If you’ve ever wondered if fairies were real, I highly encourage you to spend some time in Muir Woods and listen to the trees.
In my world, one that’s constantly on the move, stillness has to be sought out, carved out. When you are used to wildflowers sprouting from cracks in the concrete, seeking calm in nature comes effortlessly.
As a child, nature to me was the warm ocean of Miami. Her clear waters and white sands held me in times of both joy and sorrow, cradling me gently and bringing me back home whenever I strayed too far off path. I learned many lessons from the ocean, both in survival and surrender, and I always found it beautiful that she could be both fierce and nurturing at once. I’m a woman of the waters — I always have been — so when I had the opportunity to take a trip to the roaring western waters of the Pacific, I jumped.
Muir Woods National Monument is one of the last old growth forests in the world, bearing witness to primordial coast redwood trees, the oldest one close to 1,200 years old. There is a certain humility that comes from witnessing a living being that has been around since the 9th century, before humans inhabited the land. Being in their presence you can feel their story, the masses of visitors they have seen, staring in awe, taking family photos. It amazes me how such a fragile ecosystem can survive the elements — and most of all, human action — for so many centuries.
Redwoods in particular bear a poignant and beautiful method of regeneration. When an ancestor dies, it sprouts the next generation of trees from its roots. The new growth raises towards the skies in a ring formation, surrounding the original tree. This is called a family circle, a true homage to the generations that came before us, and the first time I saw this in person I burst into tears.
Prior to the 1900s, there were almost 2 million acres of Redwood Forests in the PNW. Today, Muir Woods protects 240 acres that have survived the logging boom + diseases throughout the past 100 years. So how can we take action to preserve this piece of world history?
Leave No Trace.
When visiting a park it is important to carry out whatever you carry in. Not only are these areas typically protected but they are fragile ecosystems that depend on each and every one of us to care for them and treat them with respect.
Properly sorting your waste into respective bins can help minimize the impact we have on the environment and planet by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills each year.
Stay on the Trails.
Stay on trails to keep from trampling fragile vegetation. Avoid shortcutting trails — shortcuts create new trails and increase trail erosion.
Leave What You Find.
All plants, animals, rocks, and artifacts are part of the land and ecosystem. Preserve the sense of discovery for others by leaving all natural and cultural artifacts as you find them. Take pictures, write poetry, or sketch to help you remember what you discover.
Monuments such as these are home to many animals, and we must remember that we are merely visitors. Observe wildlife from a distance. If an animal changes its behavior because of your presence, you are too close. Wild animals find plenty of their natural food in the wild; human food does not offer them proper nutrients, so keep animals healthy by not feeding them. Often times, foreign food and drink can do more harm than good.
Educate Yourself on Native Species.
One of the biggest threats to fragile ecosystems are invasive species. Often times these species are carried in by seed-bearing foods, pollinators that travel from outside the area, and by humans who have previously visited a foreign environment. Avoid bringing seeds and not-native plants into the park, and wipe the bottom of your shoes so you don’t accidentally carry in or carry out any plant material or foreign species.
Volunteer at Your Local Park
The National Park Service offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups as part of the Volunteers-In-Parks Program. Work behind the scenes or on the front line, in positions ranging from a one-time service project/volunteer event to a longer-term position, serving alongside park employees or with one of our many partner organizations.