Windy! Freezing! Rain, hail, and snow, deep in the northern California mountains. On Prairie Creek Redwoods’ James Irvine Trail to coastal Fern Canyon, B. and I are awestruck by silent giants. Redwoods’ presence is felt, not just seen, impossible to convey. To walk among vast beings that seemingly exist both within and outside of time… Eternity itself. No wonder they’re thought to house old spirits.
Standing on a bridge, I watch silvery runnels of swollen Redwood Creek fall away, a liquid mirror. The trails are carpeted with fir and redwood needles, dinner plate or white coral mushrooms, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir. In 30° weather, back at our campsite B. sets out chairs, opens wine, and starts a fire. We sit for hours under our umbrella in the rain, dancing to keep warm.
Humboldt Redwoods and Redwood National Park are spectacular, but cannot compare to the old-growth behemoths in Jedediah Smith Park’s Stout Grove, or Boy Scout Tree Trail. Surrounded by trees twice or three times bigger than we saw elsewhere, the muddy, overgrown trail and eldritch wood surrounding deep canyons and gullies look as if nobody set foot here in ages. Peering through sunlight shafts briefly penetrating the penumbral gloom, I sense the presence of wise souls that have stood sentinel, witnessing humanity’s ephemeral folly, for millennia.
Walking in the shadows of Roosevelt elk, we’re united with this, with nature – even though she doesn’t open her arms for us. Rather, she exists only to exist, and her species only to survive, and we – small and foolish as we are – play our part.
Sometimes a crow or raven breaks the quiet, but there’s nothing else except the rushing of the stream and the wind rustling the crowns of tall trees. Here and there we spy a real giant among them, fatter in girth and rising as if on steroids in a wide clearing far above the rest, out of the mist. It’s magnificent, humbling. Dark falls fast in the forest, so we retire for the night, the sky glittering with what B. calls a “confusion of stars.”