Published in the October 4 – 17, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life
The plants and wildlife now begin their rest from the hot summer days, leaves falling in muted shades of brown and yellow. Autumn is the time when I also trek to Yosemite to give a talk about the coast redwood trees and a South County resident who befriended naturalist John Muir more than 100 years ago. This year is extra special because it is the centenary anniversary of those events worth remembering.
From his Kellogg Springs ranch cabin in the eastern foothills above Tennant Avenue in 1917, Charles Kellogg requested a heavy-duty truck be shipped to him from the Nash Motor Co. in Kenosha, Wis. The Nash Quad, a four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle, weighed nearly four tons. Charles saw its capabilities on a visit to Southern California and knew this was the vehicle he needed to undertake his most daring inspiration.
The coast redwoods were under attack by logging companies, and most of the old-growth stands along the San Francisco Peninsula had been cut down after the 1906 earthquake. Now the expansive redwood groves in Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties were awaiting the axes and saws of loggers. The proposed Redwood Highway was starting to be built, which made accessing lumber more efficient.
When the Nash Quad arrived in May 1917, Charles fitted the chassis with a canvas cover, and then supplied himself for a three-month journey to the biggest redwoods known at the time — the grove at Bull Creek in today’s Humboldt State Park. Charles planned to locate a downed redwood he would hollow out, mount it on the frame of the Nash Quad, and drive it around the country to show the public a sample of the magnificent trees.
The Pacific Lumber Co., aware of Charles Kellogg’s fame and reputation, allowed him to select a downed redwood measuring nearly 16 feet in diameter from the forest floor.
In August 1917, three prestigious gentlemen attended the annual meeting of the Bohemian Club in a redwood grove near Santa Rosa. Henry Fairfield Osborn, John C. Merriam and Madison Grant stood admiring the tall redwoods at their camp when they learned they “had not seen anything yet.” An associate told them the really big trees were farther north at Bull Creek. Their curiosity was piqued. The next day a guide took the three men to see for themselves. Each were conservationists and knew something must be done to stop the slaughter of the redwoods. As they drove along the new but still rugged dirt highway, they were appalled at the wanton destruction.
Stopping near the South Fork of the Eel River where Bull Creek emerges from the forest, the three men stood awestruck. In a perpetual daylight dusk, with only the muffled sounds of the water streaming by, it must have been a surreal experience. Meeting with Charles Kellogg that day led them to form the Save the Redwoods League in 1918.
Charles returned to Morgan Hill to prepare for his tour of the United States to alert the nation as to the immediate need to control our logging practices and preserve our redwoods. John Muir and Charles Kellogg were acquaintances. No doubt Muir’s zeal for saving places such as Yosemite from the voracious commercial interests of the day influenced Charles. There are so many aspects to the Charles Kellogg story. Join me for a pleasant walk through the redwoods at Mt. Madonna County Park where we can discuss this conversation.
Gilroy resident Mike Monroe is a Morgan Hill business owner and naturalist. He is a docent for Santa Clara County Parks.