Featured Location: Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California

Living in the city, one gets secluded to the daily problems that come with it. Getting up early, either cooking at home, or grabbing some food on the way to the traffic that will eventually take you to the other side of town, where your job is at. You do this routine for so many years, that you seem to believe that this is the only thing that really, truly matters. After a while, it is all you know. You are in the concrete jungle, and all you see are towering buildings and traffics lights or electricity poles. Trees are invisible to you. You notice the cell phone towers, and wonder why you’re right next to one, but you only have 3 bars on your phone. This becomes the world, to some. And to a lot, it’s the only world they will ever get to see.

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The hiking trails of Muir Woods National Monument exposing you to a hidden, giant forest, outside of a very sub-urbanized area. The roots of the trees stick out and expose themselves along the trail.

So even though someone is “free” to do as they please, it’s the same thing, over and over. Gas station, wal-marts, and restaurants. One starts to get bored with the routines, and maybe take a cruise, something that isn’t really TOO too “out there” but enough to make one think that they are “disconnecting,” when in reality, they are just doing the same routine of partying and consuming alcohol in a floating hotel, in the sea.

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There are many side trails that lead you to other areas outside of the Muir Woods National Monument, as the Mt. Tamalpais State Park is also in the area.

If you seem to be going on those trips, and while on the trip, you still feel a little bored, and catch yourself yawning, let me tell you, you are not the only one. I remember going to different cities, and at first being interested in them, but by the end of the week, I had the driving routine down, to and from work. And that small routine would become all the information I would use to judge if I liked that location or not. It’s not really much different from city to city, especially if you are not able to see the drastic changes in the terrain, while you’re traveling through it.

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A fallen redwood tree is now used as a bridge on one of the hiking trails that lead you out of the Muir Woods National Monument.

If you’re lucky, you happen to live in a city next to natural wonders that you can escape to, if the city is too much, and you want to disconnect into nature for a while. There are many locations available, throughout many cities in the United States. Starting to travel for my new job, I wrote down a list of places I’d eventually want to travel to. I heard about “the tallest tree in the world” and that’s about it. So I decided to look into where the forests were at, and after googling, saw that I was not too far away from some. Look, I’ll tell you now, I have mentally convinced myself that things that are within 4 hours of driving distance, are not too “far away” to visit on the agenda. I was staying about 150 miles north of the Bay Area, in California, an area I had never ventured to, and googled the areas these forests were at, because honestly, why would I know the locations of a forest full of giant trees? So I saw some just north of San Francisco.

Driving to this location, you are probably going to say “man, there’s no forest around here, I can see the Golden Gate Bridge from here, this is obviously, a mistake.” But right off the mountain coast of the Mt. Tamalpais area, is a forest that is a must visit to location. The Muir Woods National Monument is a forest that contains some of the, not only easy, but beautiful hiking pay outs, there is.

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A stairway on the trail that takes you through different parts of the Muir Woods National Monument and surrounding areas. 

As soon as you start to descend down to where the entrance is at, you go down some steep terrain and cutbacks, as well as passing some pricey looking neighborhoods. I’ll warn you right now, the parking area for this location is pretty small. And every time I’ve gone, it’s been packed. But even the few times it’ s been a full parking lot, after waiting for a while, a pretty good parking spot opened up. The traffic in this place is pretty fast. I think the popular thing to do is do the main boardwalk trail, and usually branch off into other trails or turn back at the different bridges, towards the entrance. From what I’ve seen, people walk into this place, and once they get tired, they turn back at the next bridge turnaround, at there is a couple of different bridges along the way, that you can do “U turns” at, and head back towards the entrance and the parking area.

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The trails at the Muir Woods National Monument go from boardwalks, to dirt trails, and concrete, so if you are wearing flip flop sandals, or hiking boots, you can still enjoy many different parts of the park. 

The park has signs with historical facts and artifacts of the park, as well as a very well guided trail. This is not a place that you will get lost at, as the park’s maps are repeated all around the park. But the trees themselves are enough, without any of these things. There is a gift shop and a café on the premises, all the souvenirs are redwood themed items, even baby redwood trees for sale. They’re pricey, but they seem really worth it. Just to be able to say that you LEGALLY took a part of the forest back with you, as everything at this place, is untouchable, as most parks are, to preserve the natural habitat. In fact, there are signs around the park, telling you to be quiet.

Muir Woods National Park fallen Redwood
A fallen redwood tree had to be cut in half, when it fell across one of the hiking trails, it’s one of the park’s features.

I witnessed something in this forest, that I had never witnessed somewhere else, that I will try to relay through text: for one, the sheer size of the redwood trees in this forest is breath taking. The landscape, vegetation, and terrain, along with these monstrous sized giants, make it almost feel like you’re on another planet. “Honey I Shrunk the kids” type of feeling. It almost seems FAKE. …but it’s not. It’s a giant forest. It honestly made me giggle, because I didn’t know how to react. The little kid came out in me. I obviously wanted to climb them, but there was no way I was going to be able to do it. I realized this was the same forest used in the newer Planet of the Apes movie, where the apes take off to, once they’re all smart and decide to separate themselves from humankind while it dies off from a mysterious disease, eventually leaving the planet to the apes. …and I personally liked the movie, and obviously, there was no monkeys or apes there, they were all digital animation, but still. It gives you a feelings like you’re walking through the Star Wars Ewok forest of the planet Endor. (Yes, I totally went super nerd on you, but that’s the best description I can give out, using all my collective knowledge, at this point in my life.)

Muir Woods National Monument redwood size
An older couple stop to look up at the canopy of the forest. I take a shot as they are standing next to a redwood, and it was one of the only ways to get a size reference to the size of these trees.

So, on top of all these very cool feelings I’m feeling, as I’m walking through this forest, I get to witness something I had never seen before, that was just enough, the topping on the cake, to make this location memorable. (Literally, it was emotional for some reason, the sheer magnitude is breathtaking, almost mind blowing, how something so big and old can exist. I’ve seen all my kid’s births, inches away from the action, and the emotions felt that day, were similar to the emotions going through me while walking this forest.) It’s quiet. The trees, vegetation, fallen branches, and dead leaves make very good sound insulation. It’s noticeably quiet. You can hear someone talking from some distance away. Being from the city, there is always noise. You are always talking over the noise of traffic, the freeway, someone doing burnouts, dogs barking, if you’re outside. TV and radios on blast, if you’re on the inside. Not here. Here, I could hear myself breathing hard, after walking for a while. “Do I always breath this hard when I’m tired? …oh my God, can people hear this noise coming from me, while I’m winding and talking to them??” So there I am, standing in this forest, stopping enough to not be embarrassingly gulping for air while walking by people. I try to play it off as stare at the top of the tree, looking straight up, putting my hands over my head. Someone told me it helps to catch your air if you do that, when I was a kid. It’s probably not true, who knows. I physically stopped so that I could stop breathing hard, because I felt it was sort of embarrassing. THAT’S how quiet this forest is.

Muir Woods National Monument cathedral
There are different parts of the Muir Woods National Monument, as you go from one grove to another. This is entering into Cathedral Grove, and at the very far end of the trail, you can see a group of hikers walking on the trail, for size reference.

So, as I’m stopping to not catch my breath, but again, silence my heavy breathing, I heard a rustling in the leaves. I happened to be standing on one side of a creek that runs through the middle of this park, so there was a little open space in the treeline, where you could see the sky. These massive trees’ branches start to move, one by one, in unison. I see, like, the “wave” they do at the Houston Astros games, but it’s the redwood trees doing it. It took a while for my brain to process everything. The noise, The” wave” motion… I was looking at a gust of air coming into the forest. And because the trees are so big, I can see it manipulate some of the trees branches, and not the others. I am seeing the top and bottom outline, in the branches, of air coming in, rustling the leaves, making the very loud noise, in the once silent forest. I can see a gust of air coming into a forest. It reminded me of the movie Predator, when he turns his camo/invisibility thing, on. I had never seen the air, until that day.

Red Wood Creek
Redwood Creek runs down the middle of the Muir Woods National Monument, adding a the calming noise of running water, to the atmosphere.

I try to capture it on camera, but I’m too late. I try to capture the size of these trees, but it just does it no justice. The tree size isn’t converted on the video of pictures. The videos make the trees look normal sized, and they’re not. The footage captured just doesn’t transfer the amount of beauty no the size of these trees. This is definitely a place, you HAVE to visit. You have to see this place for yourself. It was definitely worth driving, halfway cross country, from Houston, Texas, to San Francisco, California, just to take my kids back to this little forest outside of the bay area.

Hillside Trail
The trails go from dirt to boardwalk, giving you easy access to various locations that usually wouldn’t be accessible.
Adrina and Trinity hiking
This is a good place to let your kids run around and tire themselves out, as opposed to always having to be still and not run around, in the home environment.

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