Muir Woods

The Legacy & Quiet of Muir Woods

Last week my wife and I went on vacation to San Francisco. We were there to catch a U2 concert, which was amazing. We also took in lots of other sights. But my favorite—no big surprise—was Muir Woods.

It’s an incredible place filled with 500-year old trees that tower more than 350 feet above the quiet forest floor.

Muir Woods

Preserve & Protect

Muir Woods is also an example of the power of legacy.

William and Elizabeth Kent purchased the land to protect it, but in 1907 a water company wanted to dam a river and flood the valley. They threatened to do it with eminent domain and went to court. But instead the Kents donated the land to the federal government and convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to declare it a National Monument.

Muir Woods National Monument sign

Thus one of the disappearing stands of coastal redwoods was saved for future generations.

Embrace the Quiet

"Maintain natural quiet" sign at Muir WoodsPerhaps the best part of Muir Woods is the silence. A number of signs encourage visitors to be quiet and emphasize the meditative nature of the forest.

You’re encouraged to keep your voice down and feel the presence of nature around you. Some of the plants on the forest floor get barely any direct sunlight. You’re bathed in shadow, clouded in fog and mist, breathing in the oxygen expelled by trees that have stood tall for hundreds of years.

Muir Woods coastal redwoods

This quiet solitude is something you have to seek out. Knowing that parking would be hard to find, we arrived at 8 a.m. when the park opened and enjoyed the fullness of that quiet. When we left about two hours later, the tour buses full of people had arrived and idle chatter was gaining volume (it didn’t help that park workers were clearing some branches with chainsaws).

I wish more parks encouraged this atmosphere of quiet, though I imagine it’s hard to preserve. Muir Woods seemed to demand our quiet, somber respect, and it felt entirely appropriate.

Muir Woods panoramic

After Muir Woods

The drive to Muir Woods and beyond was pretty intense. I’ve driven in the mountains before, but the tight confines of these California mountains were something else. I’ve driven the switchbacks of Colorado, but those were relaxed by comparison. The Panoramic Highway near Muir Woods felt more like an endless slalom, up and down the mountainside.

My heart rate was definitely up. We even pulled over at one point to stave off car sickness.

But it was worth it. Stinson Beach was beautiful. We ate lunch in an open-air restaurant overlooking the ocean. At the far end of the beach there were giant outcroppings of rock you could wander among at low tide.

Stinson Beach

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