I did not take this photo.
We were traveling north from Laytonville, California to drop off the young French Canadian man who needed to go to Redding to catch a bus to Oregon. Mr. Carolina was driving my van, and we’d just left Garberville.
The young French Canadian man (whom I’ll call Pierre to protect his privacy and because I can’t remember his real name) had been doing trim work in Northern California. (For those who don’t know, folks get paid to trim the leaves off marijuana buds. Lots of folks travel to Northern California during harvest season in hopes of getting lucrative employment trimming weed.)
Mr. Carolina and I had met Pierre the night before in Laytonville while waiting to hear from Sweet L’s dad. Mr. Carolina was on a mission to return a hand-carved pipe to Sweet L’s dad; my van was the transport vessel, and I was honored to be along for the ride. While waiting in a parking lot, we were eating the cheese I’d acquired by standing in front of the tiny town’s one grocery store panhandling, (quite literally) asking shoppers, Spare change for cheese? A kind woman handed me a $10 bill, and I promptly went inside and bought a block of cheddar. As Mr. Carolina and I were partaking of the cheesy goodness, Pierre strolled by the van, and I invited him to our cheese party.
It turned out he was trying to get to Redding to catch the aforementioned bus. He had money (thanks to the aforementioned trim job, I presume) to catch a bus in some little town before Redding, but said he’d rather travel with us and would help pay for gas.
Mr. Carolina didn’t have anything planned after he completed his pipe returning mission. He’d been talking about the magical Mt. Shasta, and I wanted to see it, but we hadn’t made any decisions. I wanted to stay with him as long as possible, so I was down with going to Redding. A trip to Redding would not only prolong my time with Mr. Carolina, but it would get us closer to Mt. Shasta.
We spent the night at the nearest rest area, me in my bed, Mr. Carolina on the van’s floor, and Pierre in his tent, set up a little way into the wooded area surrounding the parking spots and restrooms. We hit the road in the morning and headed to Garberville to gas up and decide how to proceed.
There were traveler kids everywhere in Garberville, and Pierre found some French Canadians with whom to speak his native tongue. I went into a hemp store, and the woman working there (the proprietor?) was downright rude to me. We didn’t linger in the town, but were soon back on Highway 101.
With Mr. Carolina at the wheel, I was free to sit in a middle seat and munch almonds. Suddenly I saw an exit labeled “Avenue of the Giants.” Can we go there? I asked. Please. Let’s go there!
During our travels, Mr. Carolina often asked me what I wanted to do, but I seldom had a strong preference and was usually content to go along with the whims of others. I can only assume Mr. Carolina was pleased to help me fulfill a definite desire.
He took the exit, and we soon found ourselves traveling a narrow road rimmed with the tallest, most majestic trees I had ever seen: The Redwoods.
I did not take this photo either. I wish I had taken this photo.
I’d heard of the redwoods, or course, and seen photos, but this was my first time among them. The golden light filtered in through the leaves above us, and I thought maybe we’d crossed through a portal and into a magical dreamland.
Without warning, Mr. Carolina pulled off the road into a spot barely big enough for the van. We jumped out, and Mr. Carolina led us across the narrow highway to a giant redwood that had been uprooted and was lying on its side. Mr. Carolina showed me I could enter the tree from the end that was once in the earth. I crawled inside and sat quietly inside the tree. I felt surrounded by purity. The air was clean and moist and felt good to breathe. I took deep breaths and within a few minutes felt like I was tripping on acid. I honestly felt as if my reality was altered, as if I were experiencing a higher state of clarity, a higher state of awareness. I felt absolutely blessed by the sheer beauty I was experiencing and began to cry with joy.
I knew in my deepest heart that if the boys took the van and left me there, that I would be ok, that I’d be nourished by the air, and I’d live a clean, pure life unencumbered by the trappings of Babylon.
(It’s ok if you need to pause a moment and shake your head and sneer hippie.)
Of course, the boys didn’t take my van and leave me there. The came back to me after they’d finished their explorations, and we departed together.
I did a little research, and according to http://www.roadtripamerica.com/GettingOutThere/Avenue-of-the-Giants.htm,
[t]he Avenue of the Giants is a thirty-two mile scenic byway that parallels US-101 about thirty-five miles south of Eureka, California. The road was originally built as a stagecoach and wagon road in the 1880s and roughly follows the South Fork of the Eel River…The road meanders through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a redwood preserve of nearly 52,000 acres that includes over 17,000 acres of “old growth” (never been logged) coast redwood trees.