Reaching the Pacific

And I’ve made it to California.

Last night we camped at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Almost everywhere we stop Dad says, “You’ve been here before.” And while I can’t remember the time, the place is familiar on a cellular level. The giant redwoods make me feel miniscule and historically unimportant and safe, like if they can withstand so much time, so can I. I grew up in the redwoods; they were part of my consciousness as I developed a sense of it. It’s been a decade since they’ve been part of my day-to-day existence, and once again among them I revert to my childhood self. Makes me want to go build forts, pretend to live in that burned out center of the biggest tree I can find.

Think My Side of the Mountain. That was me in my head. When it’s dicey in the city, I’m always looking for hollowed-out trees.

We pull into the campground and the camp hosts are two giant elk bucks, one grazing and one sitting, making calm eye contact with me. Even in a rig like ours he is unfazed. Guess he also has a better grasp of time and transcendence than I do. That or campers feed them and I’m just a meal ticket in a giant white truck.

As we maneuver into our camp site, they lazily move out of the way, but barely. The greenest grass is right here and if we want this site, well, that’s our problem. We fight for it because the pavement is most level, and we need the refrigerator to work. It’s all relative.

Waking up this morning, the world is mist and we see our first glimpse of sun. It’s otherworldly, and indeed, I am in another world.

We drive on, and soon the Pacific (glory!) fills the windshield. The sun is blinding after days in the trees and rain. It makes my eyes water, everything sparkle, and the ocean seem even more blue than I remember. Time for a dip into the camper to make squirt sandwiches (that’s when you squirt the condiments directly from the tube) and we are back on the road—mouths full, eyes full, hearts full. Like with redwoods, I have direct strings tied from my heart to this giant body of water, holding me in place. Soon I will be looking at it from the east, while my whole life I’ve used it to subconsciously know which way was west. Strange.

We get to where we’re going, which isn’t where we set out for. That’s the nature of a wander, I guess. I take some alone time on the north shore of Lake Mendocino, and pull out my laptop on a picnic table under a giant oak tree. THUNK. Acorn bombs. I type faster. THUNK! This could potentially be worse than sitting under a pigeon-strung telephone wire. THUNK. Ok, down jacket-armor back on, laptop lid bent towards me to fend off potential ricochets. Adapting. Refusing to move. I need to be in one place for a while.

I make my first call back to Seattle. Eli has a way of getting right to the heart of what I’m thinking, and I want to process out loud, connect back to something familiar. It’s good to hear his voice. We talk about my trip, and the elk, and the books we are reading. I try to ignore how far my voice is being hurtled through space to get to him. It’s dark by now in Seattle and only just dusk here.

As the sun dips further behind the mountains, I gather myself to pack up and head up to our campsite. We are tucked in the oaks and manzanita and I know if I don’t start the climb up the hill now, I’ll have to pick my way up the campground road until I see the white blur of the camper in the darkness. Hopefully Dad has beat me back and left a light on.

When camping, the fall of the sun usually means dinner, a date with a good book, and a few more hours of sleep than I normally get. Looking forward to it. On to Oakland tomorrow.

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