As you may know by now, I grew up in the woods. My parents lived (still do) on an old farm in Stanly County, North Carolina. We had fields that were once leased out to professional farmers, but when we moved to the property in late 1985, my dad decided to get some sheep to eat the grass, and that was that. Our house was tucked in the edge of the forest, and trees stretched out behind it for acres. I knew it well, well enough I could find my way out in the dark without any sort of anxiety at all. Rather it felt more like walking through a big bedroom. The woods is home and such a part of me that trees and forest featured prominently in The Kyla, even without me giving the setting a whole lot of thought. It just happened.
So when Mike told me that there were big trees on Hwy 1, it was a stop that I really wanted to make when we were in California last month. Big Sur is a region that, like the rest of Hwy 1, includes beautiful coasts and mountains. It also contains several state parks where you can walk through vast groves of redwood trees. Mike and I hiked the Pfeiffer Falls/Valley View trails (Check out this site for more information about hiking in Big Sur).
After arrival, we parked and walked back toward the visitor’s center. At first, it was hard to see the trees for the forest, if you will. The thick canopy cast dense shadows, and while there was no underbrush like there is in our young NC forests, it simply looked like woods, woods that were not tangled. We rounded a bend, and I finally saw one. It’s hard to describe what it is like to first lay eyes on the largest, let alone oldest, living being you have ever seen. It towered above me, branches stretching into the evening sky. We approached, and my fingers brushed its convoluted bark. Standing so near, touching something so old, I somehow felt the need to whisper. I wanted to stay, but Mike kept me moving, saying it was only one and the bigger, older ones were still waiting.
As amazing as the first tree was, the grove was spectacular. We tiptoed amongst them. Looking up, green branches crisscrossed the sky. I turned. Everywhere the same, the giants stood watch, both guarding and being the forest. We kept moving. One of the trees had been struck by lightening. It still stood and grew, but part of the truck was hollowed out. We stepped inside and marveled.
After more trekking than we should have done (by taking some short cuts that turned into long cuts), we came to Pfeiffer Falls as the sun sank low. Cool and relaxing with water cascading, it was just us and the trees – silent, strong, and ancient.
Before we left, we searched for and found the oldest, largest tree in the park. It was in another location, and we drove down since the way was a legit road. Believe it or not, initially, we drove right past it, mistaking it for a grove rather than a tree.
So large and so old, its lower branches, their diameter that of normal trees, drooped to the ground. And so the sun set, silhouetting the tree against the sky before we pulled away and continued on to Monterrey.
So if given the opportunity, visit Big Sur. The ancients await you.