When my husband suggested we do a Tauck Tour called “John Muir’s California” – which started and ended in San Francisco, with Muir Woods, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks in between – I was a little disappointed. I was thinking Italy, actually.

But when he showed me a few jaw-dropping photographs of these wooded wonderlands, I didn’t have much trouble getting my mind right.

As it turns out, recent research points out that being in “green space” or “forest therapy” can actually do your mind good, as well as your body.

Take in two giant sequoias and call me in the morning.

Take in two giant sequoias and call me in the morning.

Want to lower your stress hormone levels or your blood pressure? Boost your immune system big time? Japanese researchers have found that simply gazing at forest scenery for 20 minutes can be calming – lowering the stress hormone cortisol levels by 13.4 percent, bringing them down to lower-than-average concentrations among city dwellers. Yes, there is now scientific evidence for the conventional wisdom that the scent of trees, the sounds of brooks and the feel of sunshine through forest leaves appears to lower stress and make people feel at ease. The Japanese have become so enthusiastic about these scientifically-documented relaxing effects that 31 forest areas and four wooded roads have been designated as sites for “forest therapy.” Some Japanese companies are even including coverage for forest therapy in their employee health plans!

For stressed-out American workers, this may someday be a doctor’s prescription: Walk around in the woods. Our week-long trip in late June cost a lot more than a co-pay, but it was time well-spent with the coastal redwoods, ponderosa pines and giant sequoias. Whether I was gazing up from the Yosemite valley floor at Half Dome and El Capitan, or at two bear cubs carefully lodged in one of the nearby sugar pines with their mother stationed down below – Yosemite is a wonder of the world that actually lives up to the hype.

I did the math - you could stack 13-14 Niagara Falls into Yosemite Falls behind me here.

I did the math – you could stack 13-14 Niagara Falls into Yosemite Falls behind me here.

Fast forward to today – and the massive wildfire heading toward Yosemite’s beloved sequoia trees is now the size of Dallas. Amazingly, the sequoias are expected to survive even if the fire spreads through the groves of towering redwoods. According to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, “These trees are very old and it’s not the first fire they’ve ever seen.”  Sounds to me like an inspiring example of resilience – from the realm of the natural world.

When I got back to Louisville and encountered the usual question, “How was it?” I remembered the scene in Rome from “Eat Pray Love” where Liz’s friend Guilio says, “…every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there.”  Rome’s word is “sex.” The Vatican’s word is “power.” New York’s word is “achieve.”

I don’t have the word (yet) for some pretty special places I’ve visited in the past few years – Lake Louise, the Grand Canyon, Mauna Kea – but I had no trouble at all coming up with the word for Yosemite – it is “majesty.”