The visitor centre at Humboldts National Park includes an exhibit on the Lolangkok Sinkyone tribe who lived here before the coming of the white man. There is no history. This is pre-history, with utensils, tools, beads etc. The difference from any other exhibit of Neolithic life is that this exhibit includes photographs – 19th century ones, but photographs nonetheless – of the people themselves. As someone used to seeing such exhibits all over Europe, where there is, it must be said, much more information, much more detail, much more understanding of peoples several thousand years dead, this exhibit was quite eerie, quite odd – more like a tour of Auschwitz with all the shoes and spectacles and human hair. “Here lie the remains of a people decimated by genocide,” was the information plaque I would like to have put on this exhibit. It is sad, but there really does seem to be two Americas. The one I met in San Francisco was warm, open, friendly, liberal. The other – all too often the tourist kind we in Europe have learnt to hate – is simply ignorant, arrogant, and loud. There were several of the latter in the Visitors’ Centre, and I was glad to leave sooner rather than later.
The hostess at the Myers Inn, however, told me a wonderful story of how the logging company wanted to take out a whole part of the forest, and all the womens’ clubs and institutes in the region got together to protest, and raise the cash to buy this part of the forest, and grant it to the National Park. This area is now called the Womens’ Grove, and includes the mysterious Albino Tree, which, according to my hostess, was known by the ‘Indians’ as the ‘Spirit of the Forest’. I love this other America. I can’t say I got much spiritual communication from this genetic deformity, however – it was simply a very unusual brilliant white fir tree – an natural oddity.
Further up the Avenue of the Giants there are indeed some really big trees – the Tall Tree, at 360ft apparently something like the ninth tallest living thing on Earth (the others are in Redwood National Forest, to the north, and in China, where the other remaining Redwoods live.) Walking alone in this part of the forest one really gets a sense of the ancient woods of the world – something almost pre-mammalian, let alone pre-human, ancient, almost other-worldly.
At last, on the very border with Oregon, I came to my last stop – the oceanfront guest house, Casa Rubio, where I had a delightful room, with my own door out onto the beautiful garden, my own deckchairs from which to catch the late afternoon sun, and my own view of the rolling white chargers of the Pacific. This was a truly special place to end my holiday, walking along the beach collecting pebbles and driftwood, sunning myself in my little part of the garden above the beach, strolling down the beach later to enjoy a really excellent dinner at the Nautical Inn, with a fine bottle of Russian River Chardonnay from the Napa Valley, and enjoy the sunset from my table.