Hall, or more specifically Hall and the Field Lab Van, knows the Panoramic Highway, which winds around the peak of Mount Tamalpais, better than any man and his trusty steed should know each other. It is not for the faint of heart to ride shotgun. To say he takes it way too fast is an easy understatement. “Don’t worry, this thing has sway bars and corners like a hot rod” he says, showing off his almost preternatural sense of the upcoming turns as the passengers white knuckle it. The speed is not a measure of bravissimo, but rather as he explains “I want to get to lone tree canyon while there is still enough sunlight for us to take out this patch of helichrysum I’ve been eyeing for a while. This so-called licorice plant is my mortal enemy. It chokes the creek.”
The team of six of us get to the trailhead just before five o’clock and the shadows of the Douglas Fir trees are already long on the ridge. It is clear that although we may get to the restoration site, which will also serve as our harvest site, before we lose the light, we’ll be returning to the van in the dark.
The hike down the steep slope into the untrailed canyon is slow going for most of us. Muddy and slippery and we are quickly soaked as we follow a nearly invisible deer path. “Keep your eye out for big white mushrooms” Hall sings, now in his element. Alternating between mushroom lore and Hank Williams songs, Hall is constantly singing about something. “We are looking for Matsutakes under the Scrub Oaks and Chanterelles under the Live Oaks.”
After several hours, we’ve removed about a ton of the invasive Licorice plant and still have yet to see any of the delicious edible mushrooms Hall goes on about. “That’s okay, they have yet to come up. They will in late January after these El Niño rains really soak the soil. Chanterelles need about five inches to really take off. We are getting that, about now, for the first time in years.”
Climbing back up the mountain with headlamps blazing we stop for a moment of silence on a natural bridge created by a Redwood that must have fallen a hundred years ago and still holds its strength enough for Hall to climb up and address the crew. “This is Winter Redwood. Cold. Green. Damp.” The words trail off into the best song we’ve yet to hear. The spiritual power of the living forest overtakes us.
With packs full of Broken Bay Laurel boughs, Douglas Fir leaf Litter, Moss patches that given way in the recent rains, Redwood cones and fallen needles, Lichen knots and braids that tinseled the rocks and forest mulch, bits of green stump growth, we plod back to the van to experience Hall’s harrowing drive back home. The next few days are spent distilling, infusing and extracting these pieces of the forest that are going into this year’s Winter Redwood Harvest. A thought occurs to those of us who have experienced this day and days like it. This process is ongoing: it is for us to participate and interact with nature. We know this mountain. It trusts us and we trust it. Even if we’ve yet to find those delicious mushrooms.
This is a true Field Lab Wilderness Perfume, researched and developed on the trail around Mount Tamalpais in the Winter of 2016. We were only able to make 238 winter redwood beard oil & 120 winter redwood backpackers cologne – that’s how much rainy, redwood forest-juice we were able to squeeze out of this beautiful mountain topography of soil, rain, tree and mushroom.
A seasonal fragrance inspired by winter days spent foraging for wild mushrooms and exploring the secret Redwood canyons of Mt. Tamalpais. Made for men and women, our perfume is extracted from plants, bark, and moss harvested in the misty coastal wilderness north of San Francisco.