“I know where it is.”
Josh was holding his laptop in one hand and a topographical map of Jedediah State Park in the other.
“I’ll tell you. But first, you have to see this Youtube clip. Some guys just made a video of the Grove of Titans a few weeks ago. You won’t believe this.”
“Are you serious?” said David excitedly. He watched at the edge of his seat as Josh played three short clips of a young man and his father in the Grove. “Wow,” was all he could say when the last clip ended. “How. Did. They. Find it? I thought only Taylor and Sillett and Vaden had found it.”
Josh shrugged. “More importantly, did you notice anything about the terrain?”
“Yeah. I can’t believe how flat it is in there. There’s not a hill in sight. It’s just an open fern grove.”
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in the forest,” agreed Josh. “And I think I know where to look.” He held up his map. “Look at this. The whole park is nothing but hills and ravines except for right here.” He pointed to a large flat stretch just north of Howland Hill Road a couple of miles from Stout Grove. “It’s got to be in here somewhere. It’s not that flat anywhere else.”
David studied the map. “We know that Sillett and Taylor walked from the Grove of Titans to Stout Grove in about an hour or less. But this area is a bit far from Stout Grove. Otherwise this spot makes perfect sense. Still,” he added thoughtfully after a moment’s pause, “Sillett and Taylor could have gotten to Stout by hurrying along the Mill Creek Trail.”
“You know what? You’re probably right. We have to go check this area out.”
The very next day, David and Josh got out of their respective responsibilities and beat the familiar drive to Jedediah State Park. Weather in the park was in the cool upper fifties under an overcast sky when they arrived in the mid-morning. Sight-seers with license plates from all over the country were driving up and down Howland Hill Road, people gawking at the wonder of the wood through clouds of dust kicked up by each passing car.
“Excuse me. Where’s the tree that you can drive through?” yelled a man from a white Chevy Blazer with California plates as David and Josh readied their packs. They informed the man he was in the wrong county and directed him to the nearby Ranger Station, and with a wave he drove off at twice the recommended speed.
They trussed their packs, and with a furtive glance up and down the road, disappeared into the woods. It took them maybe ten steps before they realized this section of the park was different than anything they had seen yet. They stared around in growing wonder. As far as they could see, the terrain was flat. The only underbrush was mostly limited to tall ferns, plants they had previously regarded with enmity where they clustered in nearly impassable density, but here, where they grew more sparsely, the ferns seemed an essential part of the natural beauty around them. As always, majestic trees towered overhead three hundred feet and more into the sky. But in this place where they didn’t have to watch their feet with every step just to stay standing, the trees were more striking than ever.
It was like watching the Youtube clip all over again. Here, surely, they would find the Grove of Titans.
They had entered near a small creek on the east side of the flats, hoping to find the watercourse in Vaden’s picture. This misleading creek divided and disappeared almost at once, so they struck north, crisscrossing the fern sea until they reached the feet of the northward hill. Striking southwest, they continued on, expecting at any moment to spot the vast form of one of the legendary titans in the distance.
Any moment now.
Then, to their great surprise, they found the forest had turned white. The leaves of trees, the blades of ferns, even the redwood trunks were all caked with an unnatural layer of floury dew like the biblical manna of old.
“What is it?” they asked each other.
“It can’t be—”
The sound of crunching gravel not far away was all too clear. Somehow they had reached the road far sooner than expected. Progress was much swifter in the flats than they had ever known in the gullies and hills. And since their arrival, traffic must have increased. The dust cloud had certainly grown—the forest near the road seemed to have received an untimely snowstorm.
Returning to their car for a quick snack of Peanut M & M’s, they re-entered the forest at a likely spot on the east side and struck west. It wasn’t long before Tim had seen something.
“Look at that!” he shouted excitedly.
They had been through this before. Josh would spot a giant, and David would downplay it. But Josh had never been this enthusiastic about a find before.
“I think that’s the Screaming Titans!” he exclaimed, referring to the twin titans whose joined base measures an astounding thirty feet.
“That is not the Screaming Titans.”
“Look at it!”
They drew closer. David looked. “OK, it’s a big one. Especially that one on the right. That one might be a titan. But its other half definitely isn’t. I’d give that base twenty feet.”
“No way. It’s way more than that.”
They measured it, holding the tape four and a half feet off the ground as the professionals do.
“Twenty-four feet,” said Josh.
“I think twenty-three. Anyway, it’s definitely not thirty.”
Josh looked disappointed but defiant. “We might not have measured it correctly. It could be thirty. We don’t really know what we’re doing.”
“Josh, where’s the creek? Where are the other titans? This isn’t the Grove of Titans!”
“Let’s look around then.”
Half an hour later, they had found something, a thirty-five foot wide mass of wood, the joined bases of three trees, one of them dead and burned out, but still worth taking a picture.
However, the creek and other titans remained stubbornly absent.
“We need to move on,” said David, trying not to add an, “I told you so,” to his tone of voice. Josh gave a slump-shouldered nod of assent, and they continued on in their westward track.
Five hours and one horrendously choked-up creek later, they were back at the car, their goal as elusive as ever.
“I still think that might have been the Screaming Titans. I’ll compare the picture with the ones online when we get back.”
“Maybe we should call it the Bawling Titans.”
“I wish we’d brought a picture with us so we could compare.”
“Or perhaps the Sniveling Titans.”
“You have to admit the right side was definitely huge.”
“What about the Screaming Joshs?”
Josh reached for the M&M’s, half-annoyed, half-amused. “Actually I like the Whimpering Titans,” he said.