We arrive in the Golden State just after 5pm and I am worried that we are not going to find suitable encampment for the night. The temperature has dropped 30 degrees and fog now hugs the top of the redwoods as we continue our westward drive on Highway 199. Reaching Jedediah State Park and Campground, we pull in and see the “campground full” sign. We have to pull forward in order to turn around, but before anyone in the car can get a word out, the friendly, young ranger asks “looking for a place for the night?” Yes, I reply. “You’re in luck, we just had a cancellation.” I ask if we can we take a look at it. Yes, he says, “but I get off in 30 minutes, so make it quick.” We’re back in ten, paying $35 to camp in the keystone of redwood parks in northern California.
In no time, Malaika and Purdie are cooking delicious zucchini succotash using the small backcountry stove I brought along: I’m impressed by what two determined Aussies can pull off with bare minimum. I set up camp, take a quick walk around the grounds and breathe in the sounds of people talking, kids playing or complaining, parents trying to figure how to set up tent, and RVs running generators. I’m struck by the desire of human beings to be in nature. Not everyone wants to be in it in the same way I do, but it is interesting that every year people pack the national and state parks with their family and friends. It gives me hope.
I return to find Malaika and Purdie discussing America. It’s been interesting to see the country through their eyes. Malaika is surprised at the beauty and diversity of the landscape; she had the idea of a barren, overdeveloped land. Those places exist, I say, but there are also breathtaking sanctuaries that people in this country have worked hard to protect.
The highlight of my evening comes when opportunity meets need. The girls have never heard of, nor had, S’mores. Given my food cravings, I am ready for just about anything on a stick. Unfortunately the only chocolate in my possession at the moment is organic raspberry, large chunk. Being that this is a S’mores emergency, any chocolate will do. Over burning marshmallows and melting chocolate on graham crackers we exchange stories of our lives, loves and sorrows.
The next morning is quiet and misty. We’re up early and, after short debate, decide to hike a short point-two (.2) mile trail. We learn later that we have misread the signs and it closer to 2 miles. In no time, we are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mighty giants we call redwoods. They shoot up out of the land like prehistoric monsters and it is easy to feel as if one has stepped back in time. Fog embraces the canopy and ferns and tall grasses grow large and green along the forest floor. We cross a river via footbridge and enter old growth forest, which is larger and more mysterious than its younger counterpart.
As I step close to one colossal giant, which I cannot even see completely, I wonder what we can learn from beings this large and old. Many cultures see trees as magical beings that bridge realities and walking amongst such presence, there is no mistaking that these sequoia are alive. I realize this is a silly statement, but let me explain: by alive, I mean conscious. Not in the way you and I are conscious, but they are aware of us, their surroundings and the world. I believe that there is vast knowledge accessible to anyone patient enough to listen.
Malaika tells Purdie and me about an artist in Australia who hooks up diodes to trees and then has people hug them, which produced unique sounds. One time, he conducted a symphony by coordinating tree huggers. To demonstrate, Malaika walks up to a redwood and hugs it as if she is embracing a long-time friend. Wanting to hear what the tree will sound like (or say), Purdie and I move into to embrace our conifer brethren. If you have never hugged a tree, or had a conversation with one, I highly recommend it.
Four hours later the gals and I emerge from the hike more centered and peaceful. We race back to checkout of the campground. Later that day, I say “so long” to Purdie and Malaika for the moment – human style hugs all around. Sebastian, my stuffed frog copilot, takes his rightful place in the car, riding shotgun.
More NorCal pictures are available –> here