In Praise of Favorite Trees

In honor of Earth Month, REI Members and staff share stories about their favorite trees.

Nature is often the backdrop for the stories we tell. It’s the glacier lake we jump into; the pillowy snow we send our skis down; the wind that whips at our tent the night before a memorable hike. Occasionally, nature gets to be the main character. For instance: trees. Most people have a tree story, whether it’s the crab-apple they scraped their knees learning to climb or an evergreen they always notice on a favorite trail.

Below are stories from our REI Member and staff community about their favorite trees. Read on to discover a 300-year-old oak, a sequoia that inspired a romantic tattoo and more. Share your tree story in the comments below.

Here are tree stories shared by REI staff and members around the country.

Stopping to Smell the Cherry Blossoms

A family stands in front of a large cherry tree in full blossom.
“We have a block with an entire intersection in West Seattle that is lined with old cherry trees. Every spring, no matter how cold it is, we open our windows to let the smell of the buds waft through our house. We play in, on, around and amongst them; hide behind their huge puffy pink blooms; create artwork out of their flowers before they go away. It’s so incredibly fleeting—just like my kids. Their childhood is passing by without me even stopping to “smell the flowers.” The blooms are an annual reminder to slow down, take a deep breath, enjoy the time and space I’m in with these tiny humans before they’re all grown up, and be so incredibly grateful that we have this beauty right outside of our door! I take an annual picture under the cherry blossoms. Here’s the latest.” – Rachael Minucciani, REI senior program manager of strategic brand partnerships. REI Member since 2014.

In the cherry blossom’s shade 
there is no such thing
as a stranger
– Kobayashi Issa 

Wondrous Willow

A weeping willow tree by a pond with ducks in it.
“My favorite tree is a weeping willow. Growing up, we had a willow in my backyard that I loved to climb, so I always light up when I see one. I love the weeping willows in the Boston Public Garden.” – Alicia Harvey, REI Cooperative Action manager. REI Member since 2011.

Did you know?

There are 19 weeping willow trees in Boston’s Public Garden, and they were originally planted around the lagoon in the early 20th century. The Public Garden is considered the country’s first botanical garden; it was established in 1839.

Tree of Life

A black and white image of a young tree surrounded at its base by a circle of rocks.
“Thank you for honoring my Mom’s tree. Amy Quinney was a deep source of love in my life and all of those she cared about—which was everyone! This tree is where her body came to rest. We interred her ashes here on March 1, 2020, just before the whole world changed. Her tree continues to grow and bring new life, just as her love lives on and grows even in the wake of our grief and sadness. As I wrote in her obituary: Her strength and love and joy will live on in all of us who had the honor of being a part of her rich and beautiful life.” – Dr. Kathy Wilder, San Diego, CA. REI Member since 1992.


by Jane Hirshfield

It is foolish 
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being 
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window. 
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

Best Part of My House

A large tree with a very straight trunk stands in the corner of a residential yard.
“This is my front yard tree. It is a giant western hemlock with a double trunk that we named Hermione. It is one of the reasons I bought my specific home in March of last year. I live in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle, and Wedgwood loves and fights for its trees. The community fought to save Luma [a double-trunked cedar tree that has significance for members of the Snoqualmie Tribe], and I am so happy that the developer who built my home created a plan specifically to leave space for Hermione. She cleans our air, shades our yard, and watches over us.” – Mercedes Benedict, executive assistant at REI Co-op. REI Member since 2003.

Did you know?

A “culturally modified tree” is a tree that has been intentionally altered by Indigenous people. These trees have cultural significance for specific groups. In some states and countries, there are laws in place to prevent illegal cutting. The Luma tree in Seattle is an example of a culturally modified tree.

Visiting an Old Friend

A person of European descent sits under a large tree with their arms outstretched.
“I borrowed a book about Finland so much that the librarian ordered it for me to own. I was in elementary school and obsessed with the trees I saw in the book. Finland is blanketed with pine trees that look painted with a fan brush. So amazing. My dear friend took me to the Paavola tree [a famous oak tree in Finland that’s estimated to be more than 300 years old], one of the most special trees in the country and world. Totally an oak tree. Totally unexpected. I’m going back in February to visit it a third time. It’ll be covered with snow. Can’t wait.” – Debra de Rosset, Lutherville, MD. REI Member since 2012.

Did you know?

About 75% of Finland’s land mass is covered in forests. A little more than 10% of that land is completely protected from logging use, according to the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Happy Place

A photo from the ground, looking up at a large tree with many branches.
“This metasequoia [dawn redwood] was my special place as a child—a perfect climbing tree, spy station and secret hideout all in one. There’s still some muscle memory for the route up to my favorite perch. It’s on the corner by the house I grew up in, in South Jersey. I loved having such a great climbing tree right in our yard and spent a lot of time in it. I still don’t think I’ve found a better climbing tree anywhere. When I was younger, my parents called it the “dinosaur tree,” and I spent a long time thinking that was the name of the type of tree, but eventually learned it was just because they had hung dinosaur ornaments on it for one of my birthday parties.

A regional tradition is Mischief Night (the night before Halloween), where kids go out and cause trouble—TPing yards, egging houses and so on. I would TP our own tree instead; it made for a pretty cool Halloween decoration with all the strands hanging down.” – Brenna Powell, trip specialist for REI Adventures. REI Member since 2017.

Speaking Tree (exerpt)

by Joy Harjo

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings 
But they do not understand poetry—

Long Live the Queen

This bur oak tree is called The Queen of Lyndale Avenue, for good reason: It spans nearly three full residential plots and is a favorite sight for local residents. – Video credit: Caitlin Longley Keenan, Minneapolis, MN. REI Member since 1996.

Did you know?

The oldest living tree is thought to be a California bristlecone pine named Methuselah and it’s approximately 4,765 years old, according to the National Park Service. Bristlecone pines can grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall. As the bristlecone roots become exposed, they dry out and die. The tree connected to those roots eventually dies as well, while the rest of the tree continues to live. This is what gives it its twisted appearance.

A small, young evergreen tree.
“In 2021, my sweet grandfather died from complications from COVID-19. He was like the root of a tree for our family, he held our family up, he helped us live strong and healthy. My best friend gifted me something that means so much: She purchased a grove of trees to be planted in Tahoe National Forest through Trees for a Change. This June, I plan on visiting these trees and I’m excited to see how strong these trees are growing and how they are giving back to this forest, just like my grandfather did to our family.”  – Jenny Avalos, REI program manager for brand and customer REDI partnerships. REI Member since 2006.

Recent photo from the Tahoe National Forest planting, courtesy of Trees for a Change.

being property once myself

by Lucille Clifton

being property once myself
i have a feeling for it,
that’s why i can talk
about environment.
what wants to be a tree,
ought to be he can be it.
same thing for other things.
same thing for men.

Celebrating Our Roots

Two people outstretch their arms in front of a large sequoia tree. Their arms have the same tree tattooed on them.
“My partner, Matt, and I met at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Aside from being the place we met, the campus holds a special place in both of our hearts. Central on that campus is a giant sequoia, said to have been gifted to the campus more than 90 years ago. It’s iconic to the school, and both Matt and I used to nod to it when we used to give tours to prospective students back in college. We decided to memorialize this incredible tree and its significance to the start of our relationship (one might say, our roots) by getting tattoos of it in 2023. We’re in love with them!” – Nani Vishwanath, REI senior program manager of diversity, equity and inclusion. REI Member since 1990.

Did you know?

A rose tree covering nearly 5,000 square feet in Tombstone, Arizona, claims to be the largest rose tree in the world. It was planted there by Scottish immigrants in the late 1800s. Tourists flock to the tree during six weeks in March and April when it’s in bloom. You can smell the roses from a block or two away.

Trees, Water and People

A young girl with a bright pink silk flower in her hair leans over a baby pine three that she is helping to plant.
“This doesn’t look like a tree because it barely was one yet. In 2018, I participated in a tree planting in Honduras with an organization called Trees, Water & People, which, among other things, works with local communities there to battle rampant deforestation due to pine beetle infestation. Each of these native pines was planted by a child who lived nearby, and they all created wooden name markers to put near theirs so they could proudly watch them grow. I wonder how much taller this tree and Maricruz, the young girl who planted it, are today.” – Ever Meister, editor for the REI Co-op publications Uncommon Path and Expert Advice. REI Member since 2012.

Stand Up for Trees

A tree is a world: A single oak, for instance, is home to dozens of animals and insects. A tree near your home—whether you live in a rural or urban area—likely helps keep your neighborhood cool in summer and soaks up water left behind by rainstorms, among other benefits. Studies show that spending time among trees helps people feel less stressed and more connected with nature

But in communities across the United States, a lack of trees can mean low air quality, high temperatures and  vulnerability to weather extremes for the people who live there. That’s why the co-op community supports the TREES (Trees for Residential Energy and Economic Savings) Act, to plant trees in underserved neighborhoods to help lower residential energy costs and mitigate climate change.

The bipartisan bill aims to create a program at the Department of Energy to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees annually in neighborhoods across the country where they’re needed. 

It takes less than 60 seconds to urge Congress to support the TREES Act through the REI Cooperative Action Network. Add your voice today.

No Comments