Fern Canyon, CA
Michael was the first person I had seen in 24 hours. He was a transplanted New Zealander, moved via Sydney to San Diego, up in Northern California having a look around.
We wandered up the river into Fern Canyon. At first, I jumped back and forth the stream to keep my trainer-clad feet dry; as the rain increased in intensity, I gave up the futile effort and trudged ankle deep. We talked at length about the differences between Kiwis, Canadians, and Americans. He told me he had recently invented a renewable energy source based on electromagnets easily found on eBay – ”perpetual motion!”, I exclaimed facetiously – and that he dreamed of introducing it to parts of the developing world virally, a strategy based partially on his desire for equitable global development and partially to avoid the threat of an oil company hitman. The rainstorm continued unabated, and I was shivering noticeable. When I turned to go, he invited me back to his van for some warmth, a pair of dry wool socks, and a pipe made from a corn cob that was packed with medicinal marijuana.
I stumbled awestruck through the Redwoods, stopping every few steps to gaze up into the canopy. My wool gloves had been soaked through and I tried my best to keep my hands warm by clutching them prayer-like in front of me. When I came to a particularly thick and gnarled tree, I took off my hat and placed my forehead against it in submission. I stood there for some time, in devotion to this living god, and listened for inspiration. In the flow, a voice entered my head to tell me that my purpose in pilgrimage was to come to this place. I continued on slowly, barely cable of operating the wheels of my camera with my numb fingers.
Four men passed me walking twice my speed. They were city guys, they told me: ”Chicago”, ”San Francisco”, ”LA”, ”New York”. Maybe college buddies, businessmen. I recognized them from my younger life. The first guy punched me gently in my arm as a gesture of bro-support. The second and third passed by as quickly. The fourth slowed a step and read the penitent expression on my face. ”This is the most amazing place on Earth,” I said sincerely. ”Yeah”, he replied, ”it’s pretty unbelievable to think that this still exists.” It’s pretty unbelievable to think that this was all that ever existed.
Everything was drenched when I got to the visitor center shortly before dusk. I took my first conscious hitching ride of the trip: 8 miles to the Palm in Orick. I had dinner in the diner, served by a Hawaiian man in shorts who loved the huckleberry ice cream.