Superlatives abound when a person tries to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. But the trees were not designed for easy assimilation into language. Their existence speaks for themselves, not in words, but rather in a soft-toned voice of patience and endurance.
From a seed no bigger than one from a tomato, California's coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) may grow to a height of 378 feet and have a width of 22 feet at its base. Imagine a 35-story skyscraper in your city and you have an inkling of the trees' ability to arouse humility.
Some visitors envision dinosaurs rumbling through these forests in bygone eras. It turns out that this is a perfectly natural thought. Fossil records have shown that relatives of today's coast redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era 160 million years ago. And while the fantastic creatures of that age have long since disappeared, the redwoods continue to thrive, in the right environment.
California's North Coast provides the only such environment in the world. A combination of longitude, climate, and elevation limits the redwoods' range to a few hundred coastal miles. The cool, moist air created by the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. These conditions have existed for some time, as the redwoods go back 20 million years in their present range.