Day Ten: Tuesday, May 29th, Humboldt Redwoods, CA

Avenue of the Giants

Up at 6, out by 7:15, in search of California’s Redwood Forest!

We said goodbye to Oregon, and passed through border fruit inspection with flying colors. I was reminded–by my children–after driving away–that we were, in fact, harboring the very kinds of citrus fruits I just denied to the nice fruit policewoman back at the gates. Oops. We will be very careful to dispose of said peels in sealed containers, or possibly incinerate them in the dinner fires.

Fugitives, we rolled on, making time through CA. We half-expected there to be lots of stops on this drive, along the coast, inland, exploring northern CA at breakneck speed. But 1) it was foggy, and 2) where is wasn’t foggy, it wasn’t inviting. It is quite a stretch of poverty and broken civilization. I’m missing the Oregon Coast already, for reasons I wasn’t expecting.

Back up near Crater Lake, where we camped with Rachel, two little boys wandered into our campsite while we were cooking dinner in the rain. We’d seen them before, a few sites down, with all manner of strange things adorning their allotted greenspace. There was one tarp chock full of stuff near the fire, with another rigged up and over it. There were chairs that weren’t really camp chairs. Stuff spilled out of their open tent doors. The open tent that looked like it was meant to sleep two uncomfortably. It didn’t look much like they were camping, this young couple, their two boys, and at least one baby.

img_20180625_095842-2.jpgThe boys shuffling into our campsite were probably both hovering around nine or ten, both adorable. One was quiet, and only spoke to correct his brother. The other accepted the corrections gracefully, but had no trouble voicing his speech. This little one in the raincoat had fingers laced with handmade jewelry, and he held them aloft proudly. “We’ve been making these necklaces and we were wondering if you might want to buy one from us, so we can get back into our apartment. They’re only three or four dollars.”

Yikes. Instant heart-wrencher.

We emptied our meager wallet  contents and purchased this beauty, wishing we had a little more to give. “This one’s for a key chain,” he told us, almost apologetically.

When our own three girls returned from their walk and heard the tale of our new mirror-ornament, they all likewise emptied their wallets–each one of them carrying much more than we were–and continued their walk on down the lane. The little guy just stared open-mouthed at the payment they were offering for his only remaining necklace, then ran away screaming wildly at his mom. I believe Rachel’s Honda is looking just as sporty as our $900 van these days, both wearing their new bling proudly.

There is quite the serious housing crisis around here, or so I hear from plenty of those who know better than I do. Oregon is being overrun by CA folks escaping the soaring costs of living, and the cost of living in OR itself is rising quickly. There are plenty of people living in campgrounds. I was told that the San Francisco Bay Area has been having to loosen the regulations on sleeping overnight in cars on the street, because they have too many people doing it to possibly even begin to deal with. Rumor has it a one-bedroom apartment down there runs upwards of $3500/month. Pocket change.

Last time I encountered one of these outdoor livings room was last month, when Rachel and I first arrived in the Medford area. Our reservation landed us right across from some… sketchy characters. It was, frankly, scary. One twenty-something guy, a couple of his girlfriends, several little ones (one ‘contained’ in a grungy pack and play), and two or three dogs. Lots of yelling. Lots of drunken home-grown tattoos. This was full-on man-pants-down, car-hoods-up society.

When we went to the bathrooms to hyperventilate, the signs informed us that DUE TO THEFT, the showers now had to be locked from 7pm to 7am. Apparently there was a rash of shower-head thefts in the campground. We found a ranger and politely asked if we could pick a different site. He looked puzzled, disappeared into his–locked–shack, and emerged with complete understanding. “I see why you’re lookin’ to move now. Sorry about that. We’ve got sort of an… element here.” Every time he said it, he paused. An… element. They’ve got policies to prevent just this scenario, but they’re also aware of the crisis as it stands all around them, and they’ve been turning a blind eye outside of reservation season.

I can be pretty judgmental. I’ve got an awful long nose to look down sometimes. In the case of this first set of Rogue River Ghetto, I can’t say as I had a whole lot of compassion. Despite the fact that I have no idea what their circumstances are. I make up their story for them, and I disapprove.

In the case of the little boys further up the same river last week, I was faced with a bit more of a conundrum. Thank God.

I. Do. Not. Know. I don’t know what any of those folks are going through. I don’t get to make up their story, and I don’t get to set sight down the nose, no matter how practiced I am.

I tried to remember that as we were driving through some pretty impoverished areas of California this morning. I tried to remember that while some of the people in the places we were passing through chose this life, most did not, and they were stuck in the eddies of bad decisions, sometimes not even theirs.

It is good to be reminded of how privileged we are, driving in on wheels of our very own, and driving right back out again. Good, and painful.

We made camp by 2pm at Burlington Campground, nestled under the redwoods near the southern end of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, right on the Avenue of the Giants.

Mini-Scott and our mini-tent

The drive in was gorgeous. The trees are stupefying. And no matter how you slice it:
It is dark here.

It’s almost oppressive. I can (and will!) enjoy it for a night, but living around here would be like living in a cave. I wanted to go to bed as soon as we got the tent up.

One not incredibly huge Coastal Redwood

We, however, had things to do. As soon as camp was made, we hit the road to see what we could see in the few hours we had left of… daylight?

This is it, as far as time goes, because we’ve only got one night here. It is just a stop-through, to ease the drive to Yosemite, and to give us a wee bit of time in the Big Trees.

Sidenote: The timing for this trip was based solely on it being the only possible swath of time this summer that it would fit in. Consequently, we will be in Yosemite exactly one week before the Mariposa Grove opens back up. I am thrilled that they have been restoring the area there, but really, do they have to wait for the giant ribbon and scissors? Just let us in!

The State Park has a great visitor center, but we wanted to see the Real McCoy, so we backtracked far enough to get to Rockefeller Forest and some of the bigguns. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

Avenue of the Giants

Surprisingly, we didn’t run into a single dinosaur, even though I was fairly sure we would.

It is unfortunate that cameras can’t capture the intensity of the Coastal Redwoods. You’ll have to trust me. They’re tall.

Back in camp, we made pepperoni pizza pudgie pies over a firepit that was trying to be as tall as a redwood. I’m not sure how we would have made dinner at all, had we needed to set up the tripod over that beast.


Scott also cut some wood. With his maul. For old times sake. His newfangled shoulder did just fine.

img_20180529_171042.jpgTil tomorrow,

The Whole Enchilada:

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