Hiking with Hall at Steep Ravine (Marin County, California)
On June 6th, I joined Hall Newbegin and a group of 10 interns from Slide Ranch on a wildflower hike at Steep Ravine. Hall picked me up from El Cerrito, and his car smelled strongly of all the wild herbs and needles he picks to scent the Juniper Ridge wildcrafted line of fragrance products. These include cold processed soaps scented with the real juice of plants, sachets made purely of dried plants from the wilderness, incense sticks, cabin sprays, and most recently - Backpacker's Colognes & solid perfumes that were designed to capture the unique scents that stick to your clothes and your memory after a day of hiking in places such as Big Sur, Steep Ravine or the Mojave Desert.
The hike was full of wonderful plants, beautiful scenery, people who are passionate about plants (which I rarely brush by in my urban daily life), and lots of learning, fresh air and we even got to pull out some weeds - invasive species that threaten the unique wild habitat and increase the frequency of forest fires.
So-called sage (a type of artemisia), which is part of the coastal sage scrub.
Cow parsnip, a natural nerve-tonic.
Unusual formation of redwoods (they usually grow straight upwards), unique to the Marin coastal habitat.
We also stopped by the Douglas Fir tree and picked and smelled needles, which we added to the water. They have a pleasant, citrusy aroma, reminiscent of tangerines. So it's no surprise that they were valued by the natives as a source of vitamin C throughout the winter months.
Pissmint (was that really the name?). It smelled musky, warm and a little like patchouli.
American Ginseng. That's what ColdFX is made of... The leaves smell heavenly! Sort of herbaceously spicy and cucumber-like. Really hard to explain.
Trillium, a type of lily, also called birthroot (used by midwives to assist in labour).
Wild violet leaves.
Onion-like flower, which we weren't able to identify...
Beware of the poison oak!
Usnia: Lichen with properties good for treating Athelet's Foot (steep in alcohol to make a tincture). Recognizable by the white threads that appear when stretching out it's "branches". It also smells strangely watery, similar to calone...
Goldenback fern: The yellow powder on the back of these little ferns can create a temporary mehendi. Fun!
Top of the hill and view of the ocean.
Pearly everlasting: Beautiful in and out - this flower has a soft, warm, spicy herbaceous scent, more deliacate than other helicrysums that I've smelled.
Hills with lots of coyote bush.
The only part of the hike that was really steep: a small group of us went down this cliff to the bottom of the creek to uproot an invasive species that takes over the habitat. The rest remained on the top meadow, to get rid of thistles that bring on too many frequent forest fires and chase away the native plants.
View of Slide Ranch - an educational farm just by the beach.
The flowers of Gumweed (Grindelia), a native American thorny plant, have a liquid white, sweet, sticky gum that's used to clear out lung infections.
Gigantic cypress trees by Slide Ranch. This photo really does not do them any justice.
On the way back, Hall pulls out a bottle of oil infused with desert Chaparal from the Mojave desert and slabs some on my hand, than douses his face with it, contemplating compounding a beard oil out of it. The car fills with the bitter, spicy, smoky, warm and intriguing desert dryness, transporting me to somewhere I've never been to and make me feel as if I'm standing under the starry desert night and brewing a bitter tea on the campfire.
It was an inspiring, adventurous day and the highlights of all the plants from an aromatic point of view were the pearly everlasting and the white gum-producing plant. Next I will tell you about the Steep Ravine perfume and soap that Hall has created as an inspiration from this beautiful trail.