For Bay Area-based hikers bummed about the government shutdown, we've got some great news.
No, Muir Woods is still closed for the time being. But a forest a good 33% larger, two hours north of SF and long whispered about by area conservationists, is officially going public. It's to be called Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve, and it's an all-time coup for those who love fresh air. If only the park were opening before 2021, we'd be eagerly loading up a 28L backpack right now.
Why is the land just now becoming a public reserve? It's been owned by the Richardson family since the 1870s, a 730-acre portion of their 8,000-acre Sonoma ranch. Despite owning a timber mill just down the street from the Redwoods (along with a vineyard and cattle ranch) the family took pains to preserve the land's tallest and oldest trees. They kept the forest healthy by only chopping down dead or dying trees, and even occasionally adminstered a strategic forest fire. (An unheard of tactic today, but one that worked at the time — redwood forests need forest fires in order to grow).
Over the years, Save the Redwoods League made inroads with the estate, forging friendships and looking for an oppurtunity to acquire the land for permanent preservation. And at long last, to the tune of $9.6M, the League has succeeded. While they don't envision (and definitely don't want) the reserve to be atop local can't-miss lists, like Muir Woods, there's little doubt people will want to see these trees. The oldest in the forest is 1,640 years old, a full 440 years older than the oldest in Muir Woods. And of the 1,450 trees in the preserve, some rise up to 32-stories high. Plus, there's crystal clear creeks, seabirds and salamanders. 2021 can't come soon enough.
Image via Save the Redwoods League