Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans...
It's funny how much can change in a few years. I've been going through my archives to try and put some organization and structure around terabytes of images I have collected since mid-2010. Part of that effort is to put some words next to these images, to tell the pieces of the story that aren't recorded in pixels.
We moved to California in July of that year and spent a week before we started working exploring points north. In memory and in reality this was a charmed time: filled with the promise of a new start in California, unburdened by the responsibilities of work or the pressures of a changing professional landscape that eventually pushed us toward a career change. Driving north along the Avenue of the Giants where it winds without shoulder between coastal sequoias, to quote Dylan Thomas, we rode the daft and happy hills bareback.
Two weeks after the moving truck had departed, we slid over the Golden Gate northbound through Marin and then Sonoma and then Mendocino counties until we arrived at Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. Along the way we navigated the lost coast stopping and staring in awe at the giant redwood trees.
What can one add by writing a few words about the California redwoods that Muir or others haven't added already? What can I tell you that you can't already guess about the effect these giants have on the inner child that grew up on the great, flat expanses of the Midwest?
They were then and remain to me now the promise of the future and the lure of western lands made fibrous, ruddy flesh. Fragrant, seemingly-immortal and utterly silent they remain, basking even now in the California sun.
I've written previously about how I think there are at least two predominant modes of photographic consumption: the first being the instantaneous "this is what I'm doing" and the second being the "this is who we were." During the last few years advances in technology have driven the first of these to new heights. It is easier and faster and cheaper than ever to take and edit and share innumerable photographs. Despite these changes, however, it is my belief that the limitations on producing powerful imagery remain at the intersection of a photographer's capabilities and the import of what he or she documents. These photographs wouldn't be as precious to me if they weren't as crisp or if they didn't encapsulate so nicely our excitement at beginning a new chapter in our lives.
If I didn't take and instantly share some photographs with my iPhone of this first of our northbound adventures then I surely did in subsequent trips. But whatever became of those photographs is anyone's guess. The ones that survived are the ones you see here, made carefully and methodically for posterity and reminding me through the intervening years of stress and joy and change of who we once were and who we still are today.
"They were then and remain to me now the promise of the future and the lure of western lands made fibrous, ruddy flesh."
I remember being tired...
The ride was a long one and we had made plans to set up camp that night at a spot inside the park. I'll admit now to being reticent to tackling a more cumbersome route when my wife first suggested the detour through the Avenue of the Giants. Whatever hesitation or frustration might have existed melted at the sight of these trees and the unceremonious way the more spectacular groves were marked with a simple plaque and a dusty patch of earth where you were expected to park, get out and walk among giants. I had learned by this point that my navigator was an adept at finding new and interesting spots via a small detour.
We found a felled tree and I climbed aboard, able to stand fully extended in the cavity formed by a fire scar or some other calamity scaled to the enormity of these pines. We stopped a bit later where a particularly rich patch of clover covered the forest floor like knotted carpet, I remember there was a road sign that reported the distance to San Francisco and one or two cars riding the ribbon of asphalt south. We drove on, through dappled sunlight and the late afternoon until we had to regain the main road to make camp.
If memory is indeed a golden sieve, then perhaps I was exhausted despite the excitement, but rather than fatigue I remember leaving the Avenue of the Giants filled with elation and wonder. I didn't know we were about to find an idyllic and utterly abandoned beach filled with driftwood and elk and fog. Nor did I anticipate the spectacular shape our hikes through the coastal redwood forests would take. And even if I did, the specifics, the 20/20 vision of hindsight has wiped whatever expectations I had from my mind. Instead I'm left with this collection of photographs that follow, breadcrumbs that trace a path I hope to re-blaze with Val, Oliver and whoever might follow in the years to come.