Albee Creek campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park was full over the Labor Day weekend. Clustered around each fire ring were happy faces enjoying the end of summer and start of fall. Each year for the past four years, I’ve camped at the same spot with family and friends: On the edge of the meadow overlooking the spires of Rockefeller Forest.
It’s nice to return to a familiar spot to see what’s changed, and what has remained the same. This year the blackberries were late and the bushes dotted with bitter red fruits rather than laden with juicy black orbs (fortunately we brought our last pot of jam from last year!). Replacing the berries was a bumper crop of apples and one very black bear who ambled through the trees gorging himself. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a full-grown bear perched at the top of a spindly apple tree reaching for one last fruit to draw and hold a crowd of campers!
Swimming beneath the redwoods at the Garden Club of America Grove
The redwoods were unchanged and timeless as they always are. It was great to see each trailhead with a cluster of cars—more than I recall seeing before. And yet the park’s groves are so vast that you can still find solitude and peace among the towering giants. Deep in Rockefeller Forest the only sound was the distant splash of Bull Creek, an occasional bird call, and the gentle creaking of the trees as their tops swayed and rubbed together. It’s as if they were talking to all who came to visit for the weekend.
At Richardson Grove State Park on the drive south, I spotted a bald eagle flying low over the South Fork Eel River. It was truly a magnificent sight. It was also a trip of firsts for me: taking our new month-old son camping for the first time and sleeping out with my five-year-old son for the first time. He’s a seasoned camper but had never slept out under the stars. Wisely he didn’t believe me that the bear came and licked his nose at night. We lay on the mattress listening to the dawn chorus break over the redwoods. That’s the best way to start the day and say farewell to summer.
[first published, “Giant Thoughts,” Save the Redwoods League, September 5, 2012.]