Trees of Mystery

December 31, 2006 11:00 pm
For nearly five decades, a nondenominational service has been held each Easter at the Cathedral Tree in the Trees of Mystery attraction at Klamath. (The Daily Triplicate/Nicholas Grube).
For nearly five decades, a nondenominational service has been held each Easter at the Cathedral Tree in the Trees of Mystery attraction at Klamath. (The Daily Triplicate/Nicholas Grube).

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

n a place where American Indians once feared to tread because it was a "place of spirits," a non-denominational church service is held to celebrate the Easter holiday.

Amid the shadows of nine redwood giants that grew together in the shape of a cathedral, three pastors will give a general, non-denominational Easter service to visitors of the Trees of Mystery tourist attraction in Klamath April 8.

"We've been doing Easter services for approximately 55 years," Trees of Mystery Manager Debbie Thompson said of the event held at the Cathedral Tree inside of the park. "We invite preachers from all denominations, and they do a general (non-denominational) service."

Thompson, who is a third generation operator of the park, said that any given year between 100 and 300 people come to the Trees of Mystery to attend the free service. This year, she said three local United Methodist pastors will be at the service – Michael Pina of Klamath, Michelle Holloway of Smith River and Carol Layton of Crescent City.

"Sometimes they (the service leaders) bring choirs with them," she said, and the tree will form a makeshift amphitheater. "They have some singing up there that sort of echoes through the forest."

On regular days at the Trees of Mystery – which is open year-round except for Christmas Day – patrons can view naturally occurring anomalies within the attractions' self-proclaimed "Kingdom of Trees."

Here visitors are greeted with informational signs and voice recordings boasting unique facts about the odd, contorted trees that grow within the confines of the property.

The Cathedral Tree is a collection of nine redwoods that grew in a half circle around the stump of a much larger, long departed tree. This growth is dedicated to the late Joseph B. Strauss, builder of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and author of the poem, "The Redwoods" (which is excerpted in front of the Cathedral Tree), and has a podium with benches in front of it for Easter and the occasional wedding.

"My staff goes up there on their lunch breaks and just enjoys the peacefulness and the serenity," Thompson said of the natural cathedral.

Visitors also will encounter the "world's largest family tree" while they walk along the 0.8-mile trail through the Trees of Mystery, as well as various other strangely formed organisms that are adequately named for their shape ("candelabra tree," "baby cathedral tree," "lightning bolt tree," etc.).

But perhaps the main attraction of the Trees of Mystery is the SkyTrail – a gondola that takes passengers on a half-mile journey from the ground and up through the tree tops.

The ride takes between seven and nine minutes to reach the top – which is about 742 feet above sea level – and (if the fog has dissipated) visitors can catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean the forested mountains of Del Norte County from the observation deck at the summit.

From the SkyTrail tourists begin a more educational journey through the Trees of Mystery attraction.

The "life" of Paul Bunyan – the giant of a man who could swipe down a whole forest with the swing of his axe – is depicted in large redwood carvings created by Kenyon Kaiser during the 1960s with a chainsaw. The carvings are animated by the voice of a narrator that blares from spots along the trail leading back into the visitor's center.

It is here that people will encounter a unique collection of cultural relics – once they pass through the gift shop, of course.

Hidden inside this building is the End of the Trail American Indian museum that contains one of the largest private collections of American Indian artifacts. Clothing, baskets, pottery, weapons and figurines from various tribes throughout North America (including local Yurok and Tolowas tribes) are kept here for free viewing for anyone passing through.

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