"This is the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all of the forests in the world."
Several weeks ago I posted on my Instagram Feed that we had the opportunity to spend a couple of lovely hours in the beautiful Muir Woods when we were in California. It was absolutely stunning and one of my favorite places that I have ever visited.
Muir Woods is a unit of the National Park Service, on Mount Tamalpais approximately 12 miles north of San Francisco. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is near the Pacific Coast.
Muir Woods has a fascinating history that spans many decades and many people who cared enough to preserve this beautiful area of the United States. Before the logging industry affected California there was an estimated amount of a couple of million acres of redwoods that existed. After the logging industry came to California that acreage had been primarily cut down.
But there was one section, just north of San Francisco that remained untouched. This valley was named "Redwood Canyon" and remained protected simply because it was difficult to access for the logging companies.
US Congressman William Kent noticed that there was great interest in this area of California and he and his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, decided to purchase 611 acres of land that was then owned by the Tamalpais Land and Water Company. The couple paid $45,000 with the simple goal of protected the redwoods that lived there and the mountain.
In 1907, a water company (from Sausalito) decided that they would dam Redwood Creek, which would in turn flood the valley and harm the Redwood Forest. US Congressman Kent objected the plan, but the water company took him to court, citing useeminent domain (basically stating that they had the right to move forward with their project).
US Congressman Kent, who was known to be a brilliant thinker in politics, sidestepped the water company's plot by donating almost 300 acres of the Redwood Forest to the Federal Government. In doing so, he was able to side-step the local courts thus invalidating the water company's court case.
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area of land that had been donated a National Monument. This was of great significance at the time as this was the first to be created from land donated by a private individual.
The original name of the monument was to be the Kent Monument in honor of US Congressman Kent and his wife Elizabeth, but the couple insisted that the monument not be named after them. Instead they suggested that the monument be named after John Muir whose environmental campaigns helped to bring about what is now known as the National Park System.
In 1928 the Kent Memorial was placed in the park. This memorial- a Douglas fir- not a redwood ironically was chosen because it was said to be US Congressman Kent's favorite. The tree remained and grew until it finally came down in 2003 damaging several other trees in its vicinity and closing several trails for months.
The park was visited frequently but did not see the number of visitors that it does today until after the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937. Muir Woods is now one of the major tourist attractions of the San Francisco Bay Area with almost a million visitors per year.
Visiting Muir Woods is a definite must if you love nature and trees. As John Muir said so many years ago it is definitely a tree-lover's paradise.
There are so many options for what you can see in the park and there are many different trails that you can take. If you have a disability or just want to take a slower walk, taking in the beautiful views the main trail is concrete and can be easily walked. If you are wanting to do more adventurous hiking or come with the family to explore there are plenty of different trails that take you to several different look out locations, including one where you can see the Pacific Ocean.
One of my dreams at Muir Woods was to see the famous Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is simply breath-taking. Visitors grow very quiet as you are overcome with the vastness of the trees and how little you are compared to those trees. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods is a sacred and holy space that can truly only be experienced fully by going. It is an easy 3/4 of a mile hike from the entrance and I can't express enough how stunning it was.
In 2008 Cathedral Grove was added to the National Register of Historic Places in honor of President Franklin Roosevelt. President Roosevelt, or "FDR" was to have opened a conference for the United Nations Conference on International Organization for which delegates from more than 50 countries were to meet to draft and sign the United Nations Charter.
Unfortunately, FDR died in April 1945 and never saw this dream of his come true. In May 1945 the delegates held a private ceremony to pay tribute to his memory and a dedication plaque was placed in his honor there.
To stand in a place of such rich history, of so many people who across the decades fought to preserve these beautiful trees was humbling.
If you ever get a chance to spend some time in Muir Woods I highly recommend it. You will not regret your time there.
Have y'all ever visited Muir Woods?