Sunday, November 25, 2012
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
There seems to be some sort of change occurring within my psyche that I'm a little worried about. I have always felt very comfortable in the wilderness, perhaps more so than any city or urban area. I've always felt a sense of comfort and confidence with this realization. For some reason, anxiety and fear seems to be getting the best of me lately. I'm not sure if it's because of problems occurring to many folks around me at the moment, work stress, Continental Divide prep stress. For whatever reason, it seems to be growing exponentially. It was with a sense of anxiety, dread, fear, and excitement that I drove up to Humboldt Redwoods State Park on Friday night.
While walking through the dark forest, my headlamp illuminated many psychedelic mushrooms. "What a forest!" I couldn't help thinking over and over again as I made my way to camp. I arrived at my usual spot about 10 minutes later. What a difference a couple months make! The ground was completely saturated, the creek was rushing at a quick pace now, noisy, and full. I marveled at a misty rainbow circling the moon, just above the black, towering redwoods. Waves of anxiety flooded over me every few minutes. It was breathtakingly beautiful and majestic, I thanked God for allowing me to behold part of His creation. I felt humbled.
After I set up camp, I walked down to the creek. I still couldn't shake the feeling of dread. Of course, thoughts of redwoods falling onto my camp entered my mind again. I tried my best to fight off those negative thoughts. The fog was becoming more dense now. Everything was glowing and sparkling, reflecting the moonbeams. While I continued to marvel at the moon and the redwood canopies, I heard a deafening splash a few feet in front of me. I nearly shit myself. I pointed my headlamp into the creek and saw two ENORMOUS salmon fighting the current. "WOW!!!" was all I could muster. One of the fish must have been at least 2 to three feet long. I couldn't believe such massive sea creatures where swimming up a creek so shallow.
It appeared the fish could not see me standing on the riverbank in the dark. They seemed curious about the light from my headlamp shining into the water. They swam right up to the bank, showcasing their incredible size and colorful scales. I could imagine the angst it must require for these fish to battle the currents the way they were, in the dead of the night. The salmon turning red as it becomes crazed with the notion of reproduction. The face of the fish becoming hooked, gnarled, and gruesome. Thrashing wildly about in the currents just before giving up its life. Again, I felt humbled. It was almost too much. I couldn't help feeling like an intruder, that I was invading the privacy off this ancient forest. These were powerful natural forces that deserved the utmost respect. I walked back to my shelter and attempted to calm my nerves yet again.
Thankfully, I brought a book. This seemed to help tremendously. It was still too early to go to sleep, and I was not hungry for dinner. I chose to sit under my tarp and read. Quickly, my mind and my senses began to calm down, and not long after, I became drowsy. As I bedded down for the night, I noticed that it was quite cold out. My sleeping bag was not enough to keep me warm, so I threw all my extra clothes into it for extra insulation. Again, it took a while to fall asleep. I was grateful for the noise of the creek and the light of the moon. I anxiously awaited the oncoming dreams. Every now and then, I was jolted awake by the sound of the salmon. At times, the thrashing from the fish was like a Sasquatch stomping through the creek. Eventually, I fell asleep and before I knew it, morning had arrived.
I took my time packing up in the morning. I was looking forward to continue my search for big trees, but there also seemed to be so much to observe and enjoy otherwise. I was in no rush. By the time I finally reached my destination, it was well past 10:00. I had to retrain my eyes to look for the giants of the forest.
I am looking forward to my next trip to this particular section. Sometimes, some spots feel like "hot zones," with many giants living in one area. It felt like I was in the middle of one when I decided to turn around and head back to my car. It felt like it was getting late. I was already pretty exhausted, and didn't want to have to drive all the way home in the dark.
When I arrived at my car, it was only 2:45! I thought for sure it was probably like 5:00 or something. It gave me plenty of time to eat an early dinner, and take a nap before hitting the road.
Before heading home, I had to give thanks in my mind to all of those who have worked and donated time and resources to save these forests. It's true, there is very little old growth redwood remaining. It's also true, that there is just enough to allow for an incredible, unforgettable experience. Is there enough for an overall, healthy ecosystem? I don't really know. Yesterday's experience was enough for me to feel completely lost in space and time however. I will also say that this time of year is the absolute best for an authentic redwood experience.