Published: October 2009First In: Nat Geo in the Field

Hidden Giants

After 333 days and 2,000 miles, wilderness savant Mike Fay found every last redwood. Now he wants to save them.

Text by Cliff Ransom
Photograph by Michael Nichols

“I thought I’d be able to just Google it,” says biologist Mike Fay of locating the country’s southernmost redwood tree. Instead Fay and his hiking partner, activist Lindsey Holm, found themselves on the southern border of Los Padres National Forest in California, clawing their way up a steep-sided canyon.

“It’s thicker than hell. Impenetrable chaparral and poison oak like crazy,” Fay says. “After half an hour I get up to the top of this drainage where I see [what I think is] the southernmost redwood. Then I look around. Sure as hell, there’s another tree in a drainage farther south. So I’m like, damn, I’ve got to do this all over again. And I do. Then I see another tree even farther south. And it’s going on like this all frickin’ day.”

“You know where I found the southernmost redwood in the continental United States? Fifteen feet from California Route 1. I could have driven there.”

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  • We have a Redwood Tree in Columbia, SC at 34 N, Los Padres is about that Latitude.
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