Pilgrimages to a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Cheatham Grove

While walking through the redwoods at Cheatham Grove, it’s easy to feel like Rey and think, “I didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy” because aside from the trail, everything is green. The trees, the ferns, the moss, it’s all green. It’s overwhelming, and at least for this city boy from Southern California, it felt both awe-inspiring and alien. It felt like the steps I’d just taken from the road to the trail had transported me not just from civilization to nature but through hyperspace straight to Endor.

Cheatham Grove in the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is where the steadicam point-of-view shots from the speeder bike sequence in Return of the Jedi were shot. The scenes with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and the other actors were actually shot on private land to the north of the grove. I wasn’t literally walking in Wickett’s footsteps (paw prints?), but it felt like it. Walking through the grove, I found myself imagining Leia’s meeting with Wickett, Luke’s battle with the scout troopers, and AT-ST’s being crushed by logs all around me.

As we walked through the trail, I found myself in constant awe of just how small I was. The trees felt so tall and wide that you were engulfed in their massive shadow. I often found my gaze following their growth up towards the sky, almost as if I knew that those Ewok villages were hiding there just out of sight. They very well could have been because the trees were actually so tall that I couldn’t see the tops of many of them. There were also many trees that had sadly fallen. Some of them had a diameter the size of a large pickup truck, their dark root systems standing three to four times the size of an adult, and others were not as big but reminded me of Leia’s logside meeting with Wicket. I could practically hear her beckoning me over to indulge in a little snack; ironically, one of my daughter’s favorite parts of the trail was the redwood sorrel which is an edible clover that tastes like green apples. There were also some trees that had grown sideways, their trunks starting in the traditional vertical orientation before swerving to the side in search of the life-giving sun.

At one point, my wife turned to me and told me that the sword ferns were what reminded her of Endor. She was right. Sword ferns aren’t big. They have a stem with thin fronds that cause the whole thing to look like a sword, but the sheer density of them certainly added to the sense of being on an alien world. You felt almost like they must have tumbled out of the celluloid and covered the ground in a massive tidal wave. I knew there must be soil beneath those ferns, but in many spots, that was something I had to take on faith because the ferns covered everything.

This was my first trip to a Star Wars filming location, and I already want to visit another. It’s awesome because you get to experience the dazzling real world beauty Earth has to offer, but if you look at the same location using the lens of your imagination, you can imagine that you’re among the Ewoks. You can visit a galaxy far, far away if you just close your eyes.

Have you been to any Star Wars filming locations? Share your experiences with us on Twitter at @mapplebee7567 and @farfarawayradio.

Use the Google Map below to chart my travels to various locations related to Star Wars.