USA’s Pacific Northwest: A Sense of Scale

The redwoods are among the oldest living things on Earth: the oldest known is about 2,500 years old. And they feel every bit of it
Photographer: Hashim Badani

Meandering between the coast and the mountains along the USA’s Pacific Northwest is very much the Grand Road Trip, filled with immense distances, jaw-dropping views, somewhat unearthly experiences – and a lot of snacks

WORDS VARDHAN KONDVIKAR
PHOTOGRAPHS HASHIM BADANI

I believe the term ‘tree-hugger’ comes from India, from the Chipko movement. Apt then, that I’m hugging a tree fiercely, completely unable – and unwilling – to let go. And this is a king, an emperor, among trees, broad as a house, taller than any other living thing on the planet. This is a California coast redwood, the gentlest of gentle giants, and it is worth the price of a ticket from India simply to come here, give one of them a long, long hug, and go back.

This is the less-glamorous half of the American Pacific coast, away from the sparkling lights of SoCal and San Francisco – and under trees, over dunes, and into the mountains. This is the kind of drive you take when you want to get a bit of perspective, because you feel utterly dwarfed. By everything. By the trees. By the motorhomes. By the distances. By the platefuls of glutinous pie and the sheer numbers of chocolate mints your photographer snorks up to stay awake on the highways. You’d have to be fairly dim to not call this epic, really.

Bodega Bay, the glass beaches & Mendocino
I would’ve paid more attention to the damn seagull had I known what this place was. I was too busy looking at the seals and otters, but it turns out Bodega Bay, an hour out of SFO, was the setting and filming location for Hitchcock’s The Birds. Armed with that knowledge, I would have spent less time on my seafood bisque (excellent), less time on the flame-painted hot-rods parked outside, and more time screaming and waving my arms over my head.

But then, I hadn’t expected to be pecked to death so close to the Golden Gate Bridge. It had been a sweet, low-traffic drive once we got off the Interstate, and, apart from a late breakfast and plans to see the famous ‘glass beaches’, I had nothing on my mind, certainly not maddened avians. I’d driven out of San Francisco on a foggy morning, and a foggy morning when San Francisco is digging up all its roads and your rental car’s navigation system pretends like nothing is wrong, is the sort of morning where you leave your hair in bloody clumps by the roadside. To get over that, I’d been plotting, with said chocolate-snorker Hashim, how best to photograph what we imagined would be acres of glittering, multicoloured glass. What happens when you’re thinking far ahead, of course, is that you miss what’s right in front of you.

Follow the rest of the adventure – and find out how to do this once-in-a-lifetime road trip – with LPMI’s February 2017 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.