Mossy smells invade the senses, decay of rotting wood and fungi provide the fuel to create the smell of the forest, the scent of somewhere new. For this forest is different to the Humboldt Redwoods, this forest, high in the Del Norte hills above the Klamath River is more lush, more verdant, more damp. The tinder dry of the Eel River Redwoods, baked in the hot Californian sun, gives way to the more temperate climate of Northern California, making a same-same-but-different world for the tree-lovers to explore. High in the tallest trees on Earth, wind rustles the tops unbeknown to the viewer below, showering tiny fragments of bark and leaf to the floor hundreds of feet below, providing an ever growing carpet of organic matter to feed and sustain. A kind of organic snow, fluttering down and carpeting the world is a silent hush. Moisture hangs high in the trees tops, catching misted droplets on the wind in the stubby branches, each tiny leaf drawing up to feed the huge trunks below. Huge thirsty trunks, like Giants’ drinking straws, sucking moisture from earth and sky. Gallons of water a day creeping up their capillary veins, pressurised by gravity, pumping up the centre, travelling ever skyward.
The shallow roots, bare for all to see above the surface, like lace coasters placed under the tree to stop it staining the forest floor, weak and unstable alone; But there is strength in numbers. Each lacy mat interweaved like a spider’s web with its closest neighbour’s, again and again in a repeated pattern across the forest floor, interlocking like spores of fungi just below the surface. No one deep tap-root to keep them up, just the lacy mat woven intricately across the landscape. Uproot one, and the rest come tumbling down. One weakens the next, they fall like dominoes, like a giant game of skittles taking each other out.A lesson learnt; A team is only as good as its weakest member. It’s the law of the jungle. Gossamer threads of web float gently between the trees, mile upon mile of silver crochet looped between the trees. Deep into the forest, climb after climb, up mountainside and creek, a silence falls. Peace on Earth. No roads, no phones, no planes, no voices – just the sound of human breathing. Sit silent in contemplation, in awe. Craned neck, wide eyes, listening ears. Suddenly, as if tuning in and out on a fuzzy Nature FM, the sounds of the forest takes over the senses. Birdsong, shrill and sweet, chattering squirrels, the buzz of a bee. Cracking twigs fall as flotsam from the mighty branches, a howl, a squeak, a sigh. Tinkling water in a stream deep below in the valley bottom, Man can feel alive here, breathing pure, intoxicating, sleep inducing oxygen, delivered fresh to your nose by the trees. Closed eyes make the sound more acute, warm sunshine falls on the face thrust upwards to allow the senses to open wide. Smell – perfume, touch – rough and smooth, sight – astounding, sound – like music, all working on overdrive.
Taste, what does this place taste like? Air is sweet, like violets and citronella rolled into one, with a hint of tabacco with a mushroom undertone. Sweet, like nature’s wine, fermented and blended to its finest mix. Climb higher and higher in the green cathedral, pass through trunks split in two, pass underneath roots, pass new saplings on old growth, pass ferns and lichen, pass the tickling branches that ought to be scratchy but are in fact soft and brushy with a lemony tang. Sideways Tree that had slipped down the hill, in amongst the ferns, a peculiar angle cutting through the vertical. A horizontal accident in a vertical world, creates a pathway across the ferns, a forest motorway for insect and beast. Burnt Tree looking like brown wrapping paper singed on a Christmas fire, papery bark brown and shredded, charcoaly and sooty. Life giving fire, germinates seeds, cleanses the forest, put everything back to square one and gives everything a fighting chance. Three massively proud trees, so straight, so big, so tall, like three brothers, strong and silent, protectors of the family.
Nothing in the world could separate them, save a collective disaster. Colluding trees, whispering trees that gang-up together and create an army, trees that stand alone like sentinels at a palace gate, strong and silent, keeping the Queen’s business to themselves. Mischievous Trees, children of the forest, that plot and plan an escape that will never happen. Teenage Trees that stand and sulk, not caring whether you speak or not, all wearing the hoody-uniform of the forest. Efficient Trees, who go about their forest business with no waste of energy, tall, straight, narrow, branches where they should be, everything in its place. Boss Trees, a natural authority, Timid Trees, servile and productive, the Joker Tree, bucking the trend and growing at all angles desperately wanting to be noticed. Trees, that in their arborial city, have got the balance just right. No racing to be best, juts giving way to the natural order of things, just being, an acceptance that this is the way of the world. How much we would love to be a bird soaring amongst the canopy and the big fat trunks, looking down on ferns, like exploding green fireworks below, over branches that create a horizontal matrix, touching fingers, reaching out. Soaring in and out the airborne mist, watching and waiting. Still, warm, cosy, comfortable, like a scented bath, the forest embraces. Just five more minutes, or even ten? Real life suspended in a moment of deep pleasure, surely nothing can be better than this? Maybe this IS real life? What the world is meant to be. Maybe we have got it all wrong. Some sit at the Antarctic, gazing on white-wilderness imagining the same, some sit atop Everest, the world at their feet. Some sail the Seven Seas, some marvel at the ocean-deep, some sit at a desert oasis and know the peace. Some climb the towers of Cathedrals, and look out from the Empire State Building across the man-made wonder that is New York, but if comparison is the name of the game, then this compares on an even scale. The Mighty Redwoods of Northern California, unique, breathing, living Giants, whose majesty is a world-equal.