Muir Woods is just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The road down to the park is a winding ride on the side of the hill. Twisting deeming into the valley with every turn, I was transported in my mind back to France.
Every year the Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated with a weekend of festivals and wine. The Gamay grapes of the valley have been fermenting for only a few weeks, their juices still young and thin. But, on the third thursday of Novemeber the corks are pulled from the budding bottles and the drinking and all our merriment commences.
In 2009 I traveled to Beaujolais Village with two other language assistants to sample the year's celebrant. France, much like California I've learned, does not seek to cinch its landscapes with belts of tight, straight roads. The roads curve and flop and sometimes shrink as the landscape demands.
For hours we snaked through the mountains to get to the valley and I thought I would go cross-eyed with dizziness before we ever got anywhere.
The wine. It was, as I said, young. It was….well, underwhelming.
The fame of French wine was not a strong enough placebo to mask the sour swill.
It seemed to take hours to wind down to Muir Woods. My mind kept dancing between memory and the narrow road I was piloting. When the road finally flattened we were at the park entrance. The lot was full so we drove down to the next. Also full. We wound further out rolling the long stretch of cars parked along the road. Suffice it to say the Woods are well known and well visited here.
But the quiet you experience as you step into the shade of their trunks, the giant redwoods, strikes you. The redwoods we saw are babies compared to the famed redwoods of the North. But unlike that French letdown of a baby wine, we were not underwhelmed.
We were so whelmed actually that we decided to take one of the trails and hike it to the "view" at the top. An hour into the hike we wondered if we should turn back. We hemmed and hawed and decided to push on.
Finally we broke through the trees to the top. Things looked strangely familiar and strangely un-vista like. Is this it? We walked all this way and what do we get? A crumby top of the trees vista?
Another dirt path lead up to a road. We climbed. We cried. The "view" we had hiked to was the exact same view we had stopped the car to photograph on our way down the winding road into the valley. We had pretty much just hiked back to where our car could have been. Feeling betrayed by Muir Woods we took our snapshots and then stomped back down the way we came, bursting the bubble of a family who asked "Is it much further to the view?" Their two impatient children looked past the point of humoring their parents.
Sometimes misadventures are the best kind of adventures and even though we felt silly for falling for the "Ocean View" trail's tricks we ultimately felt grateful to have spent so many hours in Muir Woods.