Driving the 25-mile, winding pass known as California Highway 20, you could be excused for missing the weather-worn, wooden sign welcoming you into — and through — Jackson Demonstration State Forest.
After all, the towering redwood trees dappling the sunlight over the road and the misty fog that clings to every curve is what most drivers are there for, as they head toward the craggy cliffs of the Mendocino coastline.
JDSF — or just “Jackson,” as it is known locally — extends for a staggering 48,000 acres beyond that stretch of road. Nestled between the small mountain town of Willits and the coastal city of Fort Bragg, it is home to innumerable second-growth and old-growth redwoods, rare species of animals and birds, several dozen campsites, waterfalls and mossy paths to hike, cycle, ride and motor through.
But JDSF is also what’s known as a working forest, and despite the reputation it has among locals as a haven of natural wonders, it needs to earn its keep.
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