The Avenue of the Giants, California

The redwoods are grey; they might be as red as blood on the inside, but on the outside they’re a bright, vibrant grey. It’s as if after soaking in the fog for thousands of years they’ve taken it into their bark, protective coloration for hiding in mid-air. I don’t know what they might be hiding from, but if it scares redwoods it scares me.

There’s no telling what might be in the fog. I was going to ride down the Oregon coast, but when I got there it was gone, eaten away by fog. The sun, too, had been devoured; shaking with damp and cold I headed inland to where it was beautiful and warm. I tried for the coast again in California but with the same results, dark wet dusk at noon. I skulked inland, watching thick white tendrils writhe blindly across the pavement.

The redwood forests were Atlas’ secret project so he could release the sky and go home without Heaven and Earth colliding. The grey trunks rise evenly upward, vast, columnar, and spire-like, mighty with grace. They’re 5, 10, and 20 feet thick, 300 feet tall, 2000 years old; the massive, shaggy bark is thickly fluted and rises skyward in slow spirals. Walking between the trunks has the feel of passing through architecture, although each trunk has the beauty and presence of sculpture. The ground beneath them is open or covered with giant ferns.

The rivers are open too, with wide grey gravel flats. Ravens float along these corridors, filling the mists with prehistoric croaking calls. The whole place is a time capsule from an age when everything was dinosaur-sized; the redwoods once spanned the whole continent when the climate was more humid , but now they huddle in a thin strip along this coast where the fog helps mimic the moisture of that ancient climate.

The Avenue of the Giants is just a road, but it’s a road on which I feel like I’m riding a tiny toy motorcycle surrounded by matchbox cars. It’s a modest, quiet road anyway, but as it winds delicately between and around treetrunks a lane or two wide it feels like little more than a paved path on the forest floor. The treetops are so high up and far away that I have to stop to look up and see them, where they’re not invisible in the mist.

I thought I knew what trees were, but these are trees and yet they seem like something else entirely, things so big and glorious that I can neither see nor understand them all at once.

Twilight comes early along the Avenue, so I easily hide my motorcycle behind a tree and roll out my sleeping bag among the Giants’ toes.