back in April, one of my best friends got married in Muir Woods and she asked me to officiate. the entire week in San Francisco was great and the location they selected truly unique. as with Becca and Dave’s ceremony at Devil’s Lake, it was great to be outside and fun to be tramping through nature in wedding-formal attire.
I visited Muir Woods once previously; on my first trip to California the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, my mom and I drove up from San Francisco to check out the redwoods. at one time, redwood forests covered much of the coast of northern California but during the late 19th century logging cleared much of the timber. a stand of old growth trees remained untouched north of San Francisco along Redwood Creek, due primarily to its relative inaccessibility (the main road from San Francisco to the National Monument is still a steep and windy thing). concerned for the safety of the redwood grove, in 1905 Congressman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth secured a loan from a sympathetic banker friend and purchased 611 acres of land for $45,000.
being held by private hands did not ensure the safety of the grove, however. in 1907 a water company in Sausalito unveiled plans to dam Redwood Creek and flood the valley and heart of the redwood grove. to circumvent the problem posed by local court proceedings brought by the water company, Kent donated 295 acres to the federal government and in January 1908, Theodore Roosevelt established the Muir Woods National Monument under the auspices of the 1906 Antiquities Act. Muir Woods became the 7th National Monument and the first created from lands donated by a private individual. the name for the site came at the recommendation of Kent who objected to having the site named after himself. as Muir was instrumental in establishing the national parks system, Kent later proved instrumental in establishing the National Parks Service and, in 1928, a 280 foot Douglas fir was named in his honor (after decades of environmental buffeting, the tree toppled in 2003 and remains where it fell).
despite the inaccessibility that initially kept the redwoods safe, the Monument enjoys immense popularity due in part to its proximity to San Francisco. when the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, attendance at the park tripled (to 180,000). it now receives more than three-quarters of a million visitors a year. our little troop accounted for at least a few of those visitors over the two days we went up to rehearse and conduct Lindsey & Andy’s wedding ceremony!