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Published: April 3rd 2013
We spent the night in Minden, Nevada surrounded by courteous, friendly folks who welcomed us into their community with open arms. The kind of thing that I thought had disappeared in America but here it was. And in a place called Minden. As we got ready to pull out, an older guy remarked on our Florida tags and asked about our trip. His name is Miguel. He's a Basque shepherd who came to Nevada in 1953 to make his fortune and return to his home in the Pyrenees. After suddenly discovering himself in Nevada with six children and a loving wife he now finds himself inseparably tied to his new country and loving it.
'Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.' Satchel Paige
We headed North through Carson City till we caught I-80 heading west. Karen guided us through the Donner Pass but I didn't feel a bit hungry. In Sacramento we caught I-5 North through verdant farmlands. Orchards and rice paddies and hundreds of acres of olive groves and big billboards asking you in to sample their fine selections of olive oils.
In Redding we took 299 NW (Eureka Way) through Whiskeytown and
up the winding valleys. Riding the bottoms of the wedges formed by steep, green, misty, pined slopes. This is 10 2 driving. Your eyes fixed on the challenging two lane road. Your passenger the only one able to enjoy the stunning views where every curve is like turning a page in a wondrous picture book. The Trinity River is our companion throughout. An occasional hard rain makes a sound like pebbles thrown against our windshield. Lumber mills pop up. Stacks of thick 30-foot logs stacked in pyramids waiting their turn of the saw.
Spring is here. The hills are smudged with Forsythia yellow and purple flowered trees. We passed through Humboldt County. Famed for its Sasquatch and the finest Marijuana raised in California. Hippie counter-culturalists escaped the high price of living in the Bay Area and became horticulturalists in Humboldt. Every October they have a harvest festival where growers vie for titles like 'most potent bud' and 'highest yield.' California law now allows each 'hippy-billy' resident to grow a maximum of 99 plants. Sale of the product to medical dispensaries is a major source of income to the residents.
At the coast we hit scenic 101 and turned
Northward along the beaches. Booming, Aussie class surf plowed into immoveable house sized boulders just off shore. Mist filled the air and we often had to slow down when fog banks reduced visibility to less than 100 feet. The trees along the roadway grew thicker and taller and the forests became 'Lord of the Rings' dark with lichen covered branches forming heavy arcades under which we drove. The air is saturated with moisture generated by waves and wind and the incessant drizzle of rain and everything is soft focused in shades of green.
We spent the night in Crescent City. At breakfast the next morning, Sara, our waitress directed us to 'Stout Grove' in Redwood National Park. There is no formal entry at the park. Not even a sign but you know you are there immediately. We navigate around puddles and dips on the hard pack dirt road. All alone. Broad, striated trees soar straight up into the mist like Chartres' pilasters. A living, breathing cathedral. Look straight up and watch tiny, glistening droplets do a slow corkscrew onto your smiling face. We smile so hard it hurts. I never expected the trees to be growing so closely together.
Groups of five or more, their roots intertwined, their upper branch arms gathered around each other like men sharing a secret. Ferns and wild flowers cover the steep slopes under the trees. Tiny birds flit amongst the undergrowth, checking us out. And still there are no other humans here. What a gift.
The earth sponges under our feet like a feather bed. We drive and stop and drive and stop staring at one wonder after another. The mist is thick and all sound is dulled like it is after a heavy snowfall. Just the tiny plops of droplets falling on sorrel and fern and the shy chirps of those secretive birds trying to make our acquaintance. 6 miles and an hour later we arrive at Stout Grove. There is a sign there and a marked trail loop a half mile long. We walk it slowly. Redwoods 16 feet in diameter. We step over shattered giants that fell to the ground when their colossal weight overcame their shallow roots. They break apart like roses that were dipped in liquid nitrogen. So mystifying.
Beautiful yellow flowers called Skunk Cabbage bloom in standing water and everywhere else you see these beautiful,
snow-white, 3 petaled flowers. As wonderful as Zion was this is strangely better. I think because it is, all of it; Alive.
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