Through the Woods with a Ranger and a Poet

The three of us trekked through wild, wet Jed Smith Redwoods
The three of us trekked through wild, wet Jed Smith Redwoods

As inspiring as the redwood forest can be, it is even better when shared. We know the inspirational surge that our favorite redwood places engender; it’s why we keep going back. And it is why we bring our friends there and step back to watch them take in the beauty with fresh eyes. It’s like playing Beethoven to a music lover for the first time — seeing the look on their face as they discover something uniquely beautiful. Without exception, sharing the beauty of the redwoods is the most rewarding part of my work.

I was lucky enough to hike in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park last week with folks at two ends of the experience range: a first-time visitor, and a 30+ year veteran. One was T.A. (Tom) Barron, author of an entire canon of fiction set in the magical and imaginative wild places. The other was Jeff Bomke, a career State Parks ranger and superintendent who has spent decades stewarding the redwood parks and sharing their beauty with the public. Jed Smith State Park is always spectacular, but hiking with these two guys and seeing the forest through their eyes was an experience I will never forget.

Tom and Jeff admire the majestic setting.
Tom and Jeff admire the majestic setting

Jeff brought Tom and me to his favorite trail, one he helped design nearly 30 years ago when he was just beginning his redwood parks career. Jedediah Smith is one of the Redwood National and State Parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a truly wild place, lush and dense, the ultimate primeval forest. With the fog drifting over the hills, and the rain from the night before still dripping from the canopy in drops so big you could see them falling from hundreds of feet above, it was about as magical a redwood experience as one could hope for. Every bend in the trail brought new glimpses into an ancient world.

Walking the trail with a resource protection specialist and an author-poet gave me the full spectrum of the natural and emotional power of the place. So, for your next trip to the redwoods, I highly recommend that you bring someone to share it with. If you can, start with someone with an untethered imagination and a sense of magic and wild possibility. Next, find a park ranger to be your guide, to share the history, biology and balance that these parks represent.

Tom and me, overjoyed with our redwoods experience
Tom and me, overjoyed with our redwoods experience

If this combination doesn’t pan out, try someone who is seeing the forest for the first time and watch the emotion on their face and hear the wonder in their gasp as they experience a place that is truly unique in the world.

How do you experience the forest — as a scientist, an adrenaline junkie, a naturalist, an artist? Let me know!

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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