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The end of summer

September 9, 2012

It feels official. The weather in Toronto has turned colder, we’re back from our marvelous trip to California, work has started up again, and summer suddenly feels far away. It’s hard to believe that one week ago we were here:

We spent so much time staring at the phenomenally tall Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) in Humboldt Redwoods State Park that it felt like I’d been afflicted by Warbler neck all over again. The trees were wondrous, and we couldn’t get enough of them. We walked through the Rockefeller forest (John D. Rockefeller donated a million dollars to the park in 1927 and in return, he got the largest concentration of old growth redwoods named after him — a fair trade), did the Founders Grove trail, and a few others. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so entirely miniscule in the grand scheme of things. A good reminder, I suppose.

Here’s an upturned tree root. Did I mention how miniscule I felt? (I couldn’t even climb on top of this one, it was so unwieldy and colossal.)

We drove along the Avenue of the Giants, where natural beauty (and sheer magnitude) completely dwarfed us. After a quick shopping break in Eureka, we drove north to the tiny coastal community of Trinidad, where I ate the best smoked fish ever, and walked along the most stunning beach I’ve ever seen. The fog wove in and out of the trees and boulders as we made our way to Trinidad State Beach.

The next day, we traveled north to Prairie Creek Redwoods state park, along the somewhat treacherous one-lane 101, where we were humbled by more redwoods, and in response to humility, proceeded to devour the most delicious picnic lunch I’ve ever had: magically sweet tomatoes, lemon-cucumbers (!!), tree-ripe pears all purchased from a farmer’s market stand somewhere near Pepperwood, California, and cheese purchased at the Loleta Cheese Factory (located in the eponymous township of Loleta, which is wholly uneventful place where we managed to encounter a bearded driver who had a predilection for driving on the wrong side of the road, but oh the cheese! the cheese!). We paid our dues to dear Fern Canyon (home of Steve Spielberg’s Jurassic Park) — an enormous canyon with 60ft walls covered in ferns on either side of you. Yet another “oh-my-god-this-is-so-beautiful-who-do-I-find-the-words-to-blog-about-it” moment.

In retrospect, I think I may have finally understood the meaning of sublime.

And sandwiched in between all of that is, of course, the piece de resistance — our birding adventure at the Arcata Marsh! I booked a tour with the fabulous Rob Fowler, who guided us through the wonders that constitute the marsh, patiently answered our questions, and regaled us with incredible close-ups (a scope! a scope!) of a Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) — a life bird for me!! — and an Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte Anna), which patiently posed (and sang a rather loud cacophonous tune) for us while we marveled. There were other sightings, including a bunch of ducks in fall plumage (not my favorite — they all look female and I can’t tell any of them apart!), and other fine specimens. I hope to revisit the Arcata marsh one day…

From there, we left mother nature behind and traveled onwards to San Francisco. (Mother nature did manage to get back at us for abandoning her by submerging us in impenetrable fog and stranding us at the Arcata airport for 4.5 hours.) I think I had forgotten just how wondrous San Francisco is, and we walked the city until our feet hurt. Craving a quintessentially Californian book, I bought Joan Didion’s Where I was from (as always, based on the sage reading advice of Pickle Me This; for those of you who don’t yet know, Kerry Clare only ever gives good advice) and it didn’t disappoint. I could have gone with John Muir, I suppose, but I was looking for something a little more nostalgic in its prose, something to match my mood at the time. You see, I once lived in California, and so in some ways, this trip was a geographical homecoming of sorts, but also a realization that I’m thankfully no longer the person I was in 2004, and it was, in a sense, a trip all about the marvel of what passing time can do.

All in all, a perfect end to a summer which was very fine indeed, extreme heat notwithstanding.

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