We drove and drove and drove some more, as I came to the conclusion that parts of Northern California looked a lot like home. Too much. Green, grey, damp. Where was the Cali sunshine?
We found our camp at the Redwoods KOA, and dropped off Lavern, and went exploring. Our Ashland German neighbor had been all buzzy about this trail we had to go on, that was kinda a hidden secret. Secret, I found out, because yes, it is off the beaten path, and secret, because it is way on the outskirts of Jedediah State Park, with the entrance to it being in what looks to be a dead end street of a residential neighborhood in the middle of nowhere.
Go through the white gate, he had told us, and make sure to get out of the car, and go on the trails.
So, we went through the rusted white gate with not a soul in sight, thinking we were breaking the law a bit, but we weren't. The paved road gave way to a one lane dirt road which led us through fog, and ancient giants.
As promised, it was an amazing drive. A humbling drive.
The Redwoods are magnificent, and lovely. They make you want to tiptoe, and whisper, because they listen. They really do.
We got out of the car, and did some hiking. I am pretty sure our German neighbor was smiling somewhere.
Does the scenery look familiar? The lady at the KOA desk told me that this is where they filmed parts of Jurassic Park, and Return of the Jedi. "No way!" I exclaimed heading straight for the DVD selection of rentals at the end of the counter. "Do you have Return of the Jedi?", I ask, Grace would be tickled to see it. "No..." she replies, "We should probably get it though. That would be a good one to have here, I think." I look at her and nod my head. : / !
We walk, and there is still no one around. Secret, secret. One thing about the Redwoods, there are no birds, either. It was eerily quiet, so quiet, we felt uncomfortable, as if we were being watched, so we turned back sooner than later, and hiked clapping our hands because I forgot to bring my bear spray, because, you know, clapping your hands is just as effective if you are being hunted by a Cougar, right?
Back at camp, I decide to do laundry.
Having never done laundry on the road before, I go buy $6 worth of detergent at the KOA store, enough for two loads, and a gut load of quarters, and start my very expensive endeavor.
I get to a open washer, and it takes me a moment to read the how to's when I get confused and another woman comes to help me. I can tell she is thinking that I have never done laundry before by her sideways glance. I get it started, give myself a gold star, and head back to camp to have dinner.
I time it pretty good, I think, but there is a line of ladies waiting for an open washer when I return. Sheepishly, Grace and I hurry and unload as they stare holes into my back. I over hear one of the louder ladies pushing her laundry into the machine that just opened up about how her son got sick all over the car on the way here, talking to no one in particular. Ahhh, yes. I smell it now, that smell of fresh bile, as she shoves more clothes in. I nod and scurry away to the open dryer farthest away.
I look at it. More quarters, more instructions in a language I do not know. Easy button? Anywhere?
This time no one helps. I plug in my quarters and set it to the settings I set my dryer at home, start it, (squee!), and high tail it out of there, noting the time. I come back just as the drum stops spinning, and stick my arm in. Hmmm..they are still damp. So I feed in more quarters. $3 more in quarters, two visits later, and they are still damp, and I have had that dryer occupied for going on an hour and a half. The ladies are not happy. There are more dryers, but, all are in use. I talk Jeremy into coming with me to provide a buffer for the glares on the third visit, and he points out I have the dryer set on low heat. Ya? So? That's how I dry my clothes at home. That way, my clothes don't turn into polly pocket clothes.
He shoves in more quarters, flips it to permanent press, and I swear I hear clapping behind him, but it is silent, and I duck my head as I leave and make Jeremy go pick up the clothes when they are done. I am very surprised they are not on the floor when he returns. Yes. I took a dryer at the KOA for three hours. So, sue me. I may be banned from KOA laundry rooms in the future. There is a high possibility.
We wake the next morning, and the weather is still grey, but better. No rain, and it is a very pleasant 68 degrees out. It is time to go visit the Trees Of Mystery.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox stand tall at the entrance.
"What's a "Bunyan?" Grace asks us when we get to the base of his feet. We shrug and point at him.
It turns out, Paul talks, and picks on people as they arrive and leave. Paul has a very sarcastic dry sense of humor. If anyone plays with Babe's nads that hang down, which they do, he warns them to "Be careful. It's not a pin-ya-ta.", he drawls. We heard that many times.
The Trees of Mystery is such a sweet hike. Gorgeous vibrant hues of green carpet the ground and branches while the trees work their magic, making you feel like you are walking on sacred ground.
Hmmmm....Shouldn't be a problem? I hate to think that there has been a problem, enough to put a sign.
As you walk through the woods, you start to hear music. The music is an old tune, a tune I didn't know, but a lovely tune indeed, as the sound wafted through the air, making magic even more magical. We came to the source, which was coming from the base of the Cathedral Trees, a place where many, many come to get married.
Absolutely breathtaking, sweet, and soul moving as you stand and take in the beauty. At the base of it, a moving poem that sprung tears to my eyes. Sweet, upon sweet.
And so we moved on, as the music slowly drifted into soft background music, and hiked.
We hiked until we came to this. A freaking Gondola.
Admission into the Trees of Mystery also gets you a Gondola ride.
Now, I don't like boats. I don't like heights even more. A Gondola? Do I even try? Grace and Jeremy are all over that, but, dang. D-a-n-g. Do I dare?
My heart races as I watch family after family get whisked up the mountain in a tiny pod that looks like it's only sitting precariously on a very thin wire, and that is all that is between you, and plummeting to a very unpleasant death.
So I get on the freaking Gondola.
I take this last picture of Grace before handing the camera to Jeremy so I can totally flip out, and not hurt my camera.
Why, why, why would I think a Gondola ride would be awesome? Being as tall as those Redwoods is cool, right? It wasn't. Not even a bit. I am sure if I looked anywhere but the floor it probably was, but, focusing on breathing in and out and trying not to pee my pants was taking all of my energy and then some.
And, the conclusion, the finale of the Gondola ride at the top when you get out? This view:
Yup. Not worth the one in a million chance of having that gerbil cage accidently come unhooked and splat on the forest floor only to roll down the tiny mountain like an egg and then rest at the home base of the Gondola ride making people scream and run in horror at the sight of what is left of you. Yes. This is what I thought about on the ride down. Get me down. Now. No, no, no, more Gondolas for me.
Back on safe ground, where we belong, the rest of the hike tells the story of Paul Bunyan in these big, lovely wood carvings.
I love the Trees of Mystery. It has a quirky sense of humor, and I like that in a hike. So sweet.
We reluctantly leave, as there is somewhere I think I need to go. On that trip to nowhere, Jeremy and I briefly drove through the Redwoods. I barely remember that part of the drive, but for some reason, I remember being on the highway and the Redwoods completely towering over us like a dark cave for miles, and I remember seeing chainsaw carver after chainsaw carver after chainsaw carver at the sides of the road. Is my memory correct?
We drive further South to chase down this memory, and I get a sick pit in my stomach. What am I trying to find? Why do I feel that I need to see this stretch of highway again? What if that memory isn't a memory at all, just a dark, confused, hurt, part of my brain?
Fearing it will turn into another Yreka, I stop Jeremy and turn him around. As we speed away, I feel like I did when we left Yreka. Ridiculous. Get me the hell out of here.
As we drive back to camp, we decide to ditch the KOA early, and take an evening drive to the coast and go to our next stop a night early. I am joyful, as I don't have to slink around camp as the girl-who-can't-do-laundry. I am also joyful because I get to go to the Ocean. One of the only places on Earth where I feel my heart click into the right place.
So, we gather Lavern, say, sayonara to the KOA, and head to the beach.
To be continued....