I spent a lot of time during the past five years roaming the desert. Even when I went hiking in the nearby mountains, the vegetation grew sparsely as befitting a desert climate. Now I’m visiting an area that is so far from being a desert, it’s like a different planet.
Sometimes the green growth seems too way too much of a good (or bad) thing, like butter on bacon. Trees, ferns, moss, vines, shrubs spilling all together in an impenetrable lush wall.
And sometimes parts of this overwhelming growth are downright creepy.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a nearby county campground, the camp sites hewn out of the edges of an ancient forest. I meandered through the trees, away from the campers, following a little used trail. Although this was just a small isolated piece of the Redwood Forest, cut off from the whole by highways and private property, it seemed as if I’d been dropped in the middle of a vast and dense woods, something straight out of the grimmest fairy tale — a black forest where trolls roamed, deformed toads lived in the slimy creek, and creatures were imprisoned in tree bark by evil wizards.
For some reason known only to my phone, the photos I took came out bright and cheery, and give only a hint of how creepy the place was. Not only was the forest dense, dark, and dank, ghosts of an unimaginably ancient forest remained where redwoods had been felled. New trees grew out of the old. Fire and time carved caves in the massive stumps. And mold colored them green.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)