There’s a John Denver song with the opening line, “You fill up my senses like a night in the forest.” This, of course, always brings to my mind the image of a medieval English knight in the usual medieval nearly-two-dimensional perspective, on a horse, surrounded by trees and darkness. Perhaps one of King Arthur’s knights, searching for the questing beast. But errant nights aside (ha ha), the point of the lyric is right on, there is something special about spending the night in the forest.
Bowen and I spent the night at the Albee Creek Loop campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park on our way down to my cousin Michael’s wedding in Rohnert Park. Before dinner, we took a great little 2.5-mile hike to see Tall Tree (very tall, just over 359 feet as of 1951), Giant Tree (even bigger, and declared the National Champion Coastal Sequoia Sempirvirens in 1991, not sure what that means), and Flatiron Tree (the parts we saw were not all that flat). We were also lucky enough to see an owl in a tree pretty close to us.
The next day we headed down to the Bay Area on Highways 101 and 1. The road took us winding through the mountains to the winding road along the coast. We stopped for a wonderful lunch with my former boss, Marian, and her husband Ken. Their house in Gualala is quite literally in the most beautiful location of any home I have ever been in, perched right on the edge of the water with birds hunting just feet out the window.
Once in Rohnert Park, we spent some great time with my family, including a wonderful afternoon tasting wine at Matanzas Creek Winery. We happened to meet the winemaker while we were there, and had the chance to talk with her about her vision for the wine and about wine in her native Chile, including some recommendations for places Bowen and I should visit.
The wedding was a beautiful event at the new performing arts center at Sonoma State University. We had a great time with my family, dancing the night away.
The next day, we didn’t have a plan for how to spend the night – our first truly unknown night, likely the first of many once we start traveling in earnest. We couldn’t find any campsites online, but headed to the coast with the knowledge that if we didn’t find anything, we’d come back inland to a cheap hotel.
Despite the signs out at the road and the sign at the entrance to the campground saying the campground was full, we found a campsite at the first place we looked, Doran Beach Regional Park overlooking Bodega Bay. That night, after a few hours on the beach, we built a fire and made a delicious dinner with seafood we bought at a local seafood market.
We spent a few hours the next day hiking in Point Reyes. In addition to a lovely picnic, we got to enjoy the smell of the bay laurel and the taste of a few wild (native) blackberries. Then we headed to Petaluma for a lovely day and a half of cooking, eating, drinking, hiking, and generally having a great time with Tawny, a friend from college (including a lovely Skype catch-up with our friend Joanna, who lives in Bangladesh.)
The next day we headed to Truckee (just north of Lake Tahoe), where we spent the next three nights with our friends Jackie, Nick and Hayden and without Internet or noticeable cell phone service. We soaked up the smells of the Sierra, spent an afternoon at Lake Tahoe, and took a lovely hike along Trout Creek.
We finished up this trip in Palo Alto with a celebration of our friend Alec’s recent wedding.
We haven’t had a chance to spend this much time in a forest in quite a while. I mean, of course, a real forest, not the places that pass for such in thing in Southern California. And it had literally been years since I spent a night in such a wonderful place as the redwoods. One of my great excitements about the next few months is all the time we will get to spend in forests, having our senses filled.