I used to believe that in order to see beautiful, diverse scenery, a person would have to travel abroad. Then I moved to California.
Part of the purpose for my longer-than-usual road trip home was to check out some of the areas in California I had never gotten a chance to see. I've always had a sneaking suspicion that central and northern California are totally my jam, and you know what? I was right.
Day Two of my journey north consisted of fog, fog, a break in the fog, and then more fog. I spent the night at a cozy Airbnb on Tomales Bay, and in the morning I used up a couple of daylight hours traversing a winding country road through rolling green hills and crowds of dairy cows. I've never been to Ireland, so that's probably why I'm saying this, but it totally reminded me of Ireland. I still have a hard time marrying the images of farmland and the coast, so I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually on a peninsula surrounded almost entirely by saltwater. I found myself being jealous of the cows and their seaside life.
I think that one of the things I will miss the most about California is the marine layer, that blanket of cloud that moves mysteriously back and forth from the sea, creeping up on you with its chilly, misty fingers and blocking out the sun in one silent, flowing movement. One of my favorite things to do is stand above the white mass of moisture and watch as blue skies mingle with the encroaching fog; if I'm lucky, the place I'm standing gets enveloped in the stuff until I am literally chillin' inside of a cloud.
Eventually there was a more permanent break in the clouds, and the ocean became visible, all dressed up in sheeny turquoises and blues. I tried to find Bowling Ball Beach and failed; aware of the sun moving lower in the sky, I forged ahead to see what Glass Beach had to offer (not much - beware the legends of Pinterest), and spent an hour or so perusing the cliffs north of Fort Bragg, ogling at the camping possibilities and making a note to return with my tent ASAP.
Eventually the road veered east and I sped inland, making mental cuts from my itinerary as I decided that I had one priority left for the day: to see the Avenue of the Giants. The NorCal portion of the 101 is a lumberjack's dream, and if I had had a day, a week, a month, I would have captured the shit out of its beauty, but I reminded myself, not for the first or last time, that this road trip was all about snapshots and figuring out where I want to spend more time in the future.
And then came the redwoods. You guys...the redwoods. For some reason, I always try to create a beauty pageant in which the competitors are the mountains, the ocean, the forests, the desert, and on and on, as though one particular landscape has to win it all, forever and ever amen. This is ridiculous, I know, because how can you pit such different places against one another when they each contain their own magnificent, incomparable qualities?
That being said, on this particular evening, the forests won by a landslide.
I've visited the redwoods before, and I've slept among the giant sequoias, but no previous experience can dull the feeling of being in the middle of a grove of massive trees that are over a thousand years old and reach hundreds of feet into the air. At dusk, if you stand alone on an empty path, you can practically feel the weight of the years nestling into the forest floor. The scent of soil mixes with the musk of tree bark, the air is fresh, and there isn't a sound to be heard, save the occasional bird call or a slight breeze through the treetops. The ocean makes my heart feel wild, the mountains make my soul break free, and tall trees emit a peacefulness that permeates my entire body until all I want to do is lie down and roll around and then stay there forever, covered in dirt and watching more trees grow up around me for the next several hundred years.
It gradually got darker until the trees were no more than looming shadows, so I reluctantly tore myself away (reluctant-tearing-away-from-things was a skill I honed for this entire trip) and hopped back into the car to arrive late, once again, at what turned out to be a fairytale farmhouse along the Lost Coast...but I'll save that for the next post.
Happy Tuesday, friends.