Soulful Travel: Grove of Old Trees
Sonoma County is more than just a travel destination. The Sonoma County experience can feed your soul, enrich your life, and help you relax, rejuvenate and restore inner peace.
Here we help you have that experience at Grove of Old Trees, a special, secluded spot in Occidental, CA.
The Sound of Silence
Everyone at the office agreed: You needed to take some time off. Your performance had dropped, and when you’re not at your best, you get chatty, rambling through meetings but with none of the brilliant ideas you would suddenly come up with, like some corporate Mozart composing concertos before breakfast.
Your favorite coworker said he knew the perfect place to relax: Sonoma County, where there’s a remote hill atop a winding road – the kind of place the locals don’t even know – where the tranquility will be such a shock to your system it will surely snap you out of your slump.
“What’s the place called?” you asked indifferently.
“Grove of Old Trees.”
“Doesn’t sound very exciting.”
“This is a place you go,” your friend said with a glance that seemed to know more than it revealed, “for something beyond excitement.”
In the oldest tales around the world, it’s a common motif that rare and precious things are not easy to get to. Getting to the Grove of Old Trees isn’t daunting – you can drive right up to it – but it does bring the sense of having left the normal world behind and entered a different way of living in the rural Sonoma County community of Occidental. A simple route to get there is Bodega Highway, which runs from Sebastopol to Bodega Bay, to Joy Road. Climb the slow hill for 10 minutes or so until you reach Fitzpatrick Road. Turn left on this even slower and narrower road and in another 10 minutes you’ll reach your destination and behold the power of sustainability in action.
The Grove of Old Trees is not an official park managed by the state, but something much more grassroots. So rare are redwood forests – and so superb this example – that the conservation organization LandPaths created a trust to preserve these special trees, which in the ’90s were slated to be cut down. The conservators created easy-to-walk paths lined with logs, and added benches where you can comfortably sit and experience the majestic forest of ruddy-barked trees flanked by verdant ferns, accompanied by a sound so astonishing it’s almost unsettling.
It’s the sound of silence, played at full blast.
Turning off your car’s engine, you can already feel all your built-up tension ready to be cathartically released. You step into the redwood grove and decide to take the circular trail counter-clockwise, chuckling to yourself that maybe it will rewind time and help you recover your old self.
Just as your friend said, the forest’s silence is truly deafening. Even the solitary figure sitting on a bench up ahead, in almost ghostlike stillness, doesn’t make a sound. You turn around with your head aimed high, taking in a panoramic view of the towering redwoods reaching toward the sky, and when you resume your stroll, you discover that the person on the bench has suddenly disappeared.
“Silence is golden.” The phrase is thousands of years old, and it’s easy to see why it has stood the test of time. Throughout the world’s great civilizations, gold has represented an incorruptible substance aligned to the light of the life-giving sun. That covers the gold part of the age-old proverb; as for the silence part, in ancient Egypt, the hieroglyph meaning heart was depicted by a vase with two handles representing ears. Five thousand years later, an American rock singer would remind people to listen to their heart so it may tell them what to do.
Connecting the dots of the ancient wisdom, we see that the state of silence allows us to listen to the heart, which is like a vase filled with golden wisdom. Silence in the ancient teachings doesn’t just mean not speaking – though that is certainly the starting point – but learning to listen to the flow of energies constantly at work within us. It’s what psychology calls the subconscious, what mystics call the soul, and what followers of the ageless wisdom call the subtle body, or electro-magnetic energy currents flowing through the nervous system, distinct from the biological tissues of the nerve fibers, which merely carry the energies. This silent inner space is where your higher self dwells, and where the answer to everything in your life can be found, for it possesses the key to transformation.
You stroll along slowly and quietly as the therapeutic silence of the forest seems to seep into you at the cellular level. “It’s a shallow way to live,” you admit to yourself, “that noisy brain life I’ve accepted as normal. But I don’t have to live that way.
“It’s my life,” you say to yourself in a burst of self-assertion, “and I can be whomever and whatever I want.”
But then a pang of doubt hits you. “Ah,” you sigh, “just what do I want to be?”
You console yourself that this will take some time to answer, but that you’ve made an important realization: You don’t want to be that frazzled chatterbox who can’t even hear themself think any more. You’re tired of doing, consuming, checking, answering – what would it feel like to simply be?
Rounding the back side of the Grove of Old Trees, you catch a glimpse of a figure sitting on a bench up ahead. It looks like the same one as before, but this time it doesn’t look like a mirage, but solid as a statue. You decide you’d like to say hello to this fellow traveler through this forest of therapeutic silence, and perhaps they’ll teach you the secret to their serene composure.
But when you reach the bench, the figure has once again disappeared, replaced, in your mind’s eye, with an image of yourself and the person you could be.
Over the coming weeks, all the talk around the office water-cooler is about one thing: You, and the change that’s come over you since your trip to Sonoma County. Not only are you more focused, productive and creative, but it’s as if you have some kind of mental editor, an invisible assistant who enacts a calming influence over the most stressful challenges.
Your friendly colleague – the one who sent you to the Grove of Old Trees with the sly smile of some enlightened sage – cools the office gossip by setting the record straight. “I always knew deep down they were the strong silent type.”
Other Soulful Adventures
This trip through Grove of Old Trees in Occidental, California is just one of a series on soulful travel. For other experiences, visit our Soulful Travel page.
Remember the Leave No Trace Principles
Experiencing our destination through the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Seven Principles gives travelers an opportunity to make a difference. Together, we can protect and preserve this special corner of the world for generations to come. Find more info about sustainable travel in Sonoma County here.
For a list of local businesses helping promote the important message of Leave No Trace, click here.
Written by Christian Chensvold