the forest. But the colossal coast redwoods ahead are braced for the sheer fascination and awe soon to commence.

These redwoods are used to the attention. Their structures have been rooted here for years; in fact, many are more than 600 years old. 

Muir Woods tree rings
Coast redwood trees can live for hundreds of years. The cross-section shown here illustrates major American milestones one particular redwood survived, from its birth in 909 A.D. and the building of cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde in 1100, to Columbus's voyage to America in 1492 and the California Gold Rush of 1849. The tree fell in 1930.

It's difficult to sufficiently describe how it feels to approach the base of a tree whose trunk would require the length or your two arms-and those of several friends-to become fully encircled. They're like giant barriers to the never-ending depth of the forest; and although their massive size seems intimidating and surreal at first, you feel safe and secure in their presence. The dense, extending canopy cover protects you from rain drops, summer heat and any noise pollution hailing from the busy world outside the forest's edge.

Not only does the forest represent a mere portion of the ancient coast redwoods that once occupied many northern California coastal valleys before the 19th century, but also the efforts of John Muir, a famous conservationist from the 1800s. Muir was one of the first naturalists to recognize the importance of preserving wildlife for the benefit of future generations.

Muir Woods walkway
Some redwoods live up to 1,000 years, while most mature trees are 500 to 800 years old. Northern California is home to the world's tallest living thing - the coast redwood.

In fact, Muir inspired local businessman William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Thatcher Kent, to donate the 295 acres of redwoods they had purchased in 1905 to the federal government to assure their protection for years to come.

Today, more than 100 years later, we still have access to this collection of some of Mother Nature's most coveted creations. Located near San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument has earned such dedication for good reason. It provides a unique habitat for plants and wildlife to mingle within quiet recluse, yet dimmed, natural splendor-sight for which nearly one million visitors brave the steep and winding roads to experience every year.

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