Awoke to drenching, soaking, torrential, endless, pouring rain on Friday April 6. Started writing the second entry of this account. Didn’t get far because Jan, bless her heart, had made us this awesome sausage and egg concoction wrapped in an inner layer of flour tortilla and an outer layer of THE MOST MAJESTIC REDWOOD FOREST ON THE PLANET.
It was delicious and, per our custom, I washed up. Then we took advantage of the 75 cent showers and washed ourselves up (first quarter=blast of cold water that turns warm long enough to lather and soap up, second quarter=equals mostly rinsing off, third quarter = final rinse off). By the time we were done we were both remarkably presentable. I even combed my hair for the occasion.
Then we headed for a backroad lookout that viewed the Pacific and, most wonderfully, for the Avenue of the Giants (pausing to shoot elk–with our camera).
Steinbeck visited the place and spoke of the awe and silence of the place. I thought of the Temple of Solomon, which was decorated in such a way as to recall Eden (because the Genesis account sees all creation in terms of Temple liturgy, which is why the sun and moon are “lights”, why the clay image of the God is placed in the temple of creation last, and why the Man and Woman are given the task of “tending the Garden” using the same language used to describe the work of the Levitical priests in the Temple. In scripture, the Temple is a microcosm of the Cosmos and the Earth is a macrocosmic Temple.
That’s easy to grasp walking in the Redwoods. Jan and I walked, hand in hand, tiny children, borned yesterday destined to perish in a moment or two, among living ents that have been here for 2000 years: trees that were centuries old when Jesus was born, adolescents when Augustine wrote his Confessions, maturing during the Crusades, laughing with joy at the weather when the Sistine Chapel was being painted, hooming and homming about young Master Muir when he tramped through here a century and dreamt of making sure that at least some of this treasure was save from the men with minds of metal and wheels who now dominate both the state and the corporate mechanisms of our country and dream of feeding it all to the furnace to feed their greed.
It feels like a cathedral in there. The builders of great sacred places are attempting to capture what God created when he created such places—the vastness, the silence, the fog shrouding the treetops of these tallest trees in the world. I thought of the clouds of incense and the smoke of sacrifice drifting between the columns in the Temple court when Jesus visits the Temple in Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. The floor of the forest was covered in oxalis (aka sorrel) and various small flowers Jan carefully documented with her camera.
Every once in a while one or another of the sorrel leaves would dance as a raindrop fell on it from a branch hundreds of feet above.
Jan and I walked in silence or in quiet conversation about the place. Such places teach you what phrases like the “fear of the Lord” really mean. It’s not cringing. It’s a delighted smallness in the Presence of overwhelming majesty, goodness, and beauty. Human boasting in such place and in such a Presence is hushed with pleasure and a desire to focus outward and attend to the miracle of silence and growth and lives so old that you simply feel like an infant before them.
After an hour or so in the woods, we made our way back to the car and headed off, making a brief jaunt down a side road that took us to a view of the Pacific where the thing we thought was a grey whale turned out to be a rock. Then it was off to Marin County (with an attempt to visit the impregnable Humboldt Wildlife Reserve—no entrance visible—and a stop in Eureka at a laundromat to attempt to dry our clothes—no washing, no drying). Jan took the wheel for the drive and I konked out for a while, coming to now and then to note the countryside that was now thoroughly Californian—orchards, vineyards, low rolling hills—and a rushing, muddy, and wild river that paralleled our course as it overflowed its banks in the endless, driving rain.
Eventually we pulled into the home of our friends Ricardo and Anna Lisa Lemos about 7 PM. She is a reader of mine and graciously and generously extended an invitation to crash at her house, which sounded more and more wonderful as the rain continued. She assured us it was the worst rain she’d seen in 8 years. They were incredibly gracious, welcoming, and generous. All of a sudden, we went from bedraggled travelers to guests in Rivendell, with wine and hors d’ouevres and comfy furniture and sunny conversation, followed by a magnificent meal at D’Angelo’s downtown, then a swift ride home again and a lovely bed of white. Heavenly.
However, the next morning, Saturday, I got up sick as a dog with some kind of gastro-intestinal yuk. As it happened, they had planned to basically just gift us their house since they were headed south to a family gathering and vacation for the next week. We had been reluctant to accept such an offer initially, but it turned out to be Divine Providence once the gut flu walloped me because it was all I could do to get from bed to toilet (a frequent excursion all that day). So Saturday passed with me largely unconscious, Jan doing whatever it was she did (read mostly, and sleep too) and the hours fly past till at length she came in and told me it was 11 PM (I dimly remember some soup in there too). So, worn out from a day of sleeping, I went back to sleep and awoke the next morning feeling a million times better and, for the first time, witnessed a proper sunny, California morning in Marin County.
It was beautiful in Mill Valley and since Mass was not till 10:15 we decided to stock up on supplies at the local grocery store which was, natch, a Whole Foods (this was Marin County after all). I got some ice, milk, and eggs and Jan needed some Tylenol. So I went to the guy stocking the shelves in the Essential Oils/Herbal Body Soul Spirit/Eat Pray Love aisle and asked if he had some. He regarded me with horror for just an instant and then composed himself and barked, “No sir, I do not. That’s at the Rite Aid next door.”
Feeling as though I had farted in Church, I went next door and got the evil artificial chemicals the soul of Paltrow doth hate and went back to the car. Sunblocked with more evil chemicals, we headed to Mass at the lovely Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish and then made for the Muir Woods, which turned out to be absolutely cram-packed. If Caesar and his gang of genetically modified super-apes get there, they will have to get in a very long line to get in.
So we headed for Muir Beach (our very last contact with the Pacific till we get home) and walked in the sand barefoot and waded in the water (it was a very baptismal day, what with two babies being baptized at Mass.
Then we poked about in a Sabbathy Sunday manner, took pictures of plants and critters and each other, and generally rested on this day of rest. After a tailgate lunch, we headed east.
California, contrary to popular belief, is really big. And somehow it is wider than it is long. It’s like the TARDIS of states. We drove across some bridge that is not the Golden Gate (but we could see it from our bridge) and then out across the Castro Valley and lots of other beautiful valleys full of immense fields, orchards and vineyards. On and on we went pretty much all day till we finally reached Yosemite.
We got there in the early evening. The gate was open but it was after hours, so we just rode in, cheated of our chance to use Jan’s Awesome EternaPass to All National Parks. We had no idea where we were going but we took the only road we could find (Yosemite is more or less a huge cul de sac, as we discovered). We passed a field where, in May 1903, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir camped and took counsel to make Yosemite a National Park.
Thank God for that man. To think that his party has been overrun by the swine and hyenas of today’s Trumpian Freak Show is to break the heart. They would turn the whole parks system in Mordor in a heartbeat if they thought they could strip mine it for a buck.
Anyway, presently Jan gasped and said “Look at that huge waterfall!”
I, of course, had missed it (the roads are twisty and parallel the ferocious and terrifying Merced River,
so I was focused).
She urged me to head right at the upcoming intersection and we quickly found the way to Bridal Veil Fall, glowing in the westering sun. We got out of the car and met an Aussie and his wife (he had been there two years ago and vowed to bring her to see it).
The hike up to the Falls is short, only a few hundred yards.
They are, like everything in Yosemite, stunningly beautiful. Pictures don’t do it justice. We climbed up to the lookout point below the Falls and got soaked with the spray, but we wisely had put on rain coats. The river below the spill way was spilling over on to the lookout and there were signs everywhere warning not to be stupid and climb around on the slick rock if you valued your life.
You just stand there in awe, drinking it in.
Soon, the light was failing and we had taken our pictures, so we headed back to the car. By Providence, I got mixed up and wound up driving the wrong way, which took us to something called the Tunnel View (named for a tunnel near the west end. This give you a commanding view of the whole valley from Bridal Veil to El Capitan to the Cathedral Rocks and down to Half Dome.
It’s like God rolled up his sleeves and said, “Let’s think Big!”
We stayed until the light was fading and then headed down to Half Dome Village to seek camping space.
There was none. But there were spaces in Upper Pine Village, which we could not find in the dark. So we went to the Visitor Center and they told us where to go. So we went there and all the available space was gone. So we asked the camp host and he told us there was nothing in Yosemite that night, but there was Indian Flats just outside the park and near the Cedar Valley Lodge.
So we made for that and found a spot around midnight or so, Dog tired.