EUREKA, Calif. — Towering over the town of Eureka, Calif. is a thick forest of large second-growth redwoods.
Their lush green branches take up so much space that pictures or video rarely give an accurate gauge of the trees' true size, but at the edge of the forest, there’s a trail that gives you a whole new visual perspective.
It’s called the Redwood Sky Walk and it’s Sequoia Park Zoo‘s newest attraction.
It’s also one of the only tree trails in the state that is wheelchair accessible.
Kate Baldwin is one of the zoo activity coordinators. Prior to the Sky Walk, she would have given tours of animals that live on the ground.
“But up here you are mostly going to see birds,” Baldwin said. “At our highest point, we are 100 feet off the ground.”
You might also feel like a bird traveling from tree to tree on the quarter-mile of bridges and platforms. The Sky Walk allows you to look down on future nesting areas called snags.
A snag is essentially a dead tree that will eventually become a nest for birds, bats, and all sorts of forest dwellers. Dead or alive, Baldwin says all trees in a redwood forest are part of a complex network.
“The wood wide web, as I like to call it, is how trees interact with each other. So, redwoods will wind their roots together to make them stronger,” Baldwin said.
From the high vantage point of the Sky Walk, you can actually see the "wood wide web" at work. Ferns, fungi, and other forest foliage thrive here because the redwoods have actually changed the coastal climate to a rainforest.
“Not all rainforests are tropical. We are in the southernmost Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest,” Baldwin explained.
You won’t find monkeys or jaguars in this rainforest but thanks to the Sky Walk you can see this: A giant tree wart. Better known as a burl, it’s located at the end of the Sky Walk and you are able to look at it at eye level.
“In simple terms, a burl is how a redwood stores its genetic material. It is dormant bud tissue that has the potential to sprout later,” Baldwin said.
Pictures or video really can’t give you a good perspective of a redwood forest, that’s why you really have to experience it yourself, 100 feet up in the air.
“This is an experience that you can curate to whatever your passions are,” Baldwin said.
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