“In the Jedediah Smith woods you can hear the trees sing,” my sister explains as she describes a visit to the old-growth redwood preserve. We are sitting in the sand on the beach near a site we booked for a weekend of RV camping. As I feel my exposed skin searing under the intense UV rays of Southern California I sigh imagining the smell of fresh rain on soft mud under a thick forest canopy. “Let’s go,” I respond, meaning some day in the vague future. “Do you want to?” my sister asks with a look on her face that tells me she genuinely means right now. I laugh and then think, could we?
Just like that we pack up camp, batten down the RV hatches, and take off on a spontaneous fourteen hour drive north. Choosing a coastal route we drive through the night. As the new dawn breaks over northern California we are assailed with astonishing ocean views and a morning mist that clings to the pine covered mountains.
We nab a few winks at a rest stop, enjoy a cup of coffee by a graceful brook, and watch storm clouds conspire to make the day’s hike a damp one. After a few more hours of driving through a gentle rain we arrive at the preserve. Almost as if on cue the rain breaks, the clouds part, and the sun cascades through the colossal trees. It was abundantly clear that this was to be no ordinary day.
Upon exiting our vehicle the massive trees immediately command attention. Craning my gaze skyward the tops of these ancient beings are not even perceivable. Standing as steadfast as they have for 2,000 years their presence is as humbling as it is inspiring. It doesn’t take long for this hike to completely take my breath away. A mere 0.8 miles down Mill Creek Trail the forest divides where a pristine river cuts through having toppled several giant redwoods at its banks by shear relentless persistence. A few miles further down the trail we pause and notice something strange; absolutely no sound. Not the distant sound of water, not a bird, nor a breeze. Complete silence. We bask in the rarity of such peace before I comment that the trees aren’t singing today but they are surely speaking with their silence.
After a magical day in the forest I left the redwoods feeling my own sense of perseverance not only renewed but emboldened. With my life at a crossroads requiring more tenacity than I felt I could muster my wooded sojourn gave me exactly what I needed to buckle down and cowboy up. It was another great reminder of the importance of unplugging from the insatiable demands of life and seeking peace to restore the soul.The English novelist John Fowles put it best when he wrote, “in some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move though them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move though me.”
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