“Time was a film run backward. Suns fled and ten million moons fled after them.” ~Ray Bradbury
Greetings from Crescent City, California.
This is a nice little town at the northern edge of the Redwood National Forest. The sea air is crisp and the local food is good but we have most definitely crossed out of Oregon and into California. From our hotel room, we can see a pretty remarkable lighthouse accessible only at low tide.
The sea near shore is full of large rocks and it is easy to mistake the rocks a little further out for whales when the ocean waves splash over them. Most of them are not whales however – they are rocks. When we make this mistake, we feel like those tourists in Yellowstone who pull over for every damn bison thinking it’s a black bear. Super excited, then irritated with ourselves for being fooled again.
When we woke up this morning the air was heavy with coastal mist. The thickness of the fog coupled with the sounds of the sea ushered in thoughts of the primordial shore. I imagined a warm swamp like sea beyond the mist teaming with life waiting to be hatched upon the land. Then we went downstairs for waffles.
After breakfast we headed out for the first of our two journeys today. Today’s stops, coupled with a recent adventure, only served to reinforce my early morning imaging of the Devonian era coastline and mysterious creatures lurking in the trees and seas.
Yesterday Cody and I stopped at the Prehistoric Gardens just off the 101 in southern Oregon. We expected cheesy. I think though, that we were not prepared for the stunning beauty of the location and the creative art of the proprietor. In the mid 1950’s this accountant turned artist had an idea that he wanted to move to Oregon and open a Dinosaur park. We are in no position to judge this man.
E.V. Nelson, the artist’s with dino dreams, spent the next 30 years researching and crafting life size dinosaur models. As if all of this was not enough, he placed this park in a stunning section of Oregon rainforest. He was as careful with the horticulture as he was with the scale of his beasties.
As I have said, the dinosaurs are definitely a product of the 1950’s. However, as we walked through the grounds and saw the giant ferns and deep forests the whole place became a prehistoric playground. At one point a small white butterfly spent some time in the ferns before us. Cody and I took in the tiny delicate wings among the massive green plants. It was breath taking.
We were both reminded of the Ray Bradbury story “A Sound of Thunder” where time traveling tourists were warned not to stray from the path less they affect the future of humanity. The ramifications of the loss of a single butterfly could have unfathomable and dire consequences on the future/ present. As silly as it may seem, the whole walk through the touristy dinosaur park was really moving. A beautiful contemplative walk that just happened to include life size dinosaur sculptures.
This morning’s weather phenomena kept us rooted in the feelings of yesterday and the communing with an ancient earth. We went first to an aquarium here in Crescent City. It is a small place with the usual “poke stuff tank” augmented by locally trapped cod and crab. This particular establishment however had harbor seals, rays and sharks as well. The seals were amazing, they are so expressive. The rays moved through the water like poetry. Their wings as delicate as any butterfly.
The real adventure of this stop however was the opportunity to pet a small leopard shark. Sharks are absolutely fascinating. They are nearly the perfect predator. Whale sharks can live to be 100 years old or more. Many shark species have remained largely unchanged for millions of years. Carefully feeling the smooth, then slightly bristly skin on the back of that shark today felt, in that moment, like touching a dinosaur. The majesty of the fish and the history of the ocean coming together in a few moments right in my hand.
Experiencing this shark, this living being with such specific ties to a land before time was nearly indescribable. As we left the aquarium I simply could not imagine a clearer connection with ancient seas. I lost myself a little in the car along the highway. As we entered the giant redwood forest still mired in mist, I was still imagining that I might be one of Bradbury’s time travelers, trying with all my might to stay on the path but drawn in by the strange beauty surrounding me.
This drive through the fog and forest by the sea brought us to the Trees of Mystery near Klamath, CA. The attraction features truly giant redwood trees, enormous ferns and all manner of unusual tree formations. There is a half mile hiking trail that leads to gondolas from which you can soar above the forest that pre-dates receding glaciers.
I could not help but feel small among the huge canopy of trees and plants. Had it not been for some of the families who obviously do not believe in any kind of discipline, I am sure we could have heard the forest whisper its ancient secrets. At the apex of the hike we boarded a gondola and rode further into the wilderness. It was so high we could not even see the forest floor. The mist hung about the tree tops and beneath us was all ferns and branches. The whole experience was like being suspended in the air, suspended in time, peeking back into a world we could only imagine.
As we drove back to our hotel the mist had burned off of the day and the ocean views became clear and bright. Traffic moved with us back up the 101 and the present came rushing back. We have had a beautiful couple of days exploring and imagining. We’ll take a day to ourselves tomorrow to reflect on our own evolution thus far. We are learning everyday that while adventure is around every corner, it is also what we imagine. We are a blip on the timeline and while we are, let’s enjoy it.