When asking for advice for our two month-long trip, which is taking us across the northern tier of the United States, a friend advised us to go to see the Redwood National Forest in northern California. He wrote, “The Redwood National Park is where God goes to view his wonders.” I don’t think anyone could have said it better. The forests were magnificent!
We had already spent weeks in cold wind and snow, and then had moved on to dry desert-like areas with canyons and hoodoos. Though it was early May we hadn’t seen even a single flower blooming or a bud opening on a tree; our lips were chapped and our skin dry.
Then we arrived at the Redwoods in northern California the soil was moist, the pine scent permeated the air and trees towered 250 feet above us. As we walked the trails the sun danced in patterns on the forest floor and tree trunks as the soft breeze passed through the tree limbs. I took pictures of wild flowers: tall purple lupines swayed and beneath them were white milkmaids, tiny pink sorrel blossoms and yellow buttercups. I now believe heaven is made up of a redwood forest.
We decided to stay at the nearby Elk Country Campground in Trinidad California, right below the Redwoods. The grass was tall and green, the leaves were out on the trees and there were dandelions glimmering like golden coins across the meadow. Then we saw approximately 50 elk grazing there and they were majestic.
I decided to peruse the 20-item campground instruction sheet warning us about the heard of elk that lives in the campground. It began with, “Don’t try to touch the elk and don’t approach the elk.” OK, makes sense. “Don’t look at them because they don’t like it.” Ok, I can do that I thought. Eventually, they moved between us and the campground store, lied down and just napped for hours. We stayed near our RV admiring them and I look photos from afar.
I had to do the laundry, so I waited until the next day when there were no elk in sight and crossed the lawn to the laundry building. The elk warning sheet should have stated, watch where you step! After an hour or so I packed up the clean clothes, opened the door and there was an elk inches from my nose. This massive beast turned and stared right at me with the most beautiful big eyes. I almost had a heart attack and slammed the door. I was an elk hostage for another hour as he relaxed and munched weeds in front of my only exit.
Next we decided to take a drive along the nearby coast to put our feet in the Pacific Ocean. Years ago, in southern California we visited a rocky shore lined with gorgeous starfish of orange and purple and now I yearned for similar tranquility. We finally stopped and walked out to the beach through dune paths that led to the water’s edge. On the way I spotted and photographed six different wildflowers that I have yet to identify.
There were large signs posted along the beach that stated that there were riptides, sneaker waves, that children were not to wade in the water and ended with, “Do Not Attempt to Rescue Humans or Dogs!” Bravely I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans and waited for a tiny wave to wash over my feet. It crept up slowly inch by inch toward my toes and then suddenly I came face to face with the dreaded sneaker wave that instantly grew to two feet tall. Ok, enough of this rocky strip void of shells or soft sand, so we went back to the elk.
What kind of a beach from hell was that? I suddenly feared the northwest, that by the way has roads along cliffs with no shoulders or guardrails, was trying to kill us. We had stopped in an antique shop with a sign above a door leading to a vintage book room that stated, “If you don’t like snakes, don’t go in.” I did but was afraid to take a book off the shelf for fear a rattlesnake was behind it.
All in all, the trip has been wonderful. We have tried to go off the beaten path to experience authentic northwestern life. That has exposed us to countless wonders and natural beauty. It has also led us to encounter so many kind and interesting people. The inhabitants in the northwest seem to live a slower life and have a more gentle spirit. Strangers greet you with a kindness that you just don’t seem to find in Jersey. I kind of miss our edginess.
Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to email@example.com.