Coastal Redwoods, 2016

The summer was hot back in my mother's home this year, and once again I was blessed to have her come on out to spend a few weeks on the West Coast. For me, this was another opportunity to plan a great adventure. Like me, my mother loves the trees. I asked my mother whether she wanted to see the big trees or the tall trees, and the tall trees it was. So from there, onto a great road trip!

Without my father we had more than enough time to take wonderful windy roads, so of course had to do the PCH. Up past Hearst Castle we were surprised to see a herd of zebras! Who would have thought! Maybe they are remnants from his old zoo or some private owner's farm? We stopped by the elephant seal beach and then kept driving on up the gorgeous coast, the fog holding off. And then we got our first great termination point of Lucia Lodge. I&aps;ve always loved the view here, but finally staying at the lodge it's even more lovely. Completely disconnected from the world, it is just you and the surf pounding the gorgeous surf of Big Sur. And the dinner food was also lovely, although I did admit to missing the fish and chips I so love there.

The next day we kept driving up the PCH, eventually stopping off at Henry Cowell that was a favorite of a friend of mine from her college days. We had a great hike among the penninsula redwoods there with the steam train running in the background from time to time and some lovely rangers pointing out where new trees were growing out of stumps and other lovely little tidbits. After driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopping for another lovely dinner it was time to break for the next big day.

I'd never done it before, but through sections of the 101 I thought my mother would enjoy the Avenue of the Giants. And as I had thought, it did not disappoint. The lovely road winding tightly along a riverbed, weaving through great redwoods. And old growth tall ones that you need to crane your neck to see. We did the nice walk through the Founder's Grove with teh 300 foot tall giant. I love the tall, big and old trees, but I loved just as much seeing the smile and happiness on my mother's face finally seeing just what a redwood can truly accomplish! We also had another gorgeous scenic drive through Redwood National Park that afternoon, stopping off at the Ladybird Johnson Grove, and more glimpses of the gorgeous Northern California and Oregon coastline. It's rugged, but yet beautiful.

Our next stop was somewhere totally new for myself, Oregon Caves NM. Tucked away in the hills after a very scenic drive along a wild river is just a gorgeous inn. Built into the landscape is a wonderful wooden structure that even has the stream eminating from the cave running through the dining room. My mother and I had what felt like a little attic room, so cozy and heartwarming. Yet more excellent food there at the inn as well. I opted to do one of the final candelight tours of the cave that season. A ranger leads people through the historic original cave tour with nothing but a candle lantern, much as would have been all available during that time. Little did I know that I would be the only person on that tour! I had lots of time to annoy and pester the ranger with all kinds of odd geological questions, but he was indulgent and enjoyed pointing out fault lines and other features for me.

That evening in the lodge I had another wonderful experience that I've only had once before. Without any phone service or electronics, the lodge revolves around the common lounge area. While my mother relaxed and dozed I went on down to read and have a few drinks the in the lounge. A local poet was reading some of his works for a group in the lounge. As he finished and wound down his discussion I overheard his wife talking to someone about Oak Ridge. The town where I grew up! What are the chances in the middle of nowhere in Oregon that I would encounter someone who grew up in the same town as I did. In her 60s or older we exchanged stories of what it was like when so many roads were dirt when she grew up and what it was like for me so many years ago for at least half an hour. Outside of college dorm common areas, technology really has taken away those moments like a hotel lounge where random people get to socalize. It's sad in a way, but this is such a great escape for that I will go back again.

The drive back to Santa Barbara was a chance to introduce my mother to the Cascades. I can't believe how many times she missed Shasta peeking over the horizon! Then again, I did on many drives too myself going from Oregon into California. Then we had the gorgeous drive through Lassen Volcanic NP. I really love that drive. There are so many different vistas and different types of lava flows and forests. We stopped off at the Sulphur Works to see some of the fumeraroles. It's been so many years since I was there I too loved just seeing the gorgeous mountains again.

Of course we had many excellent destinations, great food and more, but perhaps what I enjoyed most was an opportunity to take my mother on a truly epic road trip, seeing how excited and happy she was to be seeing the tall trees, the great Pacific, the Cascades and just being with her and enjoying a great shared experience, sharing some of the most beautiful places I've ever found. I stopped taking pictures because no camera could capture that shared experience, our talks, listening to Elvis and Sinatra, glancing over to see my mother dozing during the boring straight stretches home on the 5 (yes, Central Valley, apologies, but you are just not visually all that interesting). And I will never forget that look of wonder on my mother's smiling face trying to find the top of the tall trees. Nothing else can capture that moment of awe besides memory and love.

The Photographs

Picutres were from the a900 system.

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