Forest - Fort and Light Adventure

Forest is too Generic a Term!

I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The forests there are beautiful, sprawling things with spruce and pine and aspens. When it warms up, the dry heat makes the pine sap fragrant, like a candle but way better.

Aspen ForestSo at one point in time, I’m not sure when it was, when I was reading a critique about someone’s writing, I was confused by the critique. The person stated that he hated scenes where a person is running through the forest, trying to escape something. His argument was that forests have too much undergrowth for this to work. There’s too much to hack at or get tangled in.

In Colorado, the forests have a ton of open space. Yes, there’s undergrowth, but it’s junipers and aspen sprouts and other bushes. Running through the forest is completely feasible there.

It wasn’t until I moved to Washington and got to explore the state’s gorgeous evergreen forests that I realized how different forests can be. Forest is a very generic term, and depending on your exposure, you might be imagining a very different environment.

Washington’s forests are full of grand furs, pines, douglas furs, sitka spruces and so much more. There’s a temperate rainforest in the state where moss grows thick on things and the trees grow to massive heights. The forest smells like damp wood and evergreen needles. I began to understand, a little, where the critique was coming from. But running through the forest there was still feasible, just a bit more difficult.

Then I moved to South Carolina. Umm, let’s just say things grow so fast down here you can almost see it happening. We cut down a few black walnut trees this last spring and they’re trying to regrow already. Their sprouts are past my waist and the giant limb we trimmed off another oak looks like it’s got a pompom growing out the stump now.

SwampWhen you head out into the forest here, it’s not just the trees that are growing everywhere. Some say the kudzu vine is trying to eat the south. It might kinda be true, but it’s not the only vine growing down here. (Poison ivy anyone?). Besides the pines – if you haven’t noticed, pines are everywhere in the US – and the oaks and maples and walnuts and mimosas and crepe myrtle trees, there are ferns and vines and bushes and…let’s just say not only would it be hard to run through these forests, you might not want to because there are definitely things that bite back.

Again, the forests here smell different too. There’s so much humidity that everything’s damp. Add to that the swamps and you get the moldering, musty smell of things decomposing, or the earthy scent of disturbed earth and vegetation. Or when the trees are flowering, the heady perfume of mimosas or magnolias. I now understand.

In a much briefer experience, I went four wheeling in a forest in Minnesota once too. You could walk five steps, look back, and have no idea where you came from.

I love these differences and I honestly can’t say if I have a favorite kind of forest. But all of these are great fodder for scene building. For those of you who have read Quaking Soulyou now know where a great deal of my scenes came from.



(My most recent multi-ending adventure book, Discarded Dragons, published this month. Check it out here on the site or on Amazon!)

12 thoughts on “Forest is too Generic a Term!”

  1. I grew up with the aspen and pine forests of the Rockies, then went off-grid in the Blue Ridge Mountains in my mid-20s. Huge difference. With all the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and cat briars, (and snakes and biting insects) it really felt like those Southern forests were out to get you.

  2. I haven’t been to nearly as many forests as you have, but it’s been fun to explore them through books like Quaking Soul. The forest is my favorite setting in fantasy books and I’m always disappointed when they do sound very generic. It’s so refreshing to read books like yours that really bring it to life.

    Until I had read an African-inspired fantasy earlier this year, I had never considered forests might be hard to run in. But thinking about forests does make me think of a week of hiking I did in the Scottish Highlands and, considering how many hills I came across, I think having to run up one of those would be just as challenging as running through the undergrowth. I’m also a little baffled that I never considered the undergrowth considering I basically live in fire country with the undergrowth catching fire every year. Haha, I think there are a lot of things I need to re-think now!

    1. I’d love to hike in the Scottish Highlands and see the forests there! What an experience that must have been.

      Colorado has mountainous areas too and the elevation makes it hard to breathe, so I’m sure you’re right, running through the forest would be difficult for different reasons!

      I love how, the more I explore, the more I realize I don’t know and I’ve got more to see 🙂

  3. I’ve never thought about how many different kinds of forests there are just in the US. It’s cool that you’ve seen so many of them! Most of Southern California is a desert climate, but I partly grew up in Florida, so I know how swampy it gets in the southeast! 😛

  4. I agree that forest can be too general, but isn’t it interesting how readers bring their own experiences to their reading and we as writers have no control over it. I remember reading a book that took place by the beach and was confused by the author continuing to say how cold it was. Having only been to tropical beaches to that point, it was hard to imagine. After having lived in New England, I get it now.

    1. That is so true! We can’t control what experiences readers bring to the story and it’s fascinating how two people can read the same story and get completely different mental pictures 🙂

  5. Oh, your descriptions are fabulous! I can smell each one you described! I love how your travels have added to your ability to write these great descriptions!

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