Day 6: Eureka KOA to Burlington Campground, 52 miles
A long freeway ride today, as Route 101 passes through Humboldt County. Cities turn to pastures turn to the forested banks of the Eel River. Forested with the largest trees on Earth, sequoia sempervirens, the Coast Redwood. So much history in these trees, and in my relationship to this particular tree. I was born in a small logging town on the Mendocino Coast, 52 years ago. The town of Fort Bragg is now a tourist spot, as the redwood harvest has long past its heyday. My family moved from the area when I was still a babe, but my connection remains strong.
It’s almost a visceral recognition, when I first cycle into the giant trees. The scent of their needles, and the eucalyptus in fresh rain. California is still home, though I’ve lived most of my lifetime away. My return via bicycle over the past 5 years has stirred distant memories, feelings of longing, belonging. I struggle to describe the awe I feel around trees over 1000 years old. Trees which only a fraction remain of the original old growth which blanketed the entirety of the Northern California coast.
After we logged our land near Philomath, Oregon, we planted nearly 800 sequoia sempervirens, knowing the trees would thrive in our coastal rainforest, even as carbon increases, temperatures rise, winters become milder. Redwoods are drought resistant, fire resistant, insect resistant. Survivors, over all other trees. I had this in mind, as I replanted the firs we had harvested. And a vision for a future, long after I’ve passed: when blight and fire and insects take the last of the firs and cedars, my small forest of sequoia will grow and expand, seeding the flanks of Mary’s Peak to the west, and from there, eventually the Oregon Coast Range. Just as it was before the ice age, covered with redwoods. One of the trees we planted in 2012 is now over 8 feet tall. They will do very well.
The ride along the freeway takes us through the town of Rio Dell, where I meet up with the other cyclists, now a crew. Pizza Factory! The five of us polish off two large pies in no time flat. Back to the road, on to the Avenue of the Giants, to old Highway 254, where tourists used to flock to vacation and gawk, or to revere the ancients. Mostly abandoned, the ride is peaceful and quiet, unlike the noise and clashing of the 101. Arriving at camp, I’m welcomed into the group, already with their tents up and a fire. Two other cyclists are nearby, riding north, Andrew and Katie, both Americans. They share s’mores and stories, having been on the road since January, months spent in South America.
We exchange contact info, blogs, and I recognize our common passion: to travel, to explore, and to honor the Earth, motion by human power. Many look to cyclists as somehow crazy, to be on the road. It is a special kind of madness. One with many rewards. Especially an incredible intimacy with landscape, with river and mountain. And trees.