631 Miles, North

Photo By: Carrie

A straight road, as if cut from a ruler drawn line. Flat lands filled with grass, cows and drought killed almond trees. Everything planted in a row. It is clear, this road is taking up valuable growing space. Hours have past, still the same scene out the windows, hundreds of miles and the desolate, desperate, sun bleached signs continue (HELP, No One is Listening, We Need Water).

The traffic picks up, the houses get tighter, every car around us is in a big hurry. San Fransisco in the distance, on the outskirts of Oakland we keep rolling, North. Pay a toll, the bridge is long, my husband and I both whisper under our breath, “no earthquakes please, let us make it across”.  I peek back, tightly twisting my neck, there are my boys, Lego creations in hand, content.

Soon the highway meanders like a freshly cut stream, climbing up, winding down, through rolling hills of softened green. Grapes and hops strung beautifully, clouds puffy and low, Oaks spread sparingly. North, we continue, the view is changing. Instead of houses thick and blurred the road is precisely tunneled through healthy green trees.

Wandering down into what feels out-of-place, a dense, dark forest, trees growing taller, thicker together. So tight you can’t see through them or count their trunks, endless. “Whoa, what was that!”, more than one of us exclaim. A tree trunk as wide as our whole car. It was just a quick flash but it eclipsed the sunlight, darkening the inside of our car. My boys stop talking, the car silent, that’s a first. Our minds wondering what did I just see, are there more?

Now the Eel River introduces herself. The road snaking right along with the river, crossing over bridges, slipping past campsites and twisting past groves of Redwoods. This is not California, at least the one that I know. This instead is reminding me of where I grew up, what has called me home. Just as I am starting to feel comfortable, settling into the familiar landscape. My oldest son wonders aloud from the backseat, “These forests must be different, are there no fires allowed?”. Oh the thoughts of a boy, “I have only seen forest with a few or all of trees burned down. This is so pretty Mama, how long are we staying here?”.

When the road takes us out of the woods, we are greeted by the Pacific Ocean, slowly churning, wide expanse, fog brewing, clouds lingering about. The forgotten coast, the Emerald Triangle, what ever you call it, it is calling me home. 631 miles, we drove away from our current home, all in one day. My mind is continuously turning, are we going to want to stay?

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