The transition from south to north over the Golden Gate Bridge is mind-altering in the best possible way. From the south you leave San Francisco, the second-most dense city in the country, and once across the bridge you enter a wonderland of redwood groves and steep hillsides plummeting to the open sea on the west, rolling green oak-studded hills on the west sliding into the bay, with few major population areas until you hit, hmm, Portland? It’s astonishing, really. So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that a largely unknown old-growth redwood stand can still be found occasionally. Like the Harold Richardson Redwoods Reserve, about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco, that was recently acquired by the Save the Redwoods League, a conservancy group dedicated to—you guessed it.
The grove contains some of the oldest trees left in California. The McApin Tree, for example, is 1,640 years old and still growing. It’s 400 years older than the oldest tree in the world-famous Muir Woods grove, a few dozen miles to the south.
The property always had a sense of legend, an aura around it, because no one had seen it — not even in 2018.
Muir Woods, by the way, receives more than a million visitors per year. As soon as you drive onto the Golden Gate Bridge from the south, warning signs flash about the parking areas for the woods and the free shuttles being full—it’s a popular place.
The Harold Richardson grove is, however, some 30 percent bigger. And because it was owned privately for decades, almost nobody has seen those trees. Until now.
“The property always had a sense of legend, an aura around it, because no one had seen it — not even in 2018,” said Save the Redwoods CEO Sam Hodder.
The grove’s namesake, Harold Richardson, took over ownership of the property in the 1960s, inheriting land that had been in his family since the 1870s. Timber was the family’s chief business, but over the decades, the big, ancient trees had been left alone by the family. They’d recognized something special when they saw it, so they took younger trees instead, harvesting from the old only when they were dead or dying.
Now, a time capsule, centuries-old, has been preserved along the mysterious northern coast of California.
Save the Redwoods paid $9.6 million to the Richardson family for the grove, raised mostly through donations. They also gave the family back a big chunk of land the conservancy had purchased from the Richardson’s a decade ago.
The grove will open to the public in 2021. Trails are being laid out in preparation.
Members of the Outbound Collective were among the first to explore the ancient grove and a short video of their experience is below.
Photo: Save the Redwoods League