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Ziplining, and why redwoods are really that awesome

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One-handed ziplining. Way more fun. Unless you're going to pull your legs up and cannonball across (which WILL make you go faster).

By Cat Viglienzoni – March 17, 2011

I went home for Spring Break, and amidst interviewing and learning more about chocolate than I thought was possible (it’s for a class show that will ultimately make its way here), I found time to use a Groupon I’d bought for a ziplining trip in the redwoods.

It was really fun. If you ever have the chance to zipline anywhere, and you’re healthy enough to do it, and you aren’t cripplingly afraid of heights, I recommend it. Aside from an amusement park ride, when are you going to be able to shoot along through the air and take a look at all the scenery flying by? Not too many other ways. (Skydiving is one way, but I guess that would technically be falling, not shooting along.)

And even if you are somewhat afraid of heights, like me, it’s really not bad. As long as I’m harnessed in, I’m fine. (Now, put me next to a cliff edge or a tall and spirally staircase and I’ll start shaking.)

But what was really a trip for me was to be up in the redwood canopy. If you’ve never seen coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) before, they are majestic trees. And because I find them awe-inspiring, I’ve researched and compiled a list of my favorite redwood facts for you:

  • They are the tallest trees in the world, growing up to 378 feet tall.

    This is a redwood... from the platform. Not even from the bottom of the tree. YEAH.

  • Their base can be up to 22 feet in diameter, and they can weigh up to 1.6 million pounds. Think about that last part. 1.6 MILLION POUNDS.
  • They have nearly inconceivable longevity, with some trees living up to 2,000 years.
  • Their bark alone can be up to a foot thick,, and branches can be up to 5 feet in diameter.
  • They have a couple different reproduction methods: seed or sprout. When sprouts grow up around the main tree, it’s called a “fairy ring.”
  • They are only found in a small part of the world. And that small part happens to be the northern California coast (with a tip of Oregon thrown in). That’s because this has the moist, humid climate they thrive in, and the fog from the coast enables that type of environment because it adds moisture to the soil while also lowering the evaporation rate.
  • They can also apparently sprout whole new trees out of their trunks. This I actually saw at the end of the zipline tour. There is a word for this and the guide told me, but I honestly forgot it.

In case you saw the “sequoia” in their scientific name and thought the giant redwood is the same thing as the giant sequoia, it’s not. Giant sequoias, though not as tall (though 311 feet is nothing to scoff at), are nonetheless almost more impressive. They can live to be up to 3,200 years old, have branches 8 feet thick and a whopping diameter of 40 feet, and weigh up to 2.7 MILLION POUNDS.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, it should.

The giant sequoias also prefer a different climate from the redwoods, generally living at higher altitudes with a period of dry heat in which their cones can release their seeds. They only naturally grow in the western slope of California’s western Sierra Nevada range (at about 5,000-7,000 feet in elevation).

I can only say if you haven’t seen these trees, and if it’s feasible, go do it.  Go hiking. Or ziplining. Or both. I have never regretted it when I have, and those trees are truly awe-inspiring.

Photos courtesy: Karen Helfrich and Cat Viglienzoni

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Written by Cat Viglienzoni

March 17, 2011 at 6:05 PM

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