Redwoods National Park, CA
Sunset on the Smith River smiles upon us like old friends reunited (and we are.) The bigness and love dwarf us, just as we stand next to these, massive red giants.
Banana slugs and bridges. Discovery and peace along the river. Climb fallen giants. Spongy red bark crumbles on your palms. Rusty stains on your knees. We are marked (so every willingly) by Redwoods. By their majesty. Their beauty. Their life-sustaining strength.
We hike along the Smith River at Jedediah Smith State Park. Light filters in through the pine needles and leaves. It's magic, a space between real life and a time long past. Ancient majesty. Old, hallowed trunks become rocket ships, welcoming us inside. Deep, dark, musty. Generations of old growth returned to the earth.
Further south we hike to the Valley of the Giants. Permit only. Lock and combination on a gate. It's a secret hike! Here, we find our way through the forest toward the Redwood Creek. Red beasts. Green ferns. Filtered light contrasts against the bright and soft pink Rhodadendrons. Circular fungi and lichen, perfectly designed to complement the linear nature of this place.
At the creek, we relax. Discover and explore. We find "tadpole heaven." The water rushes and flows into us. Then, as we're leaving, we spot something out there. What is that? RIVER OTTERS! We stumble to the shore and four otters chase each other downstream. The dive and eat and we follow. Stopping at a small cove, the otters are totally not bothered by our presence. They put on a show. Slipping and sliding. Splashing and swishing. They continue their romp, feeding on underwater plants. We are overjoyed. My daughter says, "Mommy, I have joys of tears. Isn't that what you have when you cry from happiness?" It is truly one of those moments that stand still. Precious gifts of life. These gentle, sleek creatures are completely at one with the river, and we are entranced by their joy and beauty.
THE TREES. Look up into the heavens. How could anything be THAT big? So wise. So wonderful. The Valley of the Giants. Some the oldest and biggest trees in the world. The air is different here. Still. Quiet. Almost prehistoric. The trunks are so...wide, we stretch, reach, try to hug them, but realize it will take a whole lot more arms.
Upon leaving our giant friends, we notice the color against the deep green of the forest. Fox glove. Tiger lily. Burst of color seem to give us a glimpse of hope. Hope that this sacred place is protected. Forever.
We pass Elk Meadow on our way out. Big, graceful beasts. Deepens the richness of this place. A gentle, patient group.
To celebrate our last night here, we walk down the sand at sunset and dig a fire pit. The golden glow and purple haze complete us. Seep into every cell. They paint us with hope and love, leaving us with a palette so sacred, I can't even describe the colors through words. These gifts I don't take for granted. Like ancient friendships and love everlasting.
We head down to Arcata. Enchanting town. Overcast outside, yet sunshine inside. Lunch with Lori, (yummy soup, sandwich, and chocolate) and trek around the wetlands. We pass through Big Foot's forest, miles and miles of Redwood coast. Absolutely breathtaking. So energizing that we make it the full 13 hours home, arriving at 2 am.
Worth it. Worth every gallon of gas. Every droopy eyelid. Every bathroom stop.
Marked by the Redwoods.