This is the trail I started down alone one morning at dawn. Sure, I thought twice, three times about walking into the fog in a remote area with no one in sight--and an empty wayside across Highway 101 where I parked my car. But it was the old-growth forest and I didn't want to be afraid so I decided I wouldn't and kept walking.
There could have a been a bear or two or a "wierdo," but I decided to move slowly and listen, and look, and smell my way. I walked twenty feet, then stopped. Then another twenty. And then the trail narrowed, turned, and plunged into the dark forest at a creek crossing.
I decided to go to the bridge and no further. No one knew where I was--not a soul. I had not cell phone coverage and no safety net of any kind. So I got to the bridge and then I saw them.
These trees were six, eight, ten feet across. I could feel their presence, their strength. These are old-growth Sitka spruce. They are living in the forest off Highway 101. The trail is not wide nor paved. There are no benches along the trail, no interpretive markers, no signs guiding the way to "Grandfather Tree" or "The Titan." The forest was dark and quiet as I moved from tree to tree along the trail. I put my camera away. I watched, and listened, and sniffed. I had heard stories of people like me on the six-o'clock news, but I was determined to not let fear ruin my walk. Then a poem arrived, a poem by David Wagoner that I had read a decade ago. I did not carry the words, memorized, but the sense, absorbed. It kept me company for half a mile into the forest and back. Here it is.
Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
"Lost" by David Wagoner's Collected Poems 1956-1976 (Indiana University Press)