In August, trees shed powdery fluffs of thin bark and yellowing leaves into the air. Underneath the mountain’s canopy of branches, if a trail is not regularly cleared out by moving animals (like deer or wandering hikers) the atmosphere can mimic the thickness of being underwater, with poofs of pollen floating aimlessly like the sleepy mosquitos hidden among them.
Castle Rock SP has her popular trails near the park entrance, but I spent the night in her trail camp located in the heart of her forest, and getting an early start I was able to hike up north to the less traversed sections of the Skyline-to-Sea Trail, a trail whose total length encircles the entire San Francisco Bay Area. I was only able to tackle a 7 mile section of the trail, but with the elevation changes and detours into other forest areas, the hike took me an entire day. The lack of airflow on the north side of the Saratoga Gap Peak meant that there was a tunnel where the air stood still while the red bark peeled off the Sequoia sempervirens.
Despite the pollen floating around, the atmosphere up in the mountains still breathed cleaner and fresher than the urban air I’m used to. And I needed fresh air to breathe, because every step along Skyline (HWY 35) took my breath away with its natural beauty and expansive landscapes. All along the trail were scenes frozen in time: giant redwoods crushing smaller shoots, mold and mushrooms happily decomposing logs fallen long ago, tiny insects and mosquitos living their short lives alongside ancient leafy beings.
The problems of the human world seem so small when you realize that animals were just made to move seeds and pollen around for the sturdy giants of the woods.