Atlas Obscura

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The definitive guide to the world's hidden wonders:

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Enchanted Forest

Deep in the Lost Coast of Northern California, one stand of peculiar redwood trees survived multiple logging efforts that cleared most of the old-growth in the surrounding forest. Salty ocean air and frequent harsh ocean winds through Shady Dell are thought to have caused these trees to fracture repeatedly but remain alive, and the broken trunks continue growing towards the sky, culminating in the bizarre candelabra-shaped forms we see today. Staff involved in redwood conservation say they’ve never seen redwoods twisted in this fashion anywhere else. While their unique shapes make them beautiful to behold, it is thought that this is also what enabled them to survive the logging that carried off so much of California’s old-growth redwoods; they were too twisted to be of much use to the lumber mills.

Show Your Stripes

But Show Your Stripes by Jim Conti, a glittery piece of public art above a vacant San Jose storefront, is different. Simply call (408) 287-0128, punch in a three-digit number from 111 to 999 followed by zero, then hang up. Artist Conti appealed to the community for help coming up with themed designs for the installation, and every code is named on this PDF. Punching in 1730 will kick off Pride Madness, a glorious rainbow pattern, 1610 will display the swampy green Shrek’s Path, and 7570 is SJSU, a blue-and-gold tribute to the nearby university.

At This Banana Farm, the Bunches Grow in 430 Shapes and Sizes

In his backyard in Kerala, India, Vinod Sahadevan Nair, 60, grows bananas and plantains and rears chickens and ducks. In 2012, Vinod approached one of the agricultural institutes in his home state to procure a few native suckers (shoots arising from a banana tree’s roots, which are used for replanting). He skimmed the internet, wrote letters and emails to other agricultural institutes in India, and traveled great lengths of the country to procure exotic varieties. Apart from helping Vinod reap profits, the groves have become a treasure trove (the fruit and the tree are revered in India, often used in religious ceremonies) and a one-of-a-kind pitstop for children and amateur banana farmers to learn about native, exotic, as well as endangered bananas—as there are always 15 to 18 varieties in bloom.

Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower

In 1916, West Virginia established a system of fire towers that were located on various mountain peaks throughout the state. By utilizing a chart and telephone system, employees were able to quickly pinpoint forest fire locations that helped increase response times. The Pinnacle Knob fire tower property fell into disuse after World War II, but found a second life as a home for three communications towers. The second fire tower foundation now serves as a scenic overlook with an elevation well over 3,000 feet.

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