We took off from the murder motel as early as we could, neither of us really getting much sleep, but both of us excited to get to San Fransisco by the evening. Fueling up on a little coffee and a bagel, with the pitter patter of steady drizzly rain falling on the car, we were on route to our first stop, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. A small but scenic drive right off the 101 through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Then the road traverses south to Arcata, Eureka, and away from the coast. Inland is a stretch of driving that I wanted to do based off of the recommendation of my best friend, called The Avenue of Giants. It’s a thirty some mile drive that is one of the most scenic drives in America cutting through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Eventually the 101 took us through Santa Rosa, and then to Golden Gate Bridge.
I’ll never forget the drive through the rolling hills of Northern California, green hills in front of and beside you, the ocean hugging your right. It was pouring rain, and beautiful. The dog was asleep in the backseat, my fiance and I were holding hands, and we were in awe at the world we are lucky enough to travel through space on.
Approaching the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway was easy, it’s a straight path off the 101 that connects right back to the 101 at the end. The massive trees were hugging the road, bright red to dark red trunks some 4-9 feet wide, some scarred by fire, some fallen in half, and some entirely down, roots and all, like massive fallen dinosaurs. Husks of splintered giants broken atop one another and the brush and rivers winding beneath. We stopped twice, first to wander around a small trail and follow a stream for a half mile or so. Second to see Big Tree.
Big Tree is, well, a big fucking tree. It was incredibly impressive, and easily the biggest tree I’ve seen in my life up to that point. 286 feet high (87.2 meters) 23.7 feet in diameter (7.2 meters) a circumference of 74.5 feet (22.7 meters) and an estimated age of 1500 years (old).
1500 years ago is when, legend has it, (King) Arthur defeated the Saxons at Mound Badon in Dorset, in Southern England. The first Swedish state was founded. The Romans and Persians were at war with one another. The Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople was completed. Buddhism found its way into Japan. This tree has been alive for so many events that it boggles the mind to try to wrap your head around.
The scale of it is difficult to capture. We honestly had no idea where the top of the tree was while we were close enough to take a photo of it. Only after walking back to the car do you realize the canopy of this tree towers over mostly everything else in the forest around it. I don’t quite understand the magnetic pull to these giants, though it seems something that the majority of us humans love. Many people from all over the world were visiting this area, many people simply staring at this giant redwood. I think that we all know that we all have these thoughts in common, shared smiles and conversation, disbelief that something this perfect has survived so long against storms, fires, floods, droughts, and, most spectacularly, us.
The drive took us south. We passed through Eureka and got Bento Boxes from a great sushi joint. Walked through a downpour to get a cup of coffee and played a (quick) game of chess* and continued on the road inland towards the Avenue of Giants. The north entrance was easy to navigate to, and we were quickly put on an absolutely beautiful two lane road traveling through time. This was an absolutely ancient forest of the biggest and thickest trees I have ever seen. I’m not sure if there are any forests in the world quite like this one. Winding thirty miles without the time to see everything we wanted, we decided to stop once at Founders Grove. This is a grove of giants that is both haunting and beautiful. The trees here have seen damage of fire, damage of storm, and while some have survived, others have not.
The walk around Founders Grove is a quick one, only about a mile loop at most. I highly recommend everyone who can to check it out. It’s a great spot to stretch your legs with these massive trees who stretch what seems the realm of possibility. I had such a profound sense of wonder while walking through this grove, wonder at the fires that have scarred these trees, wonder at the climate these giants have seen throughout their lives. The peoples who have been near and around them a thousand plus years ago, and what they must have thought and wondered about them. Humbling to the core, these testaments to time taught me patience, even through extreme strife, is always paramount.
The journey south to San Fransisco was quiet, we listened to music and were both in our respective contemplation. I was awed by what I had seen, and happy in the moment. Thinking ahead, I had many things on my mind. I was born in San Fransisco. I left when I was a baby and had no memory of it, and was excited to see the place I was born thirty years ago.
The gates of Golden Gate were lit, and it driving into the city over the famous bridge was a wonderful welcome. It looked lovely, beautiful architecture and a wonderful scene to see the gorgeous bridges alight and the tall skyscrapers glowing as we continued into the city.
I was excited to see my best friend who lives there, and I was excited to have a night in a non murder motel. We got a room at The Cartwright Hotel downtown, and met up with my best friend at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. The food and beer were good, extremely expensive, but catching up and having a meal with one of the best people I know was fantastic.
*Maggie hasn’t had the time to play chess often given her professional pursuits. She is a ringer in every other game I’ve played against her.