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DAVENPORT, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — After losing all his worldly possessions in wildfires, a Northern California man finds that the devastating loss has given him a new opportunity to rethink the way he lives. rice field.
Walking through his property at dawn when the sun is just starting to wake up, it’s easy to understand why Wallace J. Nichols calls this place home.
“We call this the slow coast because you have to slow down to stop looking at the screen or stop running fast,” he said.
Twenty years ago, marine biologist Nichols stumbled upon this redwood canyon north of Santa Cruz while hiking the California coast.
Within a year, I bought the land and started building my dream home.
“It was sturdy, the beams were heavy, and it was made of reclaimed old-growth timber,” he said. “It’s very simple, nothing flashy. But I felt, ‘This place is warm and inviting.'”
Life was idyllic for the next twenty years.
“It’s a great place to raise a family, get away from technology and a busy life, and reconnect with yourself and each other,” he said.
But then, on the night of August 16, 2020, 11,000 bolts of lightning struck the ground in Central California, sparking hundreds of wildfires. One of them crashed through the ravine and headed straight for home.
“I grabbed some stuff, got in the jeep, grabbed the dog, and got out of here,” he recalled.
The next day, all that was left was the chimney.
“We were able to save bits and pieces of things,” he said. I found it, but it was useless and everything was destroyed.”
Nichols and his wife were raising two daughters in their dream home. They built it to withstand the worst of Mother Nature.
“And do I look so arrogant looking back at that point of view?” he thought. “Here I thought I was building something that was timeless and lasted less than a generation.”
It took a whole year to clear the debris. But when it came time to rebuild, Nichols couldn’t do it.
“What I don’t want to do is move my mind to another house and destroy it. I don’t think I can handle that,” he said.
So he took a different path and found a way to coexist with Mother Nature’s increasing unpredictability.
“What feels right is what I can get rid of. It’s lighter on earth, consciously temporary, so if I get away from here, by a stream not too far from the ocean where redwoods rule he said.
His solution is a luxury camping experience where you can share a slice of paradise with family and friends. More importantly, it can be quickly packed and moved to hazardous locations.
Instead of a big house, Nichols has set up a number of modular mobile tents called Jupes, complete with comfortable queen-sized beds and their own solar panels.
“I think it’s very similar to how many of our ancestors lived. It’s a little more nomadic, a little more flexible,” Nichols explained. We don’t know, so we decided this was the immediate direction here,” he said.
But perhaps the biggest advantage was the fact that these tents were no bigger than a hotel room, forcing people to go outside and enjoy the redwoods.
“It’s not a big area to hang out, so they basically kick the door in the morning and explore nature,” he said.
What Nicholls has discovered is that while he still misses that dream home, these old trees are his home. This is the reason why
Once a month, Nichols climbs redwoods and trims dead branches that have not survived fires. Two years later, his Sequoia is stronger than ever.
“It’s amazing to come here and experience these trees in a way I never knew, having lived with them for so long,” he said while hanging 40 feet above the ground.
Perhaps nowhere embodies resilience more than the hidden gems created on his property after a fire. Nicholls showed me a makeshift speakeasy in a thousand-year-old burnt-out tree trunk. The only drink on the menu here is a smoky, tequila-like spirit called mezcal.
“Part of the ritual on the Slow Coast is tasting the smoky fire of mezcal and chasing a bit of the redwood growth tips,” he said.
There were bottles of mezcal around every corner. And just above the charred wreckage towered tall new shoots of redwoods.
Ironically, after the fire, Nichols thought he couldn’t save anything. After all, he managed to save the most important thing.
“I’ve seen all these sequoias, some of them are 1,000 years old,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot, but they’re still standing here and keep coming back.”
Another project that came about as a by-product of the loss of Nicholls and his family is a children’s book he wrote entitled “Dear Wild Child.” It began as a letter to my eldest daughter, who went to college the day before the fire and was devastated by the loss of her home. The letter was circulated online and proved to be a rejuvenating tonic for those under chronic stress.
Nichols and his daughter decided to turn it into a book. The final message of the book was originally intended for Nichols’ daughter, but it can benefit everyone.
“Your house may be gone, but you will carry it with you wherever you go.”