Sneak Peek: #TheNatureCure story preview

March 10, 2014 | By | Comments (3)

A few weeks ago staff photographer Tom Story and I spent two days in the lush forest around Northern California’s Mount Tamalpais. We were documenting a “field trip” of Juniper Ridge—the self-professed “nature freaks” known for their place-scented products like “Big Sur Backpakers Cologne” and “Siskiou Cabin Spray.”  (Their tagline is “Mountains in a Bottle” and that’s no marketing gimmick.)

(Image 1)Obi wades through ferns, and morning light.

This was a story photo shoot like no other Tom and I had experienced. Typically our conditions are very controlled: we’re photographing a beautiful home for which we have a lot of assistance (a stylist, a photo editor, an assistant) and a shot list (kitchen, deck, rooftop, living room details), and we’re done when the sun sets. This time it was just the two of us, no shot list (loose “reportage” style, said creative director Maili Holiman), with no end time. Did I mention we didn’t even have a trail to follow?

Beyond the obvious fascination with how these Juniper Ridge mountain men diffuse forest clippings (with the appropriate permitting) into scents that transport you the wilderness (I am certifiably obsessed with the Cascade Glacier scent), we wanted to capture how they experienced nature—the forest that is their lab.

(image 2)Hall (above) showing us how tree sap (yes, that stuff you tried not to get stuck in as a kid) is instant—albeit sticky—perfume. 

For all intents and purposes, Juniper Ridge founder Hall Newbegin is a modern day John Muir. (We were IDing and pulling invasive plants as much as we were savoring the perfume-making ones.) Along with colleagues Obi Kaufmann and Tom Accettola, Hall led Tom and I and an entourage of fellow nature enthusiasts on a hike that would forever change how I experience the wild. It would also remind me of what I already knew: Days feel longer when you’re out of cell phone range.

Here’s a little preview.

(image 3)Hall waxes on about the resilience of redwoods. And, while we’re often looking for stable footing on our off-trail hike, I’m reminded to look up.

(image 4)But also to get low. In the woods we’re surrounded by the sweet aroma that shakes up with the wind, and we’re taught to savor individual plant scents close to the ground. 

(image 5)And while technology feels taboo (and ironic?) in the forest, so many moments feel too much like artwork not to capture.

(image 6)Obi shows us a different type of note taking.

(image 7)We even taste nature. I’ll never look at pine needles—or the limits of my water bottle—the same way again.

(image 8)Hall isn’t shy about lugging a few plant ID books in his pack. (And by “a few” I mean “a lot.” It was kind of like that bottomless handbag scene in Mary Poppins.)

(image 9)“Mountains in a Bottle.”

(image 10)

Look for the full story in Sunset soon. We promise, you’ll never experience nature the same way again. Can’t wait to get outside? Here are 100 ideas to get you out of that desk chair and into fresh air.

Text by Sunset contributing editor, Jess Chamberlain. All images by Thomas J. Story.


  1. Kathleen Duich

    I’m concerned about wildcrafting on our mountain for commercial purposes. Permits? Not to mention going off trail… and then promoting that to the masses in a magazine! This mountain in 20 minutes from SF, and right in the middle of very populous Marin County. A few feet on the flora won’t matter, but if everyone does that, it’s a problem. Even if you’re cool enough to bring your vintage-y backpack and oddly heavy hardback field guides (there are only a few varieties of conifers on Mt. Tam, no need for the whole ding dang book) I like Juniper Ridge products but this slant was really disappointing. And kinda yuck…

    March 26, 2014 at 10:21 pm
  2. susan powers

    Love it! Nature is what we all need regular doses of. Regarding nature and the Sunset Special Report on Nervous Energy – I highly recommend watching the documentary Gasland regarding the results of fracking around in PA and around the world. You can watch it on YouTube. Why not concentrate on solar in California? Why drill into a shale layer on or near the fault line?? Are we that stupid or do we like earthquakes??

    March 23, 2014 at 8:10 am
  3. Walter Matera

    What fluff! Mt. Tamalpais is in Central California, not Northern California. I mean you think San Francisco is in the North? Look at a map, ferpeetsake!

    March 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

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