Hermit huts

This past summer I explored the California coast with my husband and our two teenagers. We flew into LA and headed north from there. For the first week it was an adventure a day: the Avila Adobe in historic Los Angeles, Ojai, Morro Bay, Silicon Valley, Tiburon, Mt. Tamalpais … miles of California landscape flew by each day as we made our way up to Trinidad in Humboldt county, where we spent the rest of our vacation time. From the heat and palm trees to the endless fields of greens and orchards of olive trees, sea otters and zebras, up towards field after field of grapes and into the land of the giant redwoods: we got to see a broad picture of life there on the west coast.

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  In two weeks, we couldn’t hope to see all there was. We had more suggestions and ideas than we had time, so we took things day by day and found the places that suited our mood and whims that day. And each day had a story to tell. I recorded bits of stories in travel journals, and I’m hoping to bring back memories of the stories we found on our west coast adventure, one short essay at a time.

Between San Francisco and Trinidad, we couldn’t resist stopping to see the Hermit Huts at Hendy Woods State Park. A relatively small park, Hendy Woods hosted a Russian immigrant named Petro Zailenko who lived alone in the woods for nearly two decades.

This was our first venture into the redwoods, and the forest swept us into a fairy tale for a few glorious, mysterious hours. Petro built his huts out of fallen limbs and burned out tree stumps, surviving on squirrels and whatever he could scrounge from surrounding farms and park visitors. He even dismantled shoes that he found, sewing them back together to make complete pairs in his own size. According to some articles posted in the park, he was satisfied with his lot in life and lived fairly comfortably, considering the circumstances. As romantic as it sounds to live in the woods, I imagine it was a tough life. It gets cold in those woods, and he had only what he could find in his limited area. Still, he had made peace with it, which I suppose is the best answer for anyone. His story is a reminder to us that gratitude is both possible and necessary. If he had plenty, so should we.

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