All travelers driving north on Highway 101 know they’ve arrived in a special place when they reach the narrow, curvy section of highway that runs through Richardson Grove State Park and its towering redwoods.
I remember my own first journey to Humboldt, packed into an old Volkswagon van with no air conditioning on a sweltering summer’s day. With windows rolled down, desperate for a breeze, we drove up 101 through the hot valleys and mountain passes. When the road suddenly narrowed and we glimpsed the spreading shade of that first looming redwood it was as if the tree spirits had waved a wand of cooling relief. The shade of the huge trees, coupled with the cathedral-like beauty of the grove took our breath away. We pulled over to gaze up in awe.
No trucks roared by as we stood contemplating the majesty of the redwood forest that so magically crept right up to the side of the highway.
Times have changed in this region since that hot afternoon in the early 1980s, but Richardson Grove still remains a gateway to this unique area – the embodiment of the Redwood Curtain. We are forced to slow our vehicles when we hit those curves just as a visit to our forest and beach trails makes us take a breath and slow down for a few moments.
Now a highway-realignment project proposed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and backed by some area businesses and community members, threatens to change the character of that passage through Richardson Grove forever.