If you had asked me a year ago when I began my visits to these 70 State Parks, which type of park I thought I would enjoy the most I would have probably said, "The beaches." Or maybe the desert.
But, now that I have com-pleted these particular tra-vels, I have to say that the parks with the Redwood Trees have lumbered to the top of my list.
That being said, I have to confess that my trip to Portola Redwoods State Park was not as extensive as it could have/should have been.
Ever since I was a kid I've had difficulty tolerating car rides on windy roads. Even now I occasionally get motion sick, even as the driver. And so it was on this day. Portola Redwoods wins the prize for the windiest, narrowest road of the 70 parks.
I even stopped at the local market in La Honda, just outside of the park, to pur-chase a bottle of ginger ale and to ask the locals if there was another route to the Redwoods. They grinned as they informed me it was another ten miles of torture.
Perched on the opposite side of the Santa Cruz Mountains from Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Portola Redwoods is sometimes referred to as “Little Basin Redwoods State Park.” In fact the park is named after explorer Don Gaspar de Portola who led an expedition in search of Monterey Bay in 1769.
The park centers around two creeks — Peters and Pesca-dero — which flow through a basin. Douglas ﬁr and oaks top the ridges while red-woods, accompanied by huckleberry and ferns, cohabitate at the lower elevations. Most redwoods here are second-growth. Like many trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains, they were logged during the 19th century.
Once I arrived at the the park, I was not up for hiking any of the eighteen miles of trails. The narrow road and constant severe turns left me queasy, with a need to "recover" rather than hike.
Three months earlier I had been contacted by nature photographer Kip Evans. He was involved in the making of a film for the Save the Redwoods League, and asked if I would be interested in being interviewed for it. Although I'm not real keen on being on film, I agreed to meet him at Portola Redwoods.
Ill tempered weather and family matters caused me to cancel. It was probably just as well. My complexion would have been green. And there was something else that concerned me. I knew they wanted me to say something about the Redwoods, why I loved them, and why they are important to me. And at the time, I wasn't really sure why. I couldn't put it into words.
But now I can. The Redwoods stand tall and strong, with no need to exert their power in a flurry of activity. They are still and quiet, content to be what they are, unaware of their own grandeur. They have no need to shout, "Hey look at me." Rather they slowly and patiently exist without hubbub while nurturing the ecosystem that surrounds them.
Over the past decade I have become acutely and con-sciously aware of the impor-tance of daily quiet time and stillness in my own life. It is usually when I am alone and quiet that the magic happens. Internal dilemmas are calmed, inspiration comes and I can hear the whispers in the "spaces between." There is peace. There is respect.
And finally, I realized that the Redwoods remind me of my Dad. My visit to Portola came two days after his Memorial Service. Like the trees, my Dad stood firm. His principles would not be swayed by frivolity or loud argument. Rather, he walked his talk as best as any human can, regardless of consequence. And when he left the earth, a strong imprint remained.
So while my photos and hiking at Portola Redwoods SP was minimal, I nonethe-less gathered strength - and a calm stomach for the ride back - as I sat quietly and absorbed the intangible. I had peace for the drive home.
I hope to see you at the State Parks.
Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012