Communing with nature in a Zen-like way

By Patti Pietschmann

In Japan Shinrin-Yoku refers to a preventative-medicine healthcare ritual. Here we call it forest bathing and it’s fast becoming a buzz word among people seeking solace from trying times.

I decided take a departure from tours and cruises and focus on outside the box experiences.  And Shinrin-Yoku  sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

This is not your typical romp in the redwoods.  It’s  more like communing with nature but more mesmerizing. Think about sitting under a canopy  peering up through the branches, touching trees, taking mineral baths in the wild.

Zen-like moments

Forest bathing opportunities are plenty in Mendocino. The area hosts 24 state and national parks rife with ancient redwood groves, reflective waterfalls and old-growth flora.

Five forest treks to recharge your batteries and come unplugged

Trekking in Montgomery Woods State Reserve, Ukiah–Montgomery Woods State Reserve is a slow study in Jurassic-style bonding.  One of the more remote of the state’s 31 redwood sanctuaries, this outback escape is the  ideal kicking off  to  forest bathing.  It’s like stepping into nature’s cathedral for many mind-blowing moments.

The mix of  ferns, giant green fronds, gigantic sky high virgin redwood spire,  buttresses and enormous  350-foot treetops is awe inspiring.

A trail follows Montgomery Creek upstream to five virgin redwood groves, crisscrossing the tranquil stream with a three-mile moderate walkabout and plenty of spots to recline and reflect.  Silence and solitude are king here, given its outback location west of Ukiah.  The canopy is a just a five minute walk away.

Hot Springs and rocks

Orr Hot Springs is tucked away on 27-bucolic acres next door to Montgomery Woods. There you’ll get the ultimate reflective cocktail with a side of warm springs.  Originally on the stagecoach route in the late 1800s, the resort began building cabins in the 1930s. Today it sports 23 guestroom cottages and six rustic yurts. Camping is optional in  six coveted spots.  Those who prefer to take to the waters after sundown should opt for room #6, which offers 24/7 direct access to the bathhouse.

You can soak in a secluded mineral bath or one of two communal tub or plunge  into a big cold pool that’s built into a rock sidewall.

Van Damme State Park,  Here you can forest bath in Little River–that’s about three miles south of the village of Mendocino. It’s a moody spot  with  damp groves, misting morning fog and surreal stands of redwoods reaching for the sky.

Sequestered on three sides by Van Damme State Park,  the adults only Glendeven Inn & Lodge is the place to stop for  face time with Dolly the llama (and friends).  Here is where one surrenders to the Mendocino magic.

There are many ways to space out.  You can take simple garden walks, do yoga sessions among the redwoods or soak in the luxe new forest spa tubs.

Wine with benefits

Hendy Woods State Park, Philo provides 845-acres to explore in the wine-centric Anderson Valley. There is a spectacular 1,000 year old redwood plus 300-foot trees towering over the Navarro River.

Okay if you really want to turn it all off. Bed down in one four stand-alone cabins without electricity or running water. Or return to  nearby Philo for a stay at 1800s Victorian meets industrial steampunk The Brambles. 

Housing is in two former logging cabins – the Front Door or Back Porch. Both provide world-class amenities. There’s also  Faller’s Cabin and Logger’s Cabin.

Get raw and rugged

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, Rockport. Raw, rugged  the Lost Coast  straddles Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Outback forest bathing enthusiasts love it.  This 80-mile stretch of pristine green comprises King Range National Conservation Area, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and a stretch of legendary surf breaks for those who can haul a board out.

A final frontier

Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve feels like the final frontier.  The Reserve lays claim to a 665-acre ancient redwood site with instant access to the breathtaking Frank and Bess Smithe Grove of virgin redwoods.  Given it’s a natural reserve, the park is managed to minimize human impact, thus there are no campsites, carved trails or parking lots, simply a pull out off Highway 101, just four miles north of the town of Leggett.

Set along the South Fork of the Eel River, Smithe opens up trees so large and mature the understory is minimal. You get a classic “cathedral” experience long associated with old-growth stands.

Magical Mendocino

The beauty and serenity of Mendocino County attracts 1.8 million visitors annually. They go to explore its 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, vast wineries and state parks.

Getting there

Mendocino sits 114 miles  north of San Francisco. Access is by car and flight into San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS).

For more about Shrinin-Yoku watch the video. Too book a trip to Mendocino, California contact a Pavlus travel specialist.



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