Owen Cheatham Redwood Grove

Or…Why Star Wars fans should love conifers–especially redwoods

Return of the Jedi had a major influence on my experiences as a youth. I wanted to be able to use the force like Luke Skywalker, as do many children again in 2016. The Star Wars phenomenon has trickled down to our 3 year-old son from his Kindergarten classmates at Montessori as well, so we decided to seize the day and go for a hike that combined the legend of the force with the power of the redwoods, and explore where science fiction meets natural history.

redwood needles and cones

Redwoods might just be the grandest species in the plant world—from top to bottom they are the epitome of grandeur. The tallest redwood is 379’ (and still growing), while one of the most massive redwoods is a mere 320’ but has a basal diameter of nearly twenty-six feet. Those are some impressive beings! The largest redwoods grow in northwest California, where they favor mountain slopes and river terraces close to the ocean while also being situated in the summer fog belt. Across the coastal landscape redwoods domineer a highly specific range—when soil, water, and exposure are optimal. The Owen Cheatham Redwood Grove is a great place to visit these giants.

In search of redwoods and film history in the Owen Cheatham grove.

In search of redwoods and film history in the Owen Cheatham Grove.

The history of the redwood family goes back 245 million years. Redwoods and their relatives were once found around the Northern Hemisphere but are now restricted to coastal Northwest California thanks to millions of year of climatic changes. Certain areas of coastal Humboldt and Del Norte counties hold an ancient climate-type where redwoods still survive–and survive they do. Here growing to be the the tallest trees on Earth within one of the most impressive forest types on the planet. This is surely why George Lucas chose to shoot part of Return of the Jedi in the redwood forests of northern California. In the film, the forest moon of Endor is home to furry Ewok aliens and giant trees. What better way to celebrate one of the world’s most ancient group of plants (conifers!) than a stroll through a redwood forest where the Ewoks were proposed to dwell.

Scenes from the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi

Exploring the Owen Cheatham Redwood Grove

Exploring the Owen Cheatham Redwood Grove.

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Thirty years later, these hanging redwood snags have not changed a bit. Redwoods decompose at a very slow rate.

Map to the Owen Cheatham Grove from Redwood Hikes

Map to the Owen Cheatham Grove from Redwood Hikes


Links

Quests by Redwood EdVentures:

A quest for the Owen Cheatham Grove

A quest for the Owen Cheatham Grove – click image to download PDF. Brochures can also be found at the trailhead.

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