Traveling north on California 101 yesterday, we entered the Eel River drainage, and as we fell deeper into the folds of the coastal mountains, came to Humboldt Redwood State Park. The “old road”, here before the 101 highway was built, has been maintained and renamed “Avenue of the Giants”. This road skirts through the South/North drainage of the park. It pulls you off the high-speed, and as it meanders from one Redwood Grove to the next, it invites you to slow down and begin to pace your life more in time with the trees.
I’ve learned over the years not to skip the visitor center. That certainly applies when visiting this park. The displayed were well done, informative; and included a plaque on the wall commemorating the high water mark of the 1964 flood during spring run-off of the Eel river. The Eel is a wild meaning untamed, unmanaged by humans, river. It matches perfectly with the old growth forest, here is true coastal redwoods living as they always have. In addition to the displays, the main reason to stop at the visitor center is to talk to the Ranger and Volunteers. Within a few minutes, they pulled out private photos showing where to turn off the main roads and find the heart of the old growth forest.
Following their directions, we headed up Bull Creek, pulled off at turn out, and walked out into the forest. It was a cold winter day, 32, and clear. The Sun only barely skirts the upper ridges, but was present enough to navigate by. Still, I wouldn’t venture very far into this forest without a compass. With the high ridges and occasional cloud cover, I’d not trust a GPS. Unless you are on a well beaten path or road, the density of the forest can leave you without landmark very quickly.
I hiked about 1/2 a mile into old growth, part of the time following the Bull Creek hiking trail, the rest cross-country. 5 steps off the path and it disappears from view, leaving you completely on your own; a great feeling. And the age, grandeur, and quietness of the trees, reminders you of just how tiny and insignificant your passing amount them is. Unlike the Desert Southwest, where marks from a local culture may survive on the canyon wall for thousands of years, there’s no sign of human impact in this forest. I’m sure it’s there – logging, mining, generations upon generations of Indian culture as well, yet when you stand quietly in an unnamed grove of these giants, nothing appears.
There’s a sense of healing here, this is how forgiveness works; whatever happened is gone, forgotten, and the forest breathes another day. And a deep breath, filled with the scents of the redwood forest, fill you with life.
A beautiful park, definitely worth pulling off the highway and partaking of the renewal it provides.