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California's drive-thru redwoods
are shady operations. . .

But only in a botanical sense, of course

By Chuck Woodbury
editor, Out West

From Out West #32

(The California Redwood Country is in the far northwest corner of the state, south of Eureka along U.S. 101. The best place to view redwood trees (and drive-through trees) is by driving the Avenue of the Giants highway, which begins six miles north of Garberville. You can easily drive this two-laner in a couple of hours, even with short stops. Or, better yet, stay awhile and camp in one of the many state park campgrounds).
Amazing Drive-Thru Tree!
Chandelier Tree, probably the best of the drive-thru trees in redwood country.

By Chuck Woodbury, editor
Out West
The newspaper that roams

Consumer Reports we are not, but Out West has personally visited the Redwood area's three Drive-Through Trees to determine which is the best. So, read on, and then you won't waste your time and money driving through the wrong one.

First, we should note that we did not actually drive though; The porta-newsroom (the Out West motorhome) is too big for tree tunnels. So, instead of driving through the trees and getting stuck, we walked though and then watched cars as they passed.

Our first stop was at the 315-foot Chandelier Drive-Through Tree in Leggett; the attraction was opened 60 years ago. The tree, which is impressive, is the focal point of a 200-acre redwood grove. Equally important, however, is the the gift shop, which has many quality and tacky souvenirs. We opted for four postcards and a Magic Duck (don't ask). Take a break at Chandelier Tree for a picnic; there are many tables and even a small lake. This drive-through tree attraction gets high marks. Admission is $3 per car.

Our next stop was at the Shrine Drive-Through Tree in Myers Flat, which is also an excellent value. The tree is one of California's oldest tourist attractions. Wagon-train travelers once pulled their coaches through the tree, which was partially hollowed out by fire. The Drive Through Tree is 275 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter; stand inside and you'll see the sky above. Your entry fee also admits you to the three-story tree house (very neat for kids), the drive-on tree (no big deal), the Balance Tree and the Rings of History. Plus the gift shop is excellent (but not as excellent as the one at Leggett). Espresso is served, which is probably a new development in the drive-through tree industry. Admission is $3.

Our final through-the-tree experience was at the Tour-Through Tree in Klamath. Admission is $2 per car, but overpriced. I asked the fellow at the toll booth for a receipt (so I could deduct the expense on my income tax), but as he grabbed my cash he said matter-of-factly, "I don't give receipts." Needless to say, I was mad as a wet hen. Yet even if a receipt had been granted, the tree would still have been a disappointment. Why? Because it's all alone -- no gift shop with tacky souvenirs, no three story treehouse, no picnic tables -- nothing but a topped-off redwood tree that was bored out in 1976, and, frankly, is still boring!

So Out West's recommendation is to skip this tree and see the others.

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