I entered California. Finally, finally, finally.
The James Irvine Trail at the Prairie Creek Redwoods heads straight through the forest to the beach. Six miles there, through Fern Canyon to the coast, and six miles back.
This time, my bear keychain only seemed to present an annoyance in the fragile and heavy silence of the Redwood Forest. The photographers poised with their expensive cameras glared at me, another old man sighing in exasperation as he passed me.
The trail wound down through the gullies of ferns, the dirt path almost bouncy, soft packed under my feet. This place is one of those hallmarks of America, in those cheesy kids’ songs. The Redwoods were exactly as I had heard them described.
Tall, obviously, too tall for my camera to even begin to capture the height. The dark maroon bark stood out against the shining, leafy green of the forest floor. After miles of quiet birds chirping (despite my loud jingling), a skinny canyon began to cut deep into the ground. A bridge had been constructed over the trickling stream far below. Ferns, vines, and exposed roots cascaded down the sides, an array of all different kinds of leaves guarding the way down. It was shady down there, cool and gently breezy.
The faint smell of the ocean yet again told me I was getting close to my turn-around. I made it out onto the beach, the redwoods suddenly leaving my sides.
As far as the eye could see, the all-encompassing fog replaced the redwoods. The ocean was only just visible, the waves emerging from the mist to crash shortly on the shore.
I walked out to a strange totem someone had built from crab claws, and used it to remember the way back to my trail.
I turned south along the beach and counted out 300 paces into the dense fog, early enough (or maybe close enough to the waves) that my footprints were the first to mark the smooth sand. I disappeared into the quiet fog, no one else temporarily in existence, only the rocks and sand and crashing momentum. The redwood forest swelled up further inland, a wall of green bravely cutting through the white sheet, but still perpetually and mysteriously concealed. A shifting mask that never quite cleared.
On my way back, I entered the best part of Fern Canyon. Crowded, as always, close to the parking area, but a very unique place worth a look.
A shallow, wide creek runs through the canyon, both of its steep walls entirely covered by blankets of ferns. Two walls of green, the dim and peaceful light filtering through the canopy far above.
Droplets of small waterfalls trickled down moss-covered rock faces. Careful crossings of the stream are required in places, but are no obstacle. A fun place for kids to run through, as evidenced by their screeching numbers there.
I shortly returned to the James Irvine trail, the Fern Canyon Loop very brief. Not a varied or terribly scenic hike except for the canyon, but a lovely walk through the demure redwoods all the same.
The color of the noon sun streaming down to warm the forest floor ferns is a color that I will never be able to capture on camera or in any kind of art, and will always remain my favorite color.