Bicycling Under The Redwoods
The trees marched up against the town in a solid brown and green mass trying to retake the open ground the townsfolk stole from it years ago. The forest felt like a medieval fortress, causing the people of Weott to feel nervous for its existence, waiting anxiously for the inevitable return of father forest. This morning those worries heightened because of the mystical, mythic fog. The wet cloud brooding over the unnatural clearing was yet another reminder to the people this place was not theirs.
Still, the air was clean and fresh. This place is beautiful. What a fantastic place to start our trip, he thought. To his delight, the coffee shop across the way was open. There were cars in the parking lot, and he returned to share his grand ideas.
“Katie, let’s go get some breakfast! You barely ate yesterday.”
Katie was in the bathroom. “I’ll meet you in a few, honey.”
He grabbed his map and walked across the way. The clouds were breaking up, and the sun angled through the spaces in the treetops, warming the ground causing patches of misty steam to rise.
“What are you looking at?” Katie asked, settling across the table.
“Our trip’s route. Today we need to bike fifty miles from Weott to Leggett. Right west of here we pick up the Avenue of the Giants, and we’ll head south along the Eel River. Tonight’s camp will be at Standish-Hickey state park near Leggett. You hungry?”
“Absolutely. I want French toast and bacon.”
Back in the hotel they packed their belongings in the panniers on each side of the rear wheels, placing sleeping bags on the rack above. Rory returned the key to the motel manager, and they followed Lum Street west to the Avenue of the Giants. As soon as they left Weott and turned south, the forest enveloped them.
A parade of massive trees cut the sun’s rays into pieces, allowing only slivers of light to reach the floor. Lush green moss carpeted entire sides of trees ten feet in diameter. A thick layer of leaf litter blanketed the forest floor. Western Sword Ferns sprouted four and six feet above the strewn debris. In many places, Redwood Sorrel added solid patches of green six inches tall. It was impossible to follow the trunks of the trees skyward towards their summits without becoming dizzy. In other places, especially near the river, the forest gave up ground, allowing the sun to bathe the meadows. At the woods edge, wood roses, huckleberries, and thimbleberries ringed the sunny fields until the dense forest blocked out too much light for them to thrive.
The forest created its own atmosphere. The drizzle Katie and Rory felt in Weott was not felt inside the redwood canopy. The branches protected the cyclists from the light rain. However, the day darkened as the sky grayed again. The slivers of sunlight dimmed and disappeared. Large drops began to fall.
“Rory, stop a minute!” Katie pedaled up to him when he pulled off to wait for her. “The rain’s worsened. What do you think we should do? We can’t keep on like this, can we?”
“Here, let’s go sit down on this root.”
Rory looked at her and was about to say something when he noticed tears coming down her face. Then she bowed her head and sobbed softly.
Rory was befuddled. He removed his cycling gloves, grabbed her hands, removed her gloves, and pulled her closer. He didn’t know what to say. They sat there and listened to the rain’s drumbeat. Puddles pooled on the asphalt roadway. A car went by, throwing fractured water six feet outwards as its wheels sliced the puddles. Rory held Katie until her sobbing stopped.
“This doesn’t look good, Rory,” she said, wiping away tears.
“I know,” he agreed. “We need to go back to Weott,” he said. “It won’t take long to get back.”
However, because of the headwind and rain, it took almost twice as long for the return trip. Rory pressed himself to find some joy from the catastrophe. He left Katie at the door of Unit 4 while he walked to the office and registered for another night. On his return, he pushed the door open, and let her in. “Take off your clothes and get in the shower, honey, it’ll warm you right up.” He turned the wall furnace to Hell and brought the bikes in, placing them against the wall. He took Katie’s wet clothes, along with his own, setting them on chairs in front of the furnace.
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Bicycling Under the Redwoods: Chapter 13