Roadside attractions nestled in the groves of giant redwoods along the highways of Northern California and Oregon are often Mom and Pop operations. I remember the drive-thru tree from forty five years ago and it's still there. It was fun as a kid, but I can't imagine anyone cutting a tunnel through one of the last old growth redwoods these days. Further north a fiberglass lumber jack and his enormous blue ox stare blankly at a parking lot filled with motor homes. The area hasn't changed much. Clearly people visiting the redwoods are still satisfied with cement dinosaurs and bizarre attractions like the Ship Ashore Museum. Completely absent along the Avenue of the Giants are fast food restaurants, which is a very good thing.
I parked on the side of the road and walked into the forest alone, experiencing vertigo when I looked up. Standing in a grove of live monoliths, far from the nearest beckoning chain saw bear outlet, I felt small and insignificant, but in a good way. I walked out of the woods with a better perspective of time and renewed energy to make the best of life. A small gift from a tree at least a thousand years old with a girth of forty feet.
A heavy mist softened the early morning light barely illuminating the pale green carpet of sorrel under foot. A distinct fragrance of dusky, dry bark and damp moss filled the air. I didn't feel alone because there is a lovely presence to giant trees, as if one might tap me on the shoulder at any moment and reveal the secrets of the universe. Or I might be a little daft. They could have wanted to me to run to the nearest gift shop for the latest Sasquatch key chain, reveling in their ability to inspire truckloads of silly souvenirs.
After sailing down the barren, rocky coast of Baja colossal trees seem purely impossible. Granted we've turned many of the Grandads into patio furniture, but we're very lucky that a few first growth stands have been preserved. If kitsch attractions have anything to do with preserving big trees, more power to them.