Saturday, May 9, 2009

Honey, I Blew Up the Trees

Lincoln City, Oregon was a stopover serving little more purpose than a bed and a shower, but when we awoke Tuesday to sunny skies, we took a morning run on the beach before skipping town. It can be easy when road-tripping to let your physical well being slide, so we've tried to make a point of starting off at least a few days a week with a run. When you have hundreds of miles of coastline with which to do this, it definitely makes things easier (although we only use three or four of those miles at a time).

Continuing our journey south we spent the night at Humbug Mountain State Park - a lush, rainforested campground tucked in a nook with rich green hills rising sharply to the south, and the ocean churning and crashing a half mile to the west. Lying in my sleeping bag Tuesday night it was a soothing pleasure to hear the low rumble of the ocean harmonizing with the sway of the coastal wind through the trees, while the rain played percussion, sizzling like bacon on the roof of the tent.

Humbug Mountain (highly recommended) lies near the Oregon-California border, so we knew that Wednesday would bring a crossing into the promised land of Northern California and the coastal redwoods. We stopped in Crescent City, CA (not recommended) only long enough to get information at the Redwood National and State Parks visitors' center and were on our way, pointed slightly inland toward Jedediah Smith State Park, smack in the middle of the Northern sprawl of coastal redwoods.

Right. The coastal redwoods. Sweet fancy Moses, these trees are big. With some of them topping off at close to four hundred feet (that's about 394 feet taller than me, give or take), these are the tallest trees in the world, and it's not as though they're skinny either. To be honest, the size of these trees is absurd to me, as even when I crane my neck to see one from top-to-bottom it simply does not seem possible for a tree to be that big. Wednesday night we camped snug amidst a grove of giants, which by their size alone constantly and silently reminded us of our own insignificance.

Thursday afternoon we set off on a fairly gentle six-mile (10K) hike through the forest to a modest waterfall. Snaking our way through the trees, each seemingly bigger than the last, it occurred to me that I was living out a long-dormant childhood dream. That is not to say that I have long wished to visit the giant redwoods. Rather, I remember thinking as an 8 year-old boy how cool it would be to run around on the set of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - to spend some time in a spatially askew world of giants where I was reduced to the role of insect. This is very much the sensation that I had hiking through the trees - that I did not belong. That they existed on a scale so beyond my comprehension and significance that the best I could ask for would be to walk beside them for a few hours and hope they didn't catch on to the fact that a foreigner was scurrying around their roots.

Eating, sleeping, walking and driving in the redwoods for three days (with more to come) was something that I won't soon forget and an experience I am having difficulty conveying with the written word. The redwood forests were at once overwhelming and intangible. Sensory and visceral. Soothing and intense. I was never quite sure whether I should be bowing my head or raising the roof, so I did a little of both. Booting our way down the highway on Friday through a sun-drenched grove of giants with the ocean to our right and some tasty Phish coming through the speakers elicited more than one fist-pump from yours truly, and was the perfect way to emerge from the woods and punctuate three days that were simply spectacular ( can feel free to insert your own overused superlative here).

Friday night had us camped at the beach at a decidedly non-forested site, but one that was idyllic on its own terms. Watching the waves dance against the hardwood of the Pacific sunset from Gold Bluffs Beach was a joy, and the breathing ocean once again lulled me to sleep, only to nudge me awake with the same song hours later.

We are now spending the weekend in Arcata, CA, a very crunchy Humboldt County town plucked from the Vermont tree, where beards are the norm and self-righteous bumper stickers abound. Gee, I wonder if I'll fit in.

From here it looks like we'll be headed inland. Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the giant sequoias that caught the imagination of John Muir are calling us. While the coast has been spectacular, we're looking forward to spending some time among mountains and fresh water, and getting more lessons in humility from those damn big trees.




Your mother said...

Sweet fancy Moses, thank you for letting us ride along. What a great trip you are having.

Butterfly Girl said...

Did those trees make you whisper or even be silent or what?! I am thrilled to see you tracing mine and Stephen's path from so many years ago. Our trip to California and then up to the Olympic Mtns was formative. We were going the reverse direction compass-wise, but I believe the same as you spirit-wise. That journey is what brought us to Victoria and caused us to change our lives in such dramatic ways. I hope you come home (wherever that ends up being!) inspired as well!

Nak said...

Oh man...I have clearly read your post too late. Crescent City is a bit of an armpit.....cruising down "J Street," for some reason, just cannot compare to the rest of the Cali coast...