Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Mother Tree protest

November 7, 2021

The next day, we spent a quiet morning packing and cleaning up the campsite before one final outing. 

“Leave no trace,” Jesse told us.

There was a quiet stillness in the air, the birds silent and the air charged with an approaching storm. A few of us took one final walk around the camp before we left, hesitant to say goodbye to it just yet. 

Finally, we left camp for the last time to meet up with Chad Swimmer to see a tree sit. 

We went by car and got very lost. I was a little nervous that we wouldn’t be able to figure out the route as Tony, the guy I carpooled with, bounced over rocky dirt roads and massive tree-trunk speed bumps in his tiny car. Thankfully, we did eventually make it, mostly unscathed.

None of us really knew what to expect from a tree sit.

We walked through the beautiful trails of Jackson Forest, surrounded on all sides by vibrant green foliage that looked almost like hedges. Little mushrooms peeked out from the shadows.

As we walked (“Only about a mile!” William called out.), Chad taught us about the native mushrooms and the logging industry that threatened the forest’s ecosystem.

We began to see trees spray painted a haphazard blue, the earth around them yellow and bulldozed. Going in deeper, we saw brightly colored carnations that led us off the ruined path. The flowers hung suspended by neon green tags near a tree where a 16-year old named Sorrel sat suspended.

Sorrel sat in protest. She sat for three days on a platform 65 feet in the air and no bigger than 200 feet in diameter. Before her, a 12-year-old boy had sat, and a 65-year-old woman would take Sorrel’s place later in the day.

A clear line has been cut into the massive tree Sorrel guarded, an obvious attempt to cut the thing down.

Her mother sat at the base of the tree, next to a beautiful shrine to the forest. Multi-colored carnations filled the area and surrounded the massive tree along with signs calling for protection of Jackson State Forest.

Chad led a lecture while we all sat on a massive bridge of logged redwoods nearby, the forest canopy above them destroyed and letting in harsh light. He talked about the history of the forest and the logging industry in Fort Bragg. We learned about the Coyote Valley Band of the Pomo tribe and their attempts to protest the logging of the trees in partnership with The Mendocino Trail Stewards.

As we left the forest, there was a little bit of sadness. We were all eager to get some water and return to populated society again, but leaving wasn’t easy. We all met in a giant messy group hug and then began to go our separate ways, calling out goodbyes to one another for as long as we could. 

The rain began falling as we all drove away.

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