#NatureWritingChallenge - West Coast or Bust

"A moment when you felt small compared to the grandeur of our public lands"

The year was 2008.  Two of my best friends and I had set out on a spring break road trip based on the success of our first one in 2007.  We were almost done with college and wanting to see a little bit more of the country before it was too late and we had full-time jobs.  Road trips in 2008 involved using a laptop in the backseat to navigate with a Microsoft Streets & Trips GPS attachment stuck to the window.  Road trips in 2008 were in a rental car because none of our cars would make it more than six hours before blowing something.  We set out, headed from Grand Rapids, MI to the west coast, with a few minor stops along the way.  This trip was designed and planned to maximize our stops along the route; the previous year we unintentionally avoided too many natural wonders and tourist stops because we just didn't have a plan.

The trip had many "first experiences" such as the first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, a city as big as Seattle, the Redwood trees, San Francisco, sequoia trees, Death Valley, Las Vegas, and St. Louis.  Pike Place Market was an enriching experience, the Oregon coast was breathtaking, Las Vegas glittered, but the redwoods were shockingly beautiful.  I had seen photos, read books, and researched them, but I had absolutely no idea the emotional impact they would have on me when I wrapped my arms around one and stared up the trunk.

As cliche as it may sound, the Redwoods made me feel small in the best way.  I can vividly remember leaping out of the car and running over to a redwood along the road and just standing there in shock as I tried to wrap my head around the size of that tree.  The trees of the Oregon Coast were gorgeous, wild, and large in scale to some we had in Michigan but fell out of memory once I saw the vast beauty of a mighty redwood.

We walked to the "Big Tree" and took photos, as tourists do, and stood in awe.  We drove through the Avenue of the Giants, stopped at a few trails and shops, and were on our way in just a few hours.  We did the classic "drive through a tree" Redwoods activity and posed in front of a 1000 year old log.  For those few hours, I forgot about the spats we had in the car for days prior, forgot my responsibilities, forgot where I was from, and I became fully present.  For the first time in my life, I felt small but so alive at the same time.  These trees are some of the largest living organisms on the planet and we get the luxury of walking through their forest home and breathing their fresh air.  I've had the privilege to visit the Redwoods several times since 2008 and every time feels a bit like the first time.  I still feel small and alive, I'm still swept away from reality, and I'm still in shock of how these trees can exist.

This was created in 1hr for the #naturewritingchallenge