Climbing at Dawn

A summer sunrise view from the redwood canopy in Sonoma County.
A summer sunrise view from the redwood canopy in Sonoma County.

Today is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. Often the summer solstice makes me think of long evenings and late sunsets, but of course dawn comes incredibly early too.

Today, I remember my earliest morning spent high in the redwood canopy. While I was in graduate school at U.C. Berkeley, I joined my fellow researchers up in the trees of Sonoma County to study how redwoods use and lose water over the course of the day. Trees are most hydrated right before dawn, after a night of taking in water through their roots, and then they steadily lose water once the sun rises. We shimmied into our climbing harnesses before dawn to start studying the trees as first light shone into the woods. I remember climbing up a rope in the quiet of night with stars

Early sunrise sunbeams turn the redwood treetops orange.
Early morning sunbeams turn the redwood treetops orange.

overhead. As I reached the treetop, sunrise made the horizon glow orange and soon the redwood branches were also glowing.

To this day, that sunrise climb was my most humbling, inspiring, and gorgeous experience  in the redwoods. I just love remembering it.

Have you walked among the redwoods at sunrise? Tell me about it!

About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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