Thursday, January 25, 2007
If you’re ever feeling uninspired or busy-brained, go sit in solitude in an old growth redwood grove. That's kinda tough to do if you’re anywhere but Northern California/Southern Oregon, but it would probably be worth the money to make the trip out, even if you’re from Miami and it’s just for a day.
I set out for the Newton B Drury scenic drive on the ol’ Mongoose this morning, and after some serious quad burn along the patchy paved/graveled coastal road where I was passed by one car and passed one person, I found that the six-mile scenic drive was closed to cars. I couldn’t have scripted it any better to enter my first experience with these enormous trees by flying down an empty two-laner. It’s a good thing there weren’t any cars on the road because I kept wobbling over the center line, preoccupied with tilting my head back as far as it would go, my eyes chasing the enormous trunks into the blue sky. I’ve ridden better with a stomach full of moonshine, but I didn’t care. At the bottom of the grade, I pulled over and read a plaque with a Steinbeck quote. It was about how the redwoods make the most irreverent men humble with awe. I had to laugh, because I think these trees might also have the opposite effect on humble folk, turning the most reverent person into a child. Just minutes earlier, I was pedaling with my arms raised, flying past 10, 12, 14-foot trunks, cheering for these beautiful ancients like they were some of the last ones on Earth. Oh … yeah …
I made it to the extravagantly-named Big Tree. You have to give it to the pioneers, they didn’t mess around with any fancy stuff. Putting dimensions on this tree doesn’t do the experience justice, but at 21-feet wide, the trunk takes longer to walk around than some apartments I've called home. And it’s as tall as a football field turned on end. I tried to take Big Tree's photograph from base to tip, but didn’t have a lens with a wide enough angle. And it’s around 1,500 years old, born when King Arthur was fighting the Saxons, the Chinese were constructing the Great Wall, and the tribes of this area were living in the shade of the giants, catching salmon, hunting game and generally doing a better job of managing their environment over thousands of years than the civilizations that replaced them would do in 200.
I heard laughing as a couple came down the trail, and I realized the Ever Living Trees were having the same effect on them. They were both smiles when they stepped into the clearing. “Is this the bi— . Holy … I guess this is the big tree!” That was from the guy, who must have been in his thirties. Big Tree subtracted twenty years from him too. “THAT is a big tree. No, that’s a biiig tree.”
Nope, he didn’t say “fantastically lofty tower of bark and branch” or “woody fortress of insane proportions.” I guess the simple name fits. After hiking the rhododendron trail and the Cathedral Trees trail, I noticed the second major effect this trees had on me: Calm.
Outer peace, too. I felt no need to rush or head back to camp. They’d taken their time getting that big, maybe there’s a lesson in that.
So tomorrow, at my own leisurely pace, it’s on to Jedediah State Park to witness more of the glory.