About a month ago, I had just moved up to Santa Cruz County California, which I quickly realized was yet another coastal gem, with all its personalities, (street) talents and infinite thrift stores that seemed to welcome all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic status. The cafes and food joints lined the main street, offering a tapestry of options, aimed to satisfy whatever cravings you desired.
Because I arrived during the winter months, people were well equipped in their attire, from heavier coats and character-rich scarves to the puffy jackets you'd expect from a coastal outdoorsy culture of the mid-Californian life.
I quickly (and happily) adopted the life in Santa Cruz. I fit right in, feeling at home, with the hipsters, crispy coastal air and carefree vibe that you'd expect from California. After having spent years in Texas where I just lacked the outdoors inspiration altogether, I was somewhere I knew I wanted to be.
Within a week of being in California, I packed my backpack and headed into the redwoods for a day hike into the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. In my attempt to go less techie and embrace nature at its best, I picked up a map (you know the paper kind).
I parked the car, got out with my gear and food supplies and onto the trails.
The scenery was stunning. I witnessed the laid-back energy of Californians, first hand. Most people hiking seems to be locals, just out for an afternoon stroll. I thought, how many people just go out and stroll for a walk into the deep redwood forests!? Then I recalled my time living in Maine, where that's exactly what people would do... well, outdoor people.
So I acted like a local and just went deeper and deeper into the woods, reaching a point where less and less light would penetrate through the woods, leaving me feeling a bit unsure within the cold moist air of this ancient landscape. The fact that mountain lions dwelled in these woods didn't make matters better, but I was determined to continue to the top, wherever that was.
Ultimately I got there, my Canon SLR capturing whatever moments I could, from absurdly tall and massive redwoods to the oddly shaped structures that you tend to see in natural settings.
It's now about 4 pm and that little light that I had earlier was beginning to dim, causing a bit of anxiety to set it. The mind now creating scenarios of getting lost and sleeping in the woods, with ferocious animals who lay claim to these grounds far before my arrival.
It was the sound of banjos and guitars that gave way to hope. I followed the sounds through the dusk of evening, eventually arriving at a picturesque scenery, with two mustached banjo players playing tunes reminiscent of the old Oregon trailblazers that sparked the culture of the west.
I fell in love with California. The expression of people in their most natural honest state reminded me that life can still be authentic, that we don't necessarily have to fall prey to the "it's a grind" mentality of the west. To make time for recreation is a pillar of life, and a simple trek into the Redwoods of California was enough to remind me of what is important.