Joseph B. Strauss became immortal by designing and building the Golden Gate Bridge. But human immortality was only a relative concept for Strauss. The true immortals, to him, were the mighty northern California redwood trees watching over the land of the free and the home of the brave. Some of the most impressive examples of the ancient flora can be seen along the appropriately named Avenue of the Giants.
Crossing Strauss’ creation (the bridge) heading north on Highway 101, drivers will experience the lines of the architect’s strophes. One moment drivers cruise like easy riders over the smooth black tarmac, the next moment a bright green sign appears reading “Avenue of the Giants.” The name brings to mind Roald Dahl, David and Goliath, and Gulliver’s Travels, but a brochure available in a wooden cabinet next to the sign explains the true meaning: The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile-long route through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
To drive the Avenue of the Giants is a lesson in humility. Being watched by earth’s mighty guardians, wooden statues touching heaven, it feels like you’re a single note in a centuries-old symphony composed by the rustling treetops more than 300 feet above. The scenic highway also includes such famous redwood landmarks as the “Drive-Thru Tree” and the nearly 1,000-year-old “Immortal Tree.”
There are a number of gift shops and picturesque pull-offs that explain the history of the forest. But Strauss himself might have described them best in his poem “The Redwoods,” which calls these trees “the greatest of Earth’s living forms, / Tall conquerors that laugh at storms.” He reflects on their tremendous age, “So shall they live, when ends our day, / When our crude citadels decay; / For brief the years allotted man, / But infinite perennials’ span.”
Know Before You Go
The Avenue is a good 160 miles north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, north of Garberville, California. It is part of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Take Highway 101 north out of Garberville. Approximately five miles later, the Avenue's southern entrance is on the right, Route 254. You can also access the Avenue north entrance via Hwy 101, south of Rio Dell, Scotia, and Stafford.