Sequoias, I’ve heard, are bigger.
They almost dare you to photograph them in some unique way, as if knowing that, at least at first, you can’t help but shoot the standard-issue, clichéd image of immense stands of imposing forest. Walking among them I didn’t feel small so much as unimportant.
That’s something of a cliché as well, but it fits.
We left the Elk River center, drove up 101 a short way, passing another beach, through mist and gray that separated where we were from anywhere else we might go.
We stopped at the shore, walked between burms of sand, spent time in the non-place of fog and suggestion. Donna took this image of me walking toward a horizon invisible and remade constantly. Isolated as it was, the world shifted and altered.
Time to go inland, then. Time to find the next stretch of imagination-rich landscape for our memories to feast on. Time to move further into segments of separated repositories of quiet beauty.
People drove by as we pulled off the road, racing from nowhere to elsewhere, not stopping (how could they not stop? Look at what’s here!), leaving us—and a few others who knew the moment—to bask in the details left lying around by happenstance and million-year evolutionary exuberance. Sure, there was a road through it, but that was its own delight.
We didn’t hurry, but neither did we linger too long. We had a very specific goal on this trip, something left over from the last visit to these parts. Circumstances had forced us then to choose between the redwoods and Crater Lake. In 2001, we chose Crater Lake. Now we have come back to see the Other.
We drove into the preserve on an ascending road that wrapped around the base of a rise. Here, fog did not intrude. Late morning, the sun speared through the canopy, picking out details in such fractal abundance the whole was all you could really see clearly. There was parking lot at the side of a footbridge over the road leading to the trail.
In stillness that seemed only recently broken by music, the echoes of ancient rhythms twined around the enormous fingers stretched toward light and air, we walked and stopped and walked again and pointed things out to each other and walked and gaped.
The trail was about a mile. There were bugs, of course, little stinging pests, but for the most part it was one of the easiest trails I’ve ever walked. Every turn brought something extraordinary.
We left this preserve and took a scenic byway through more of the magnificence.
As we drove between curtain walls of the ancient forest, we passed a family stretching out around the base of one of the bigger trees, one of their number stepping back into the road to take the picture. Donna pulled over, suggesting I ask if they wanted someone else to take it so they could all be in it together. I sprinted back and just as they were breaking up to return to their cars, I called out and offered. They regrouped happily, hand in hand, against the tree and I shot pictures with two of their cameras. (I didn’t know them, I thought it would be impertinent to take a picture for myself.)
One of them hurried to her car, telling me to wait. She handed me a pile of silver-foiled Hershey kisses. “That’s where we’re from,” she said, grinning.
“Yep. Been a long drive, but boy, was it worth it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Standing amid these epic trees, you start to feel like a giant yourself, for the simple reason that you can see them for the marvelous things they are. For a short while they seem to lend you a bit of their grandeur.