Magazine article Earth Island Journal

The Path Well Trodden

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

The Path Well Trodden

Article excerpt

One doesn't need to travel all the way to the wilderness to encounter the wild.

Everyone knows Robert Frost's praise for the road less traveled. But on a sunny afternoon, seeking only a ramble in the nearest forest, the well-trod trail will often do. The route may be familiar--full of well-loved sights and memory-filled spots--but the journey is never exactly the same. Weather shifts the woods' mood, flowers erupt, leaves disappear then reappear. Each season uncovers a fresh and startling scene.

A beloved path is like a waterfall: a constant course formed of an ever-changing current.

Rising 2,500 feet above the waters of San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais in California's Marin County has for generations provided this kind of neighborly nature experience. Since the Gold Rush, the mountain's jumble of oak grasslands, chaparral hillsides, redwood groves, and Pacific views has been a popular getaway for urbanites. The pleasure of the place is due in part to its proximity to the city. Almost any trail offers the invigorating juxtaposition of natural scenery with the crystal towers of San Francisco. It's easy to get to, and then feel far away.

The mountain has been a muse to many, including the artist Tom Killion and the poet Gary Snyder, who have collaborated to create Tamalpais Walking, a new book that extols the virtues of this unique site.

Killion is a local boy, born in the town of Mill Valley, which got its name from the 19th-century logging industry that thrived on the mountain's forested shoulders. As a teenager in the 1970s, he began experimenting with one-color block prints of the mountain's scenes. Since then, he has become a West Coast master of the East Asian aesthetic. His elaborate prints can involve up to 14 different hand-carved blocks and can take months to make. It's a craft as deliberate as a long walk. …

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