Having driven from the California/Oregon border to Santa Rosa (just north of San Francisco) in three days, we didn’t get to see a huge amount of California. Apart from the crazy change in temperature between the coast (rarely getting above 75 Fahrenheit) and the valleys (usually above 87 Fahrenheit), what stuck with us most was the stunning Redwoods.
Anyone who has visited the mighty Giant Redwoods will know the feeling that I’m about to describe when you wander amongst these giants but I will try to explain for those who haven’t had the pleasure yet. When we saw our first Giant Redwood in the Redwood National Park there was the expected excitement of its size and comparing it to all the relatively teeny trees we have in the UK. Big Oak tree in that walk near Fulbourn? Pah! We did the “take a photo of me next to it!” and “look this one is hollow, take a photo of me in it!” – OK, that was primarily just me but Himself was just as excited but less camera obsessed….
By the time we got down to the Avenue of The Giants the next day, the real wonder of these trees was really settling in and our cameras were forgotten (almost!).
Ancient tribes of Native Americans living around the Redwoods used to call them “the supreme beings” which I think is the best way to define them. Walking through the forest around The Avenue of The Giants, the hum of traffic on the nearby highway disappears and a hush which I have only before heard in places of worship – a tranquil silence. For me, a born nature lover, the environment of these trees felt like a spiritual place to appreciate nature in all its beauty. Seeing these huge giants, standing so peacefully was incredibly humbling and made us humans, cars and busy lives seem so insignificant. Seeing the Giant Redwoods felt life changing for me and I was immediately conscious that, in future, it would be a place I could reflect on – to ground me when I’m anxious. In fact, the day we were due to fly back to the UK, I’ll share a secret – I was dreading the return to the UK with such a different attitude to life than we had seen over the three months and all the normal stresses that you leave behind when you go away. My cousin in San Francisco clearly picked up on the stress and crazy energy I was feeling and took us to a nearby botanical garden where there were some Redwoods and we stood there for a few minutes, looking up at to try and see the tops of the trees. All the manic energy disappeared and I felt solid and stable again. The Native Americans are right on, “Supreme beings” is the absolutely best way to describe them.
Those who know the California coastline will know I’ve missed something out – between the Redwoods National Park and The Avenue of The Giants is a town called Eureka. A deep sigh escapes me as I typed “Eureka”! Anyone who follows my Roaming Fen Tiger Facebook page will know we had quite an experience at Eureka…..
When researching Eureka before we left the UK, several travel websites included Eureka on their road trip itineraries from San Francisco and so I put it down as a must visit and, from the off, I said we needed to stay a night there to experience its full feel. My Dad also said how he had stayed there for a while when he had lived in California (40 years ago!) and it was a great university town with a colonial downtown and a nice place to visit. What could possibly go wrong? Apparently, Eureka has changed over the last four decades – the logging and fishing industry has gone and all that is left are junkies, people on social security, students, and lots of damp. The motel we chose was the Royal Inn Motel and never has anything been less royal! This motel was where homeless people live if the government is supporting them because they are seriously ill. The manager, a man from Butan of all places, told me of a man who set fire to a room after shooting up with heroin and promptly died….there were cannabis plants on every windowsill and the other motel occupants were fairly intimidating! Safe to say we slept hugging our laptops and tablets that night with our bags packed and ready to go in case we had to get up and run out in the middle of the night! When I googled Royal Motel Inn, Eureka for an image, the only relevant item I could find was an article about a gang stabbing in the car park… Behind our motel was the Budget Inn which was even worse than ours – mattresses leaning up against windows, mosquito nets ripped, old toilets and garbage lying out front. There have been protests about the treatment to social security residents who are unable to stay anywhere else and the manager of the Inn raised individual people’s rent depending on the amount of their social security cheque. So shocking! We in fact found a blog of someone who lived at the Budget Inn, detailing quite how awful it was. We didn’t take any photos of the motel as we feared we would be mugged (seriously) but here are a couple of snaps of the deserted historical downtown. Here is an article about the shocking number of seized firearms per 1000 citizens which is much higher than most of the US! Eek!