Why I love redwood trees

Sequoia sempervirens. May it embrace many skies.

Sequoia sempervirens. May it embrace many skies.

Whether cool and breezy in mid-Autumn or hot and sticky in late Spring to mid-Summer, the heavy shade of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is often welcome to hiker and mountain biker alike. That shade is largely due to the untold populations of redwood trees that dominate the area, though Bigleaf Maples also do their share to offer mercy from the sun.

While beautiful and stately, the redwoods in this forest are often no more than 100 years old. As one walks steadily up the former railroad grade that is Aptos Creek Trail, one can only imagine what this forest may have looked like in the mid-19th century. That was before these trees’ massive forebears were harvested for the burgeoning lumber needs of San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley, and other local coastal hamlets.

Fortunately there are still first-growth redwoods nearby at Henry Cowell and Big Basin Redwoods state parks. These are Nature’s living cathedrals, and they are destinations in which I lead hikes a few times every year.


Because those old matriarchs are worth seeing. Because everyone owes themselves a moment of Nature’s living grandeur. Because they’re there.

Because I love knowing that they’re there.

Though I might have the disposition for it, I don’t, however, hug redwood trees. That is, not unless I’ve got a set of fine tweezers and a lot of time to kill.

See related trip report: Nisene Marks State Park & Burrell School Vineyards.



Yes, Virginia, there is a fun camping experience

As I prepare for a weekend of car camping and hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in nearby Felton, California, I find myself tickled by the following advice from a recent Mercury News column by way of the Charlotte Observer:

Q. I’ve been going with my boyfriend for about a year, and we’re very happy together. My problem is that he wants me to go camping with him, even though he knows I’m more of a four-star-hotel kind of girl. It’s what he calls “car camping,” not backpacking. And the campground even has for-pay hot showers. But still, bugs, and dirt, sleeping in a tent? Ick. Any advice?

There comes a point in every relationship when you realize that its success or failure may come down to one thing — no, not a second bathroom in the apartment (although that happens to be an excellent idea). We were thinking of the word “compromise,” also sometimes referred to as “bartering” or “bribery.”

Think of it this way: If you agree to go camping with him, and honestly try to appreciate the wonderment of nature, not to mention the aroma of fried Spam and eggs in the morning, maybe, just maybe, he’ll agree to spend a week with you at the Ritz on Maui. See, it’s a win-win!

We kid. Spam tastes much better spread cold onto hardtack with a dash of Tabasco on top, washed down with fresh stream water. Don’t forget the water-purification kit!

Seriously, though, we think you should give it a chance. Car camping, as opposed to backpacking or, say, base-jumping, can be safe and fun, even for a satin-skinned princess like yourself. Why? It all boils down to physics: Backpacks are small; cars are big. Thus, you can take everything you need to make your trip bearab … er, comfortable. OK, you might have to leave your pedicurist at home, but other than that, throw it into the back seat and go!

Here are a few tips to enhance your wilderness experience:

Glamour camping (a.k.a. "glamping"): even guys have been known to like it.

Glamour camping (a.k.a. “glamping”): even guys have been known to like it.

Sleeping arrangements. A twig under a sleeping pad can be almost as uncomfortable as a pea under a stack of mattresses. Invest in an Aero Bed, a heavy-duty air mattress that can be inflated with a battery-operated pump. Then, because it can get quite chilly outdoors at night, layer it with blankets and quilts, rather than using individual sleeping bags. Your bodies’ heat will keep you warm all night. (Guys, you can thank us later.)

Electricity. If the place has hot showers, it probably has power outlets in the bathrooms. Feel free to bring along your blow dryer, curling iron, even that gnarly-looking eyelash apparatus thingie. What? Yeah, the eyelash curler. (Note to self: Invent device that combines curling iron, eyelash curler and sexual aid, rake in millions while making women’s lives more fulfilling.)

Food. Take control of the shopping list. Besides the beer, peppered beef jerky, Spam, beer, two-pound pack of peanut M&M’s and beer on your boyfriend’s list, buy some fresh food and pack it in a cooler. Make a batch of chili ahead of time and freeze it. Thrifty bonus tip: As the block of chili slowly thaws in the cooler, it will also keep the beer cold.

Like we said, win-win. Have fun!

Toss in the notion that some guys actually can cook gourmet as well as have an appreciation for fine wine – yes, all of that while in camp! – and you’ve got nothing icky to fret about, Virginia. There can still be, as I’m increasingly fond of saying, “more cush for your tush.”