Photography by Kristin Piljay

The Glory of the Redwoods

I revel in the glory of the redwood forests of Northern California. The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) has long been my favorite tree. It was love at first sight when I arrived to live in California in 1991. This species is included among the tallest trees that exist reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m). Walking through a redwood forest (especially in the fog) feels like you are in a cathedral built by nature. It is awe-inspiring, majestic and serene.

Well, it’s serene if there aren’t hoards of people there (as sometimes happens in popular parks). But there are also many places you can experience solitude in the redwood forest. The photos above and below were taken on such a day, ironically on July 4th, 2009, a huge holiday in the US. I was traveling there from my home in Colorado and had awakened early and was on the trail in the early morning. I was in the forest for hours, totally alone, with only the fog, trees and a melancholy bird calling out in three distinct tones.

Later on, I searched the internet for bird calls of the region to find out that the bird I heard that day is the Varied Thrush. The bird I heard was using 3 long piercing whistles of various tones, followed by a pause. The website I linked to indicates the whistles are in a “minor key,” which demonstrates why it sounds melancholy to me. The effect of the fog, the stillness, the sad bird calls and the huge ancient trees was mesmerizing – like a moment standing still in time.

That morning, the fog was thick, but as I wandered through the forest at the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, the fog started to lift and light beams came through the mist, creating spectacular visuals.

July 2009

Over the years, while living in British Columbia, I would travel down the coast and visit the redwoods. But I never again saw the spectacular light beams coming through the fog….until….many years later in 2021, after having moved to Ashland, Oregon, I popped down to see my favorite redwoods again. I found the same trees I had photographed in 2009 plus a whole new area across the highway, leading down to the coast.

July 2021

And once again, just by chance, I was able to see the jaw-dropping light beams (even more spectacular)through the forest. It was so magical!

After this experience, I had it in my mind to repeat it in 2022 so I could get even more photos of this incredible display! Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. The two previous experiences were by chance (although more likely to happen in the summer when the weather is very hot inland (brings in more fog on the coast). But trying to predict when it might happen wasn’t as easy as I thought. It took several days on two trips to finally have it happen again. Even when there is fog on the coast, it sometimes will skip a section and too many times that is what happened. It also has to happen in a specific moment when the fog is thick, but starts burning off from the sun, and is affected by where the sun is at the moment too. My second success was also in July and brought this spectacular visual blow. I actually had finally found some fog in the area on my last day on that trip (3rd day trying for the right conditions) and started heading back to my car for breakfast and it started happening again! This magnificent striped array of light caught my breath! I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing! I ran towards it as I was afraid it would disappear by the time I got set up with my tripod. Some of these moments can be fleeting.

This forest is still beautiful without the light beams and I also visited it in January 2022 to be treated to a beautiful sun star that followed me through the forest close to sunset. As you can see, the tree tree on the right side is a huge old redwood!

More photos of the redwood forests can be viewed on my Forests gallery.