Mavis and I crossed the border from Oregon to California at the end of November. We were greeted by a traffic stop by the California Department of Food and Agriculture where they were allowed to check your car for contraband fruits and vegetables (and one would assume other herbals). They waved us through. I guess I don’t fit a profile. This was my welcome to California, one that would kind of cast a shadow over the rest of the week. In the mean time, having not located an open library, Mavis and I headed for the redwoods.
I’m a kid from the Midwest. Growing up, the largest trees I was aware of were the elms, oaks, and ashes of my neighborhood. When my family moved into our suburb outside of Chicago the streets were known for their cathedral-like branches of elms that would tower over the streets stretching into what seemed to me at the time, infinity. (Dutch Elm Disease would, in a matter of years, kill off the majority of elms I grew up with.) As an adult, I had been to California a few times, even at one point walked the grounds of the state capitol building in Sacramento which has a garden that features the flora of the state. So, I’ve seen redwoods. However, I was not prepared for the beauty that is the state parks in the northern end of California that feature redwoods, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The parks themselves are a challenge. They’re expensive. $36 to tent camp. The showers were coin-operated. Who carries around four dollars in quarters just so they can have twelve minutes of a shower? The shared facilities themselves were so-so in terms of cleanliness and upkeep. It rained. All day. No chance of hiking trails (they were flooded) or even making breakfast. Each campground had a metal locking cabinet that is meant to store foodstuffs away so that bears and such are not tempted to rip apart your tent or car in search of food, which in its own way made me feel uneasy. However, by gum, the trees were amazing! At Humboldt I camped next to a tree stump that was easily twenty feet in diameter. It had to have lived at least a couple millennia before it was either cut or collapsed. (The park estimates it met its demise some time in the early nineteenth century.) It was an amazing experience.
We moved further down the coast, eventually staying in Arcata near Eureka, Califonia. We couldn’t get into the local libraries as they were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday (day of and day after). So we holed ourselves up in a Super 8, went to the grocery store across the street and bought a salad, some champagne, and Haagen Daz for Turkey Day and watched a marathon of original Star Trek episodes on the boob tube (I think I’ve told you I’m a bit geeky). The day after I stopped in Eureka to get some supplies at Target and noticed a sushi place across the street. I ate lunch there, thinking that hell, I’m on the west coast, the sushi should be marvelous. Nope. It wasn’t. Successful restaurants adjust their menus according to the local palate, and well, I’m thinking the palate around Eureka is pretty bland. Oh well.
Pictures below (click to enlarge): A.) The trees towering over my campsite my night at Jedidiah Smith State Park. B.-I.) Various trees and pieces surrounding my campsite at Smith. J.&K.) The very, very old stump that was next to my campsite at Humboldt State Park. L.) The stump with the nearby bathrooms in the background. I took this picture for scale. The bathrooms are at least thirty feet away. M.&N.) The road through Humboldt S.P. I thought it looked like something out of The Lord of the Rings. O.-Q.) A teaching log. This particular specimen dates to 912AD. R.) "The Road Trip that Saved the Redwoods" teaching sign. Evidently people have been using the beauty of nature to heal their souls long before me. S.) My Thanksgiving meal. (Haagen Daz not shown.)