Le Grand Détour


11 July 2017

When we think of the United States back in Europe, we often think of its politics. We may think of the stereotypes that we portray them as, and that US citizens on occasion confirm. And if we are trying to think of it as a travel destination, the first thing that spring to mind are its large cities, like New York City or Los Angeles.

But the United States mostly contains non-city. Indeed, at 9,798,320 km², the contiguous United States + Alaska is just shy in area of what is recognised as Europe at 10,180,000 km². But with Europe containing 742,452,000 people as of 2013 compared to C-US+AK's [1] 307,416,900, more than double, Europe has far more density, both in population and in urban areas.


These are trees in the United States, specifically in California. These trees are not redwood trees, but they are nearby the Redwood National Park.

That is not to say that Europe does not have much nature left, but rather that the United States can offer a lot more. It also means that doing a road trip in North America means you will find yourself driving for days on end, without really seeing much of interest.


Driving along the West Coast, particularly in Northern California and in the Bay Area, fog is a common sight, particularly in the morning.

It comes as no surprise to me that the concept of national parks largely originated in the United States, Australia and Canada. New found tracks of land, that had not had centuries of history to cultivate most of the land already. National parks as a concept would later their way to Asia, Europe and beyond.


Highway 101 passes through some of the redwood forest, but not the parts that are technically part of the national park. Fortunately, there is a scenic alternative to the 101.

And as such, I found myself in another national park in North America, this time the Redwood National and State Park, named after the trees that make this park famous. I am usually not a big hiker, and I certainly do not have the equipment appropriate for hiking, but in this park, I wanted to walk a trail.


Several times on my trail, I found old logs maintaining their form enough to maintain a recognisable shape and even carry their own weight. But due to the tree's death, its insides had been composting away, now allowing for new tree life to grow in its place.

'6.3 km' the sign said (yes, it actually also had metric), I should be able to walk that in 40 minutes. I should soon learn how wrong I was. And particularly how badly planned this was as I forgot to bring a bottle of water.


The most predominant characteristic of this national park was trees.

So far, the lowest temperature I have experienced over here - and keep in mind this is the summer - have been 10°C. But in this park, it was a consistent 28 degrees. Fortunately, there was a lot of shade inside a forest, but not enough from keeping me slowly dehydrating, particularly as the trail climbed higher than the highest point in my home country. [2]


Most of the benches along the trail were cut outs of trees. Some were simple cut outs like this, others were fully realised benches where the trace of the log had been removed.

Over one and half hour into this trek, I was becoming delirious, questioning my mental situation and whether life had always been a forest. Had I only imagined my life up until this point? I could not fully recall when I had entered the forest. Or if I had entered at all.


Some debris were blocking the trail. There was a lot of hints around the forest of past weather having knocked down trees.

Coming down the ridge that went through the park, I lost my footing and then my balance, and soon my face met the ground. I considered for a moment to stay in this position, until I felt my body slowly sliding down the ridge. As I got up and carried myself through - this time maintaining a slower pace - I soon heard other people.

No, I had not been some cave man living in the woods. And soon I was reunited with my car. And while my car was ready to go - as it always is - I was not. I would go on a trail again, and I would love to come back to this national park with friends. But next time, I will bring some water. Remember that when you hike.


[1]Please note that no one has used the abbreviation 'C-US' to be a shorthand for the 'contiguous United States of America',
[2]Which is not saying much, because the highest point in Denmark is Møllehøj at 170.86 metres.