Trees of Mystery: Find Your Trail

Take a contemplative stroll among some of the planet's most magnificent redwoods.

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, PAUL AND BABE: When you hear of the Trees of Mystery, the retro-sweet, history-filled, redwoods-amazing attraction of Klamath, California, you're apt to first hear tales of the gigantic figures who hold famous sway over the parking area. We speak of Paul Bunyon and his faithful sidekick Babe the Blue Ox, an over-sized duo that have served as icons of the roadside destination for decades. They're eye-catching, is why, but Paul also chats up arriving visitors, in real time, commenting on a person's hat or the current weather conditions, just so you know that the whole thing is live and not on a playback machine hidden deep in the nearby gift shop. The duo is so well-known that a host of hosts have come to pay their respects, including the beloved Huell Howser of public television and Ira Glass of "This American Life." But while it is almost impossible to not talk about Paul and Babe after a day spent at the Northern California landmark, with mention also made of the treetop-besting trams of the Skytrail, there is a quieter force to be found within: the trails. These are the tried-and-true paths of the Trees of Mystery, the routes that people have walked for well over a half century, walked in both quiet contemplation and gentle amusement. The amusement stems from some of the names given to the unusual trees, and the fact that the Elephant Tree really does seem to have an impressive, pachyderm-style trunk. It's worth remembering, as the end of the school year draws near, with all of the busy hubbub that this time brings, that there is a family-cool spot that has a peaceful heart just made for powering down (and tuning into nature). Want to find your way through these ancient trees and into a more silent space? Then pick a trail, any trail, like...

THE KINGDOM OF TREES TRAIL, "which is dedicated to the majesty of nature and the natural resiliency of the Redwood and other tree species." Lots of lore-filled specimens can be found along this path, including the multi-tree wonder known as the Cathedral Tree. Octopus-armed trees, and the Candelabra Tree, are all astounding, but even the redwoods without names are what could accurately be described as "sci-fi big." (Though this is not science fiction, of course, what you're seeing, but actual science). A bit further on is the Forest Experience Trail, with the Brotherhood Tree, and a massive tree struck by lightning in the '90s. If you're looking for "an actual hike" and not a more leisurely ramble, work the Wilderness Trail into your visit. And, of course, the Skytrail is a trail, by name, but it is not on terra firma (look up and find it). It's not hard to believe the Trees of Mystery will mark its centennial in just a decade and a half, as there's still an air of yesteryear about it, in the sweetest, slow-down-and-look-around sense. And, of course, if you really want to talk about an air of yesteryear, ponder the age of the redwoods, which have seen a summer season or two (or two thousand). Is your summer road trip just ahead? Find a quiet moment off the road, on one of the trails of the Trees of Mystery.

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