40th Birthday Adventures in the Redwoods!

Namaste Bright and Shiny Lights! I returned home on Wednesday, the 19th, from a week in California, celebrating my 4th revolution around the sun, and what an AMAZING experience I had. I have had to sit with the experience until now, just to let it all soak in to really absorb the time we had. My love, Kevin and I flew out on the 12th to San Francisco and arrived around 11 pm that night, just late enough after working all day, that we made it to our hotel and went to sleep. We woke up on the 13th bright and early, as I wanted to see the sun rise over the Golden Gate Bridge, that we were less than a mile from. Silly girl! Mornings in San Fran are cloaked in fog, so we literally saw one part of the bridge and drove through the fog to the other side. Regardless, it was amazing! We drove up Highway 101 just until we got to the Muir Woods on the other side of the bridge. The woods are so beautiful and maintained so nicely, but it was so crowded, even though we were there early. My guess is that people who are visiting San Francisco make it to this part and say they saw the Redwoods.  Which they have…just little Redwoods:) Kevin kept saying how huge the trees were, and they are in relation to our trees in North Carolina. I kept smiling and giggling a bit, saying they are “cute and so small”. He kept giving me this “what the hell do you mean small?” look. I just told him he would see what I meant. None the less, we spent about two hours meandering through these beauties and hugging many as we went.

We left Muir Woods and began our journey up 101, but made a stop in Santa Rosa to see a friend of Kevin’s who moved from Asheville a year a half ago. We had lunch and gathered our supplies, food and coolers, and continued our journey.  Traveling through the mountains was a bit surreal. I had been here before, in 2002, with my beautiful Love Dog, who passed away in 2014. It became a bit more emotional for me, but in a great way, as we pulled off the Hwy, onto The Drive Thru Tree Road, in Leggett.  Love and I had stopped here on our pilgrimage from north of Seattle where we lived, to our new home in Asheville. Kevin’s eyes became so wide and full of excitement as soon as we pulled into the park. Finally! BIG TREES! Now he was starting to see why I giggled in the Muir Woods! As soon as we pulled in, we started pulling over to hug these beauties. Unless you have seen them in person, no picture or description can fully give you an idea of just how huge these guys are. ( Not that that stopped the hundreds of pictures we took, trying to capture them in one picture!) Then we pulled up to MY TREE! The Chandelier Tree, as it is called. Love and I stopped at many a tree back in 2002, trying to find one that my 1976 Volkswagen Bus would fit in. None worked, until this tree. Some friendly people took my camera, which was one of those junky disposable things back in the day before everyone had one on their phone, and snapped our picture.   Being here again was so surreal. Luckily it was later in the evening, and we almost had the tree to ourselves, with the occasional visitor here and there. We spent almost an hour here, wandering around, and just taking it all in.

For me, this was really the start of a most meaningful journey. I wanted to return to these woods for several reasons; Obviously a huge connection with the sweet and gentle giants. (In 2002 I tried like hell to stay here in the woods, volunteering or trying to find a job to stay, but that wasn’t the plan at the time, I suppose. Asheville was calling too, and it won!)  I also promised my sweet Love on her last moments on Earth, that I would spread some of her ashes here, and keep the rest so that one day hers and my ashes would be mixed together and we would return to these woods forever. I know that sounds a little kooky, but she was the Love of my life, hence her name. She and I had a most magical connection. She was my partner, my daughter, my sister, my mother, my best friend, and my protector and guardian. This trip was our first together, after only being in each others lives a couple months. She took right up to her job as my protector. No training, just the wolf in her knew I was her person and it was her job to protect me. Over the course of the next few days, memories of our time here together flooded my mind, as I revisited several places she and I explored all those years ago. After leaving the Chandelier Tree, we drove north through the rest of the scenic hwy, bypassing other pull offs for now, as night had fallen and all you could see were these gorgeous shadows of the giants. It was getting late and the time change was messing with our bodies. We pulled into our camp site at the Prairie Creek Redwoods National Park around 11 pm. Holy memories! I was able to reserve the same campsite, #14, that I had in 2002. I could literally picture Love in the site we shared. It looked exactly the same as it did 15 years ago! We had a fire and set up our tent, and went fast to sleep.

We woke up the morning of my birthday, and the morning could not of been more perfect. Beautiful 60 degrees and sunny. Kevin wouldn’t let me do anything, so he made me a lovely cup of coffee and a fire to start the day. As he prepared my birthday breakfast for me, I was able to have a beautiful yoga practice as I set up my mat between two beautiful redwoods in our camp. My first as a 40 year old! Amazingly enough, unlike some stories I have heard, on this morning of my 40th birthday my eyesight still worked and my flexibility had not disappeared overnight! (insert sarcasm!) After breakfast, we took out to find the road that Love and I hiked on, as dogs are not allowed on any trail system in the Parks. (due to bears, panthers, mountain lions etc..) We pulled out of the park and somehow my memory kicked in and we found the 3 mile scenic road through the woods! We quickly had our minds blown wide open as we were really getting to see the big trees for the first time, as it was dark pulling in the night before. We giggled and got out of the car and just started walking around, playing in the trees, as many had huge holes in the trunks, providing a playground to enjoy. I found a beauty of a tree with a huge hole in the base, able to really explore what the inside of a redwood looks like. It is amazing that they can have a hole like that inside the trunk, and still be alive and thriving! I had a beautiful moment before I spread a bit of Loves ashes inside the tree.

We continued up the road, stopping ever so often to just be amazed by our magical surroundings, stopping at the Remembrance Grove, where a beautiful memorial was set aside with a plaque and bench to sit at and absorb the beauty around us. My sweet Kevin lost his father to cancer at the end of May, and he brought his fathers ashes with us. He took a moment and spread some of his father at the base of the plaque, in the sweet sunlight shining down, almost to say his father approved of this spot. His father never made it to the West Coast, so it was extra beautiful to honor him here. After this, we made it to the top of the road, where a trail system split off into different trails. We chose one and set out for a hike. It is really hard to hike and not fall on your face when your gaze is straight up the whole time! Good lord these things are tall! Funny how you can remember them being huge, but then when you are in them, memory doesn’t do it justice. Redwoods are the tallest trees on the earth. Many reach close to 350 feet and above. The tallest standing now is 379 feet and just under 30 feet in diameter! They can also live 2500 years or more. Wrap your head around that! Better yet, start saving up for a trip out there, these are a MUST SEE!!

We hiked for several hours, after stopping to meditate together in the Cathedral Tree Grove and then made it back to camp and made a most beautiful dinner, which again, Kevin would not let me lift a finger! He also gave me a beautiful skirt, handmade, and a pair of Redwood earrings he bought at the Muir Woods. I am not a materialistic person and don’t want or need “things”, but damn he is really good at gifts! Also, a beautiful pair of Amethyst earrings were waiting for me when I got home. He’s such a great gift giver! (that is NOT easy either! Not that I am ungrateful, I just don’t want or need “stuff”.) We had a great fire and went to bed. Funny side story: a little bit of a restless night for us and we had trouble getting comfy. At one point we made it to the car to try and sleep upright for a bit, and then around 3 am went back to the tent….Without the KEYS! Yikes! Woke up to see them safely locked in the car, between the seats! We were to check out and move spots that day and tried to contact AAA. A long wait for them to even answer the call. The volunteers at the Visitor Center called the Park Ranger on duty, and he arrived shortly. I had noticed that someone else apparently had the same problem at some point, as it was obvious the rental car had been “unlocked” before, as a bit of a dent and paint missing on the passenger door. Officer Wright went to work on the same door and unlocked the car within minutes!! Be nice to your Park Rangers! He was a super cool and friendly guy!) We drove out of the campground, in time to see the beautiful Elk hanging in the field, literally in front of the Elk Prairie Campground signs.

On to Gold Bluffs Beach, for the next couple nights. This was a very short drive to the next campground, but first stopped in Orick to get a few supplies. We drove past a HUGE herd of  Roosevelt Elk on the way. Had to be at least 40, that I was able to count anyway. So beautiful and majestic!  We got to our site and set up our tent, and went running down the sandy dune for the beach! EXCEPT, that after the first few steps we realized the beach was literally covered in sand spurs!! And the sand was ridiculously hot!! The sand is black and about burned our feet right off! Not to mention the sand spurs now buried in our feet! I am sure that whoever witnessed our actions had a great laugh at our expense!! But hey, that’s what I am here for, other peoples amusement:) I am sure they all did the same thing anyway!

The cliffs are a beautiful golden color, and this area was famous during the Gold Rush days. Signs described that although the are was full of gold, the labor to separate the gold from the back sand was too much, and they abandoned the area after a short time. We drove a couple miles to the Fern Canyon area, and set out to explore. Holy wow, is this area unbelievable! These ferns literally lined the canyon, on both sides. Dripping water and moss accompanied the ferns, as we hiked through the several water crossings and climbed over downed trees. The ferns can be traced back to the Jurassic area, 325 million years ago! They even filmed part of the Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, here and you can see why. This was definitely a highlight for both of us.

We enjoyed two nights on this beach, meditating and practicing yoga in the surf. We both  got to witness whales and sea lions out in the water, literally from the beach! It is amazing to be in a packed campground and on the beach, but both days we had the whole beach to ourselves. Gorgeous sunsets and lots of smiles from both of us. We spread more ashes on the beach before we left.

As we departed the campground and the park, on our way back to San Francisco, we took our sweet time and traveled through The Avenue of the Giants. And Giants they are! These are some of the tallest trees that line the 32 mile stretch that parallels the Hwy 101. Meandering through the Giants, we stopped to have a picnic lunch and walked through different trails. Stopping to visit the Corkscrew Tree, where Love and I had visited before, the Grandfather Tree, The Big Tree, and The Founders Tree. As we hit the last of the Avenue, we stopped in Myers Flat along the Eel River. Another spot Love and I visited, as I spread the last of her ashes here. Kevin had tried to swim in the Pacific, which I still laugh at his attempts, despite my warnings of just how frigid that water is! But, he did get to swim in the Eel River, which was still a bit too cold for me! So awesome to just sit on the bank and watch his pure joy as he swam in West Coast water!

We both were sad to leave the area, but had to get to San Francisco for our flight the next morning. We made it to the Wharf at Pier 39 at 9:30, just in time for my seafood dinner for my belated bday dinner! West Coast Oysters! How I miss them! Such a great way to end our trip, as we walked the Pier and saw the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up. We did just drive over it, but it looks different from a distance. We made it to our hotel and barely slept, as the alarm woke us up way too early to head out.

We did fly out and made it to Dallas, where we missed our connection home. We were booked on the next fight out, the following morning..which means I officially spent the night in Texas. I get to cross that state off my list of states visited, and now only have Alaska and Hawaii remaining. This was not my plan! Texas is not a state I wanted to visit, just for personal reasons, but oh well! It was really a blessing we missed our flight, as about 10 minutes before we landed Kevin looked at me with a pained look in his eye, and told me he was feeling really badly. Poor thing barely made it to the bathroom as the motion sickness kicked in. Or at least that is what I thought it was. He was in excrutinag pain and vomiting almost all night. I was terrified we were going to be in the hospital in Dallas. He thankfully was able to pull it together enough the next morning to make it on the plane and get home. Not sure what really happened, but he will be visiting a doctor this week to find out, since all the discomfort really never disappeared. ( Keep your fingers crossed for him!)

Oh yeah, I was also able to hold strong to my Whole 30 diet! And I have religiously stuck to my Yoga Every Day Promise as well! Granted, some days have only allowed a 10-20 minute practice as we were on the go so much, but discipline is important to me, so even 10 minutes counts.

Have a beautiful day! For more pictures, please visit my Jill Phoenix Yoga page on Facebook!

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