Divine Daytripper Freelance Travel Writer
Biography




 

Humboldt County, California

Patricks Point SP

 

I took a road trip with Talia to Humboldt County, where I went to college and spent most of my 20’s.

“Humboldt,” as the locals say, is 275 miles north of San Francisco. Our adventure began with a self-guided walk through the Founders Grove, a 55-acre ancient forest of old-growth redwood trees established in 1931. It felt like we were in a magical fairyland walking a moss-covered path among pre-historic ferns. It was easy to imagine a gnome hiding behind a mushroom, a fairy living among the trillium and general woodland mischief and merrymaking.

Talia and I sat on a bench that was dedicated in 1921 to the three founders of this grove. We shared a Djarum vanilla-flavored clove cigarette and pondFounders Groveered the magnitude of the Founders Tree, the forest’s namesake. Rising above the forest canopy at 346-feet tall, with a circumference of 40-feet, and about 1,500 years old, this tree is a sentinel, a tribute to timber tenacity and perseverance. Even though the tree was large in stature and I was small in proportion, I felt powerful. In the presence of the Founders Tree grand being, there was room for others to shine. I was reminded of a favorite quote of mine by new-age philosopher Marianne Williamson, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine.”

Talia said, “we should give ourselves Humboldt names…something from the earth.”

“Let’s call you Clove,” I said, gathering inspiration from her lit cigarette.

“And you’ll be Fern,” she said.

We try out our new hippie names while we take the mile-long tour on top of the greatest accumulation of plant mass ever recorded on earth. We marvel at how burnt-out trees continue to stand. We question how much noise the one million pound Dyerville Giant made when it fell in 1991. We hope to see an endangered spotted owl or a marbled murrelet.

We settle on the Founders bench once again. “I don’t want to be called clove,” said Talia as she looked up at the crowns of the trees. “I want to be called Sky.” Okay, I think to myself. This is a fun game of whimsy, why not? I ask her about the spelling of her new name. “Is it Sky with an e?” She paused for a moment of reflection on her new moniker. “Yeah, Sky with an e.”

Assuming our new identities of Skye and Fern, we made our way along the Eel River floodplain to the river’s edge. I produced a bottle of bubbles. I held the wand to the gentle breeze and we watched the iridescent bubbles float through the air, playing and dancing. Their lively, upbeat tempo took me back to a sweeter time in life when responsibility, structure, and discipline were for people who sold out to the man. Times had changed. In this pristine riverine environment I felt a part of myself return. I was free.

Skye and I continued our journey to the historic town of Arcata, established in 1859. Arcata is a college town, home to my alma mater, Humboldt State University. It is also motherland to the area’s original settlers, and hippies from the 60’s and 70’s who were so enamored of the natural beauty of the environment that they never left. In Arcata, there is a vibrant counterculture. Bohemian dress style that mainstream stores like Target and J.C. Penney try to capture as the retro look are worn in earnest by these hippie-like, peace-loving citizens. Popular are colorful Guatemalan shirts, long-flowing tapestry skirts, homemade beaded jewelry and Birkenstock sandals.

We stayed on the third floor of the Hotel Arcata, a quaint, old-world style hotel built in 1915. The third floor offered a unique vantage point of the Arcata Plaza below. I watched people dancing to bongo drums, couples holding hands, and beggars asking for money. There is a statue of former President William McKinley in the center of the Plaza. Bucking his stereotype as a stodgy old guy, Arcatans say he is now a conduit for community expression. He has been dressed up as Santa Claus, had a garbage bucket placed over his head, and been known to hold a “Legalize Marijuana” sign. I fell asleep to the sounds of drumming, people talking, and raucous college students stumbling out of bars. McKinley

The next morning I awoke to the sounds of a farmers market being set up. I dressed in colorful clothing in anticipation of a lively day. I painted my eyelids purple to bring out the green in my eyes. Over tan pants, a navy-colored shirt and a Gap blue jean jacket, I wore my multi-colored, bejeweled Holly-Yashi niobium necklace and earrings, a bright pink scarf with dangling beads, blue-suede Teva shoes, and my favorite traveling hat. Never a slave to a purse, I placed in my front pants pocket my driver’s license, ATM card, credit card, some cash and my room key. Oh yes, my cell phone in case Skye decided to awaken from much-needed slumber and join me for adventure.

I admired the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I bought a jar of honey and a granola cookie. I listened to musicians sing “ Ohio ” by Crosby , Stills, Nash and Young, an activist song of protest they claimed could only be appreciated by individuals with like-minded values such as Arcatans. I looked inside shops. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on gardening clogs in the color red, simply because they seemed fun.

I went into my favorite store, Moonrise Herbs. I smelled the essential oils. I found the flower essence to address my ailments. I admired the handmade soaps and remembered my long-ago friend Irene who hand-crafted soaps and sold them under the label Irene’s Dream.

“Can I help you find anything?” a petite blonde woman appeared as mother earth personified asked me. I was captivated by the vision in front of me.

“Irene?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“I’m Ingrid, Kelly’s old roommate.”

“Ingrid, what are you doing here?” We embraced. Connecting with Irene in this way underscored my belief that we are always at the right place at the right time. Oftentimes we are not awake for this realization. How many opportunities had I missed because I was asleep? I felt a deep connection to the rhythm of life. As if I had taken a sip of the magic elixir that brought my being back into consciousness. Wake up.

In the span of ten minutes, Irene and I caught up on our lives. She is the new owner of Moonrise Herbs. Her precocious little girl is now a grown woman of 24 years. Her two babies are now teenagers. She is excited about the challenge of running her own business. We hug again and wish each other blessings of goodwill as we continue on our separate journeys.

Skye and I met at the Arcata Coop, a natural health food store I used to frequent in my 20’s. I recall with a happy heart the barefoot Rastafarian who played the flute in the organic produce aisle. We stocked up on supplies for a picnic. We bought smoked salmon, a loaf of sourdough bread, apples, a wedge of brie, and two tarts from the bakery: one lemon, the other chocolate.

Patrick’s Point State Park, our destination, is 20 miles north of Arcata on the coast. Established in 1929, this 640-acre park features dense woodland spruce, hemlock, pine, fir, and red alder all overlooking a dramatic Pacific Ocean shoreline. A hiking trail meanders along sheer cliffs leading to an expansive, sandy beach where agates can still be found.

Upon our arrival, Skye and I agree to part for a few hours and meet back at the day use area for a picnic overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Our friendship accommodates a comfortable rhythm of being apart and coming together. We both acknowledge our individual need for space and time to contemplate and consider our own lives. Patrick’s Point is a great place for deep-end-of-the-pool, soul searching.

I hiked up to the top of Wedding Rock, a “sea stack” that is connected to the mainland by a small land bridge. I sat on a ledge, beyond the man-made fence and the Do Not Enter sign. I was hypnotized by the undulating Pacific Ocean waves. As they rolled in, crashing to the shore, I was overcome with the ocean’s expanse. This area of the world seemed so large to me. As before, I felt small, yet powerful. This stretch of water and salt air did not diminish my place in the world. I felt grounded and centered. The core of which I am, the essence of my being, felt secure and connected. Personal issues and concerns like meeting deadlines, paying bills, or even how much I weighed, did not have a place in this sweeping, majestic landscape. Patrick’s Point closed my mind to small thoughts and allowed awareness for larger, more meaningful contemplation. At that moment, I was more than my problems. I was part of the environment and this world was a part of me. We were one. I exhaled a breath of relief. All was well in my universe.

As I sat on the ledge overlooking the ocean, I remembered the time I was camping with a big group of family and friends in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We were gathered around the campfire admiring the star-filled night. My son at the time was no more than seven years old. He was laying down in a chaise lounge looking up at the sky. At the exact moment when there was a lull in the conversation, he asked in all earnest, “so…exactly what is the meaning of life?” As if this question could be answered with scientific and religious accuracy in a way that we all could agree. I remember laughing out loud at the preposterous nature of such a query...that this large notion was coming from my own small son. I laughed so hard I began to cry. It was a sweet mixture of comic timing, surprise, and sadness. What exactly is the meaning of life? We all tried to explain it to him. In the end, it was an exercise in exasperation. No one knew. It meant something different to every single person.

Back at the day use area, Skye and I opened a bottle of red wine. The sun was setting. The day’s beauty lingered into a golden sunset. I proposed a toast to good times. We clinked glasses and began our picnic.