One of my expedition goals for my hike of the Bigfoot Trail was to visit as many of the trailside trees as I could. I brought Conifers Of The Pacific Slope from Backcountry Press, an extra 8oz I normally leave behind, to ensure I could identify the trees I met along the way.
Michael Kauffmann, the founder of the Bigfoot Trail Alliance and creator of Bigfoot Trail, made the route to highlight the incredible botanical diversity of Northern California. As a nature geek, hiking a scavenger hunt style trail with an educational silver lining seemed like a great way for me to spend summer vacation.
On the 8th of July I laced up my Oboz at the Ides Cove trailhead, hugged my boyfriend good bye, and headed off to find a bunch of trees. About an hour later I was on top of Mount Linn scrambling down a slope of scree to find a secretive grove of Fox Tail Pines. The old, unique trees had bent and twisted limbs, warm orange bark, and needles that resembled thick green bottlebrushes. Their pointy cones were sticky with sap, and their shade was cool on the already warm summer morning. I reached up and grabbed some pine needles, a tight bundle of 5, and chewed on them to taste a sweet tangerine & pine flavor.
Looking out from the shade of the trees I could see east into the upper Sacramento River Valley & west towards my childhood home in Mendocino County. These Fox Tails had chosen a beautiful spot to hang out for a thousand years. The life of a tree can be so much longer than a human life, and it's hard to imagine what the world was like when these trees were seedlings.
I wanted to linger with the Fox Tails but I had 7 more miles to my next water source and even further for camp. My goal-driven schedule seemed silly in the shade of an ancient tree, but I continued on up the trail towards the ocean, 20 days of walking away.
In the end I was only able to find 29 of the 32 conifers along the Bigfoot Trail, missing the elusive Siskiyou Cypress, the Alaskan Yellow Cedar in its southernmost groves, and a remnant population of Silver Fir.
Building in time to hang out and get to know the trees led to a more relaxed pace than my typical thru-hiking style. The Bigfoot trail reminded me that slowing down & seeing the world from a tree's perspective can be refreshing. Hiking the BFT in a pair of tree friendly shoes seemed like the right thing to do, and I'm glad Oboz came along for the journey.
Sage Clegg is a wildlife biologist, outdoor educator, and a thru-hiker who thrives when outside. Learn more about her work at sageclegg.com.