If you are on the 700-mile road trip between Portland and San Francisco, Trees of Mystery in Klamath marks your half-way point. Located in northern California on Highway 101 between the Redwood National and State Parks, Trees of Mystery uses the phrase “A Place of Wonder” as its tagline. Considered a place of spirits by the Native Americans who once inhabited the area, visitors to this modern-day attraction may also feel a sense of wonder as they walk among the trees that were over 1100 years old by the time the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. While anyone interested in spending a few hours at Trees of Mystery may notice the above sign, chances are Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick Babe the Blue Ox will pop into view much further down the road. Welcoming visitors and their dogs year-round, Paul encourages anyone to climb on his shoe and pose for a picture. He’ll answer any questions you may have and may even say “CHEEEEEZZZZZZEEEEE” the entire time you pose everyone for the shot. To my delight (and the kids’ horror), Babe is endowed with a larger-than-life anatomically correct pair of bovine testicles. Naturally, we went in for the under belly group nut shot (spoiler alert for any of you receiving our annual Christmas post card).Paul spent a few moments in the national spotlight in 2013; he was featured on the NPR podcast “This American Life,” episode 506 entitled Secret Identity. Truly, this podcast is worth a few minutes of your time, either before or after your trip. Admission to Trees of Mystery runs $15 for adults, $11 for seniors 60 and over, $8 for kids age 7-12, and free for anyone 6 and under. Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours to fully explore the trails and ride the Sky Trail, a six-passenger gondola journey through the redwoods to the top of Ted’s Ridge. Approximately 0.8 miles in length, the Kingdom of Trees trial is dedicated to the majesty and awe of the redwood trees indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including Sitka spruce and Douglas fir. Some trees have unique genetic formations, like the octopus tree, elephant tree, upside down tree, lightning tree, and candelabra tree, to name a few. A common place for weddings is the cathedral tree, a grouping of trees that encompass the pulpit, and bride and groom during the simple ceremony. Note that Trees of Mystery is taking advance reservations 600 years into the future for anyone interested in booking the baby cathedral tree. A highlight of the Trees of Mystery experience is the ride on the Sky Trail gondola. Rides last 7- to 9-minutes each way, and leashed dogs are welcome to join their owners. Loading and unloading is straightforward, simply stand on the giant big foot stickers on the wooden platform. From the top of the ridge, look one way to see the ocean and the other way towards the mountains. The gondola ride is super fun. Unless you have a paralyzing fear of heights, make sure not to miss this experience (it’s included in the price of your admission). Also, if the weather is cooler, you may want to have a sweatshirt handy for this portion of your visit.
Walking sticks are available for anyone interested in making the one mile journey down from the top of the ridge. We chose to skip this option, as many of us were wearing sandals and the kids had been each promised a souvenir from the gift shop. All in all, the lower-level trails are all well groomed and maintained (with a slight, but manageable, incline in some places). The park does offer a shuttle service for anyone with limited mobility (advance notice required). Also worth mentioning is how hard it is to take a picture of monolithic trees unless you have the vantage point of an ant. If you have Pine Sol at home, take a whiff and then enlarge this photo.
On the way out, leave time to read the back stories behind the wooden carvings in the Trail of Tall Tales. If you are the knife- or sharpie carrying sort, make some initials in the wooden I Love You heart. We picked poor Digger’s nose instead. And as you make the transition between the woods and the gift shop, linger for a moment at the last exhibit—marked on a giant slice of wood are notable dates in world history that truly illustrate the span of time that passed between seedling and chainsaw. At the back of the gift shop is the End of the Trail Native American Indian Museum, featuring one of the largest private North American Native American collections of artifacts in the world. Arranged in five rooms, admission to the museum is free and a perfect “full circle” reminder of the fragile and important connection between nature and humankind. Beyond magnets, coffee mugs, t-shirts, redwood seedlings, and giant metal sculptures of the one-and-only Sasquatch, visitors can enjoy free samples of homemade fudge. If you need something more substantial than chocolate, consider a trip just across Highway 101 to the Forest Cafe. Meals range from meatloaf to fish and chips; the dining room is fairly unique (see the cafe website for photos).
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed our time at Trees of Mystery. Paul’s shoe and Babe’s balls aside, this experience quickly fades from the makings of a tourist trap to a genuinely pleasant and educational journey through a beautiful corner of America’s Redwood Empire.
A special thanks to Trees of Mystery for providing us with complimentary general admission tickets. As always, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t take our own families too.