Among some of the world’s largest and oldest living organisms is a clearing. It’s a somewhat out of the way place to picnic among the biggest Coast Redwood trees I have ever seen. In the clearing are a few normal picnic tables, one really big table made from a single log of redwood, a four-sided fireplace and one small drinking fountain.
The Humbolt Redwoods State Park in upstate California is home to the Avenue of the Giants. It’s a road about 25 miles long that weaves through groves of the Coast Redwoods. It’s hard to imagine the sheer size of these trees without actually seeing them in person. When you visit for the first time, it’s hard to not do what everyone else does…look up. I had been to the Avenue of the Giants before, so I knew what to expect. I also have a ton of pictures of trees…trunks, fallen ones, looking up, etc. This time, I kept reminding myself to find details.
Back to the drinking fountain. It’s unremarkable, really. The drinking fountain is just a pile of mortared together rocks with a supply pipe and a drain. What caught my eye was a small bronze plaque above the spigot that read “Traveler go thy way refreshed.” What a great line! It’s so inviting, I had to take a drink. You know what? That water, even though it was piped to the fountain, tasted so unbelievably good and was perfectly cold. But, big deal, right? After all, it’s only a drinking fountain. But it sparked my imagination in a way only details like that do.
The date on the plaque ages it at just about 65 years. Between then and now, how many people stopped to picnic and tasted that unbelievably refreshing water? How many kids bored on car rides were able to endure more back seat time after they had “just one more drink”? How many thirsty hikers stopped there to fill up canteens and water bottles? Did any famous people stop here while on an incognito vacation away from the jobs that made them so? How many adults bring their kids to picnic among the giants and remember that drinking fountain and tell their kids about that memory?
I know it’s just a drinking fountain, but it still has a story. If you look closely at the plaque, it says “Mrs. Leroy Nichols”. She must have known that unassuming as it is, this little drinking fountain would endure time to spark my imagination 65 years later. I can’t help but hope it stays there refreshing travelers for another 65. In the photo to the left, Mrs. Nichols’ drinking fountain is on the left side of the photo, circled.
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