I’ve been in Napa for a day to see an old friend. Sometimes you need to see someone and you find a way to make that happen, no matter what sort of crazy journey you are on. I’m glad I did. Napa is a peaceful place, and I had a wonderful evening and day with my friend and his family. Today, I left to the north, through Calistoga to Porter Creek, which I followed until it hit the Russian River, which I followed until it hit the Pacific Ocean. From Stewart’s Point to just south of Fort Bragg, I travelled the “1” again. I thought it might get old, this road of 10,000 post cards, but it doesn’t. With near continual elevation changes and flora from deep forest to open pasture, there is a new frame around each bend for each new view.
It is, however, a place of almost frightening raw power. To ride the “1” is to witness the battle of natural forces — the relentlessly pounding Pacific versus the proudly defiant rock walls of the continent, and the third player in the game; the water from the east. While the shoreline has it backed bowed against the ocean, that same back is turned to the eastern mountains, where rain and snow — prodigious this year — land and begin a headlong rush downhill to the sea. Everyone knows it is hard to hold back anything if you don’t have good footing, and this year, footing for the coastline is sketchy. The erosive eastern tide of snowmelt and rainwater is washing out chunks of the coastline, and the “1” with it. We, or at last I, am conditioned to respect the power of the crashing surf — it shakes the ground when you stand on the rocks to to take a picture of it — but the rain and snow seem more docile. Not so here on the western edge.
Forced off the “1” I cross over the mountains via Route 20 and turn north again on the 101, which will join the “1” at Legget and continue from there to Olympic National Park in Washington. Everyone out here calls roads by the word “the” and then the number, I don’t know why. Anyway, the 101 takes me to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, via a scenic offshoot called Avenue of the Giants.
The thing about Humboldt Redwoods is that it is the largest old growth redwood forest in the world. In the world. And while these coast redwoods are not the oldest trees on the earth, or even in the US, they are the tallest. Age is more an honor than a contest, however, and these trees have the honor of being around since before Christ, at least a few of them do. I take two different hikes today through two different sections of the Rockefeller Forest in the wilderness section of the park. On the ground, amongst these giants it is deeply peaceful. Coins in your pocket seem an intrusion as you walk along. Their power is one of permanence. As soon as you are about to be awed by the tallest redwood in the world (which I was, it is 361 feet tall and over 53 feet around) you realize that size is not nearly as important as staying power. And this joker has staying power. While the coastline was breaking off in chunks, many of these trees were enduring lightening strikes, floods and sawyers’ blades, only to refute them all and stand tall. Stately, quiet, power.
I will move on up the coast tomorrow to Redwoods National Park, where I will see more, but not taller redwoods. I hope to camp on the beach there. Like the rugged violent coastline, I don’t expect the presence of more redwoods to get old. I feel better when I’m around them. I feel more certain about our future.