Dizzy in the Redwoods

In grade school, I had read about the large redwood trees in California. The redwoods are some of the oldest and largest trees in the world. Reading about them and seeing the pictures was amazing, but I knew the pictures could not possibly do these giants justice. I remember being mesmerized by the photo of the large tree hallowed out to allow cars to drive through. I think that was in our geography book in school back in the 1960’s. Now that was a large tree. The photo I remember showed an old time car, possibly from the 1930’s going through the tree. I Redwood2remember my grandparents visiting and bringing back not only the great photos of the tree, but the stories of the massiveness and majesty of that forest. I knew at a young age I needed to see these trees.

I did not have a chance to get to California when growing up, but thank goodness the trees have been preserved and protected for us to see and hopefully for generations to come. The redwoods are protected by the 1968 creation of Redwood National Park and at least three state Parks created in the 1920’s. The parks also protect about 40 miles of pristine Northern California coastline. Joe and I planned one of our family vacations to see the redwoods when the kids were quite young.   We decide to fly to San Francisco, rent a big van and see the redwoods. We spent the night in San Francisco riding the cable cars and of course visiting Fisherman’s Warf. We looked at all of the sea lions and ate fresh seafood brought off the boats in the harbor, before they continued north.

Redwood1The next morning we took our van and headed north over the Golden Gate  bridge to the redwoods. The morning was misty and cool as we left the city and drove up the coast. There were many fun places to stop on the way, but we were set on getting to the redwoods, so we did not spend much time at the tourist stops. We entered the National Park and the misty weather added to the mystery and the mystique. It was true, the photos do not do the trees justice. You cannot capture the feeling, the size and the sights and smells present in this old growth forest through any cameras that we had. You know when you drive down the winding roads set carefully not to disturb the trees that you are driving through history. The fog hangs heavy around the trees, and as we had read in one of the interpretive centers, the trees thrive on this fog and moist air.

We stopped for every walking trail and got out of the car to experience the trees up close. The airRedwood3 smelled so clear, moist and fresh. It felt healthy and natural. The trees were larger even than we expected and when you walked around them and through them in some cases, you could feel the life force energy of these surviving giants. As you walked along the paths the pine needles were so thick it felt like the most plush carpet you can buy. As I walked with my family I looked ahead, but mostly I kept looking up. The height of these giants was unbelievable. As I followed the trunks up with my eyes, through the mist, it made me dizzy. You actually lost track of your equilibrium. I felt light as if I was floating at some point. Despite all of our hiking we did not feel tired. It almost felt like you were drugged by the fresh, moist air. It was like looking through a fish eye lense, in a way. The lightheadedness was intoxicating. It helped that as I walked the smell of fresh pine forest freshness was overwhelming. The mist was so heavy it almost made your skin feel wet. You did not need moisturizer. If a spa could recreate the air in the Redwoods, they would be Redwood4overwhelmed with the business.

The kids ran on the trails and I could just see them soaking up this healthy environment. They were truly happy and free as they skipped and ran and walked and hugged the trees and literally at one point danced around one of the large trees with their hands in the air. They had such a natural appreciation for this beautiful place. They still remember it even though they were fairly young when we were there.

We also got to see the tree that had been hallowed out years ago so that cars could drive Redwood5through it. Of course they would never damage a tree like that now, but it was done many years ago and may have actually provided that mystique nationally to help support creating the National Park. We of course drove our van through as well and stopped at the interpretive center to see historic pictures of people driving through the tree.

I am so grateful that enough people in the 1920’s had the intelligence to realize what a beautiful place this was and to fight and push to have this place preserved for all of us to enjoy. When you are able to visit beautiful places like the redwoods, take time to think and give thanks to the people who had the tenacity and foresight to preserve these places for us to enjoy. I am sure it made them feel healthy, alive and even dizzy, and as they experienced it for themselves they were driven to ensure that no one would be able to destroy these beautiful giants and their misty and mysterious existence. Celebrate their success and pledge to honor their memories by treating these areas with care and respect and finding new areas to preserve.

Joan and Kae’s Excellent Adventure

I graduated from St. Scholastica in Duluth, in 1980, with a degree in Nursing and started my first job as an OB/GYN nurse at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center, now Regions. My good friend Kae Honeman graduated that same year. I had met her in the college dorm on my first day, in my JoanCalifornia1981afirst year of college, at St. Cloud State, where I had done my general education credits before transferring to St. Scholastica for Nursing. Kae was a fun loving soul. We were part of a dorm floor of fun loving girls in their first year of college. Back then we could drink in college and it was the 1970’s, so need I say more. We never got into any serious trouble, but I do recall a Friday night where Kae pierced my ear with a hot needle and an ice cube. There was some liquor involved. I still have that extra earring spot just on my left ear and I wear one earring proudly in it, as a daily remember of those wild and crazy years with my college girlfriends.

A few years after we both graduated we decide to go on a road trip adventure. We flew into SanJoanCalifornia1981n Francisco where Kae’s brother lived, and stayed with him touring around the city for a few days before renting a car and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for 10 days. We had no agenda other than to end up in LA to fly back to Minnesota. It was good to be young and free. We had no worries, only 10 days to enjoy and meander our way through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. So off we went, tunes blaring and driving the cliff roads along the Pacific Ocean. I wish we had had cell phones in those days. We would have a lot more pictures of the beauty of that trip. Alas, technology was not as advanced. In fact we were gone for 10 days and not once in that time did we call our parents or any relatives and that was perfectly acceptable back then. That would be unheard of now, where we are used to communicating on almost a daily basis if we JoanCalifornia1981bwant to. Back then long distance phone calls were expensive.

Fairly quickly in our trip we ended up in Big Sur with its ocean cliffs and mountains. We stopped in a little town for lunch at a local bar restaurant among the large pines. I still remember the cool moist air and the smell of those trees. We ended up staying and talking with the locals and hanging out all day, playing pool, laughing and telling stories. People we had never met before became very close in those few hours. We ended up staying overnight and the next day hopped in our car and were off again on our adventure. When we saw beautiful beaches we stopped to swim, like in Monterey and Pismo beach. We stopped at the Hearst Mansion in San Simeon and toured Santa Barbara. We made our way stopping to eat when we were hungry, drinking wine JoanCalifornia1981hand getting hotels when we were tired. We passed LA after stopping at a few beaches and Sea World, making our way toward San Diego to spend a few days.

We decided that we wanted to visit Tijuana Mexico. After all it was the 1980’s and you did not need a passport. However, I am not sure why we thought, as two women in their twenties, that this was the safest decision. Nothing bad happened, but it makes me judge our stupidity level. We were told not to bring purses because of pick pockets and we were told not to drink the water. With that information we walked across the border. We shopped and bought sea shell wind chimes and tequila, and poor Kae sprained her ankle walking around on the cobblestone streets. Of course me being the nurse, I said we can make this feel better if we just got an ace wrap and wrapped it up. We looked for a “drug store” (pharmacy). Imagine the looks IMG_0887we received from the locals when we Minnesota girls were asking for a “drug store.” It took us a few strange looks before we realized what we were asking for and changed our request to a “pharmacy.” We were lucky we did not get arrested, but we found our pharmacy and with a lot of gesturing to get over the language barrier, were able to buy an ace wrap and keep Kae going.

Having shopped as much as we wanted, we retreated to a local restaurant and bar and ordered margaritas. After all we had to try margaritas in Mexico. After drinking about half of them, we realized they were full of ice and we had been warned not to drink the water or the ice. By that time, we figured the tequila would kill anything in the water and we must have been right because we did not get ill.

On the way back across the border, as I was standing in line, tired from the days activities and with a little tequila under our belt, I suddenly realized as I saw everyone pulling out their drivers IMG_0884licenses for ID, that I only had a credit card on me and no ID of any kind. After all, we had been told not to bring a purse, so I only took cash and a credit card in my pockets. I was panicked as I thought I could not get back into our country without ID, and it was getting dark by now. Kae being the ever calm and reassuring one said “You don’t look Mexican. You will be fine.” At the time, I thought the statement was ridiculous, but it turned out to be true in the 1980’s. I got to the border guard and explained that we had come shopping for the day and were told about the pick pockets and that iIMG_0886s why I had no ID. I am sure I was sweating by this time and looking real nervous. These are all bad things around border guards. The guard laughed and said “no problem” and let us through.

I entered the US without any ID of any kind and on top of it all, I had a shopping bag full of crap, like a Mexican blanket and the shell wind chime all neatly wrapped in paper by the Mexican shop owners. The border guards did not even bother unwrapping or looking into the packages. I could have had 10 pounds of hash or cocaine in there and they would not have known. They checked nothing and let me through on my word. It was clearly a different time.

We finished our trip and had dinner in LA on our last night in California. We flew back tired, but having a real taste for more travel and more adventure. Even though we both became busy over the years with our careers and then families, we shared that road trip in the 1980’s that we can reflect upon fondly. It wove courage, problem solving skills, fun and a taste for adventure in the fabric of our very being. We did not have a lot of money back then, being just out of college, but I am glad we took the time and money to explore our world together.

JoanCalifornia1981m JoanCalifornia1981f