Sequoia sempervirens, better known as the California coastal redwood, is an evergreen tree, the tallest species now living on earth, which can grow up to 400 feet and live up to 2,000 years!
It was quite an honor, as one can imagine, for Urban Releaf Executive Director and Founder Kemba Shakur to be invited to plant one of these gentle giants at the Wildwood retreat, courtesy of our friend Randy Arnold, aka the “Barefoot Guy,” aka Uncle Randy.
For the Urban Releaf staff and close friends and family, the event provided an opportunity for a mini-road trip out of the urban jungle and up into the green hills of Northern California’s picturesque Russian River area, where the Wildwood retreat is located.
Our meet point was the Korbel winery in Guerneville, along River Road, where we met up with Arnold and his partner Greg for a tasty box lunch. We didn’t have a chance to sample Korbel’s sparkling wines, which was just as well, since Arnold works for competitor Barefoot Wines – who, if you recall, named Shakur one of their “Soles of the Year” for 2013.
From there it was an uphill journey along a winding mountain road filled with twisty switchbacks, until we reached Wildwood. Arnold gave us a quick tour of the facility, a former chicken ranch first homesteaded in 1880, whose 210 acres became a hippie hangout in the 60s and 70s, then evolved into a spiritual retreat center for the LGBT community, as well as home to a massive redwood forest. Arnold explained that there was a replanting effort underway, to replace approximately 1200 sequoias overtaken by an aggressive influx of Scotch broom.
Urban Releaf was invited to plant a sequoia in the redwood grove, a memorial/commemorative site down the trailhead from the main Wildwood facility. Arnold had prepared a plaque which simply read, “Urban Releaf 2013.” It was not lost on Shakur that the tree would grow and thrive there for as long as two millennia, preserving the non-profit urban forestry organization’s legacy for untold future generations.
Along the way to the planting site, we walked along a ridge overlooking an abundant field and passed by the largest live oak in the United States. We were joined by Susan Tillett, Executive Director of the Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, a writers’ retreat where Shakur has been working on her autobiography. At the site, UR tree stewards Tim Hudson and Akeem Davis quickly dug a hole for the sequoia, which easily slid into the ground which was to be its new home for the next couple thousand years. Once planted, the tree was decorated with candy canes in honor of the season – which will likely become a treat for roving deer. Next, photos were taken and the entire group clasped hands and said a blessing.
It was a wonderful, magical experience, one that reminded the entire Urban Releaf team of the power and majesty of trees. Urban Releaf would like to extend a big “THANK YOU” to Uncle Randy and Greg for sharing this blessing with us.