Aryn and I were driving a stretch of road from Portland into the cool Northern region of California. Coordinating between the GPS and manual instructions from the proprietors of an Airstream, our heads bobbed up and down and dragged left to right through the winding roads, descending deeper into the dark forest, beneath a verdant canopy of trees.
Do you know that moment when you see something for the first time and it's so foreign that your stomach turns? Or maybe it was the spatial difference and massive size of the first Redwood tree, which suddenly came upon us. This barked giant was in front of our Kia Soul and then as we turned the corner, it was on the right. We both gasped. I had never seen a tree so large in my life.
Let's go further: I'd never seen such an alien landscape in my life. Jurassic Park came to mind.
Off some mile marker, in the forest, was a clearing that we turned into. There was a bungalow to the left, a parked RV in the back and across from that was the Airstream we had booked using AirBnb but surrounding all of this was dense vegetation, tree stumps, as large as our car, with saplings growing from the ancient, ringed rims. The first breath of air I took after exiting from our parked vehicle was as crisp as ice and it flowed through my lungs so easily.
The Redwood Forest was only going a brief overnight stop before driving further south to Sonoma. We gathered what we needed and drove a short distance west to see the Pacific Ocean. It was just before sunset and the temperature had dropped, while people in shorts walked on the sand, making me wonder "how can you tolerate this cold"? Sand blew all around us, skirting the beach as strong waves crashed against the rocky shore. We walked to the end of a long, long pier to stare straight into a domed faced rock that bulged out of the ocean. I looked down, imagined how cold the water must feel but looking back up was only the slimy leaves of kelp bobbing along the dark water.
After exploring the beach, we walked up a hill to a lighthouse that sat on the rocky turf like an ominous beacon, calling to the night. Like so much in California, the structure and adjoined home fit snuggly into the landscape. The sun set while a sea breeze misted our dry faces. At twilight, we returned to our car and drove back into the forest to enjoy wine we had brought from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
We awoke early the next morning, had breakfast, gathered our stuff to hit up the Redwoods National Park, followed by a drive through the Pacific Coast Highway down to Sonoma. The road meandered between the ocean and the forest, providing un-friggin-believable views of un-friggin-believable natural world. It was like driving down the gullet of a beautiful monster that could eat you at any moment if it so desired. As long as we stuck to the road, we'd be safe. But we didn't.
Driving slowly, I saw a clearing to the left of me where below was a river bed that was nearly run dry. We parked the car, walked down onto the smooth stones, polished by thousands of years of running water. We were alone and I felt so close to some kind of spiritual message but I couldn't discern its meaning. I just knew it felt good. The trees and the water and the sun and the stones all felt good. There is something godly and human and flawless about being alone in a natural setting. This was a theme that often repeated throughout our trip. Nothing will ever be the same.
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