Redwood fog is different than ocean fog.
When the first winter storms of the season come in from the Gulf of Alaska, they roll ashore into the coastal mountains of Redwood country and unload massive amounts of rain. The parched earth, dry from weathering the summer and fall’s lack of rain, gets absolutely drenched. Luckily, Redwoods are great at holding in moisture. Plants, in general, are always trying to tip habitat in their favor––Eurasian grasses love fire because it’s an evolutionary strategy; fire opens up more terrain for the grasses to expand into. Redwoods do just the opposite.
Redwoods recreate the Pleistocene/Ice Age climate they were most successful and happy in by hoarding and replenishing their own moisture. Redwood needles are condensation-rainmaking machines. If you look at the needles closely, you’ll notice they’re fat in the middle like a paddle and narrow down to a sharp point at the end. The fat part of the needle is where the condensation collects and the sharp point is where it goes drip, drip, drip. Pretty smart, simple stuff. It’s not uncommon to find puddles at the base of Redwood groves on a foggy, rainless day. Redwoods make their own rain.
These early season rains are so welcome. The thirsty ground soaks it up like a sponge, reaches its saturation point, and begins to ooze water. The soil is soaked, creeks are gushing, beach sand barriers are mowed down by rushing rivers. The salmon take note and head back to their childhood streams. The Redwoods tower above this seasonal symphony and quietly seal all the moisture in their connected branch canopies and cement an entire ecosystem. The humid air underneath the canopy rises and insulates the world underneath. When the air is relatively warm, a massive bubbly fog bank can form and slowly escapes above the canopy, dissipating into the blue sky above…
If you’re lucky enough to catch these Redwood fog systems, run down there and dive deep into the fun! They’ll appear like bubbly soft clouds below, mixing in with the canopy. It’s a precious moment in time and not terribly frequent; maybe less than ten times a year or so.
The forests are pure magic in this type of fog––warm and still, fog so thick you can barely see your hand in front of your face, so utterly and devastatingly quiet. Redwood quiet. The trees, the ecosystems they help to insulate and feed, it’s a whole world unto itself: a new layer of surreal silence. In today’s world, forests are a glimpse of ever elusive serenity. I invite you, if you’re able, to stand in a Redwood forest ten miles north of San Francisco and feel like you’re a million years in the past.