Friday, August 31, 2012

Of Bigfoot and Banana Slugs -- or, What Really Goes on in the Redwoods

Looking upward in Stout Grove
Several readers of my ghost story Everliving said they were inspired to make a pilgrimage to the California redwoods, and, having never been beyond Santa Cruz's Big Basin myself, I thought I should add myself to that number. If I was going to write about it, I might as well visit.

The kids and I tootled down to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park via Grants Pass, Oregon, and by the time we navigated the shady, twisting road, the nine-year-old was leaning over the ferns when we got out, trying not to barf. I am happy to report she was successful, but it was touch-and-go. I administered the motion-sickness medicine retroactively and forbade further play on the DS while driving.

We stopped at Stout Grove for two reasons: (1) it's a fabulous example of old growth redwood forest; and (2) the "hike" that takes you through it is a piddly 0.6 miles and flat as a kitchen table. If you like awe-inspiring ancient trees, look no further. If you like awe-inspiring ancient trees and a heck of a lot of ferns, you'll think you've died and gone to heaven. There were so many ferns that I kept expecting a dinosaur to tromp out of the woods because it looked like every kid picture you've ever seen of the dinosaur habitat, minus a swamp or two and swooping pterodactyl.

See what I mean? Ferns.

You can easily picture Gladys wheeling Ben along just such a path after she gave him a good spray with the mosquito repellent! This was, in fact, the only trail of three we hiked that seemed plagued by mosquitoes. Had she taken him along the Trillium Falls Trail in Prairie Creek State Park, on the other hand, the wheelchair would have squashed innumerable banana slugs! We lost count after about twenty. Banana slugs on the ground, on the ferns, on tree trunks. Ergh.


 This fella right here might have been Grand Daddy himself, minus the tilt, but there were plenty of candidates. One tree was so enormous in diameter that my three children, with linked arms outspread, could only circle the half of it. And because we accidentally took the Stout Grove loop counterclockwise, we did our share of wandering off trail and over and along fallen trees before we finally noticed a little sign (pointing the other way, for those taking the loop clockwise) that adjured hikers to "please stay on trail." Oops.

On one of our illicit off-trail jaunts we climbed over a fallen giant, and the kids were amazed to find all the things growing along the trunk. It made me think of the canopy, unreachable to us, with its own ecosystem and flora. Since I have no canopy shot, I have this dull one which is secretly exciting, if you think about how the soil and mulch and plants are all growing right atop the wood, just as they would be in the canopy:


We had a great visit, and I absolutely recommend making the trip. I only wish we'd had time to stop at the roadside stand along 101 called "Legend of Bigfoot." It was understandably packed.

But we had places to go, people to see, including this little fella at Lisa's book party:

Unlike the dog, Lisa did not nip me on the finger. Instead she opened her home and provided great company and treats and beverages. A wonderful evening. Thank you so much, Lisa, and everyone who came. Hope you all enjoy the books! Kathy, who had just finished reading Everliving, had a question on it even I hadn't thought about, nor had I ever been asked. Still thinking about what the answer might be and probably have to go back and reread...!

Speaking of rereading and of ghost stories and mystery/thrillers, I did pick up a Lois Duncan re-issue this month. Remember Lois Duncan? If not, these covers might ring a bell:

and

and let's not forget

There were more. Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer. I scarfed them up in my pre-teen and teen years, whenever I needed a good thrill. So I couldn't resist when I saw one I'd never read on NetGalley.



The cover, sadly, doesn't live up to the glory of those vintage ones. But I enjoyed the book. For fellow fans, here's the complete review from Goodreads:
*   *   *
Like legions of others, I was a Lois Duncan fan back in the day, so I was thrilled to see a "new" release from her on NetGalley. Would she have aged as well as, say, the Betsy-Tacy series--equally wonderful to reread as an adult?

The answer is yes and no. The Twisted Window follows the story of A mysterious boy who appears at Tracy's high school, eager to recruit her for an equally mysterious task. The Twilight-esque cafeteria scene sucked me in and the quick pace kept me pressing the Next Page button. Intriguing plot and nice pacing and suspense.

What worked less for me was the character development and eventual explanation. I would have liked to see more between Tracy and her father, and the whole bit about her mother felt thrown in. As for Brad, how on earth did he get to where he was? (Sorry--vague--trying to avoid spoilers.)

On the whole I enjoyed the book and read it lickety-split. Give it a better cover and title (how about "Distortion"?) and I think Duncan will attract plenty of new fans and resurrect her oeuvre.

 *   *   *
One interesting note about Lois Duncan thrillers versus today's YA fare: Duncan's were all set in the "real" world. No postapocalyptic this, no dystopian that, nobody sucking anybody's blood. Just plain old people misbehaving. Makes me quite nostalgic.

In any case, please excuse the long post (if you've stuck with me this far). I think it'd had been an eon since my last one. My only excuse, I suppose, is that I was on redwood time.




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