Last Night in California

After a very early morning visit to the Starbucks near the home I'd been staying in, I beat a hasty, giddy, relieved retreat toward the Redwoods. My latest house sit was behind me and I was looking at 4 days on the road, in a different place every night. When I think back to the early days of this trip and my deep need for at least 2 consecutive nights in a place, I can laugh, realizing how much more flexible I am, how settled into the flow of this traveling life. Two weeks in one place was rough.

I drove through San Francisco and up past Petaluma, remembering the velvety hills around Point Reyes. I chose back roads as much as possible, aiming to reach Occidental and Hinterland by the time they opened their doors. I climbed past canyons, switchbacking through view after view of the valley and finally, into enormous stands of Redwoods.

I cooled my heels in Occidental, eating popcorn and cookies for breakfast, popping into Hinterland when they opened for a shirt and some tree beats for my car. I have followed Hinterland on Instagram for a couple of years; their adventurous, take-no-prisoners spirit really spoke to me when this trip was still just a tickle in the back of my mind.

My next stop was Fort Bragg and Glass Beach. There's a long, winding walk along the clifftop that was pretty fogged in. The signs and fences asking people to stay off of the crumbling cliffs didn't seem to deter anyone from photo ops near the edge. Squirrels foraged for lunch among the wild poppies with little concern about people as ravens and gulls called overhead.

Eventually, I wandered over to the famous glass beach, the former site of a city dump, and now a major tourist attraction. I met a woman who said that a decade ago the place was piled high with sea glass, but that it's been depleted with so many visitors and because it's so easy to access. I collected a few small pieces of green and clear glass, only realizing miles and days away that the glass is not supposed to be taken off the beach. Whoops.

By early afternoon I was back on the road, pushing hard to get to Arcata before sundown. Still, I followed the Avenue of the Giants all the way, fighting Google's insistence that we get back to 101 and make up some time.

It's difficult to describe the Redwoods. Yes, they're enormous, but it's deeper than that. When you pull over and stand next to them (and sometimes inside them), you can feel them pulling at you. They're heavy and tall, serious trees with an aura of peace and strength. I struggle to find ways to illustrate how small I feel, and yet, how completely welcome. They are quiet, but incredibly alive. They smell like the trees should smell - of earth and sky, and they touch both.

After stopping many times to listen to the trees and watch the river tumble over rocks, I gave in to Google and made tracks to Arcata, where I settled into my last night in California.