An NVIDIAN Who Knows Where The Wild Things Are

by Brian Caulfield

When Eric Henze isn’t exploring the arcane world of enterprise software, he’s padding down the trails of Northern California, NVIDIA-powered tablet in hand.

Luckily enough, NVIDIA’s sharp-eyed Enterprise Architect likes to set stuff down, whether he’s writing guidebooks detailing the plants, animals, terrain and history of some of Northern California’s most visited parks – or constructing the ecosystem of software applications that undergirds NVIDIA’s businesses.

Eric is a trained biologist and environmental engineer with a knack for seeing things whole, whether they’re state parks or software stacks. “I have a predilection for wanting to put things in order, and biology is a way to organize different areas, botany is the same way,” Eric says. “What I do now within Enterprise Architecture also benefits from seeing how things are organized.”

Into the Wild(er): The first of three guidebooks to Northern California state parks Eric Henz has written.

Excellent Adventures

Eric’s also a bit of an adventurer. Out of college, he joined the Peace Corps, spending two years in Ecuador, and later worked as a journalist for a local newspaper in Bolivia. Over the years, he’s lit out for all corners of the globe, traveling through much of South America, chunks of Asia and Europe. He went to Canada’s Nunavut territory a few years ago to get a good look at a solar eclipse.

That sense of exploration, however, isn’t something that Eric saves for trips to far-flung places.

Spurred by the lack of detailed guidebooks for some of Northern California’s state parks, Henze began writing his own, working with the State of California and the non-profits that support them.

State Park Sherpa

The first of three guidebooks “The Complete Guide to Wilder Ranch State Park,” (GoneBeyond Guides, 2013), is scheduled to be published this year with the help of Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Two more guidebooks are in the works: on Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and on The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.

They’re needed: while the state doesn’t have the resources to write its own guidebooks, Big Basin State Park alone gets almost 2 million visitors a year. Eric – with his methodical mind and love for a good yarn – might be the perfect person to introduce those visitors to the plants, animals, and human history all around them.

NVIDIA-powered devices play a growing role in his adventures. He relies on his Microsoft Surface tablet, which is light enough to toss in a knapsack, yet gives him the ability to jot his notes down in Microsoft Word. Over the years, he’s used ASUS tablets, laptops, and his smart phone to document his travels.

Monster’s Pastorale

His latest journey through the Western U.S. will form the basis for a travelogue with his wife and two sons. The title of the book, “RV’ing with Monsters,” is a play on words. “The ‘monsters’ in this book are really in facing one’s trepidations and concerns in getting behind the wheel of an RV for the first time,” Eric says.

Good hat
Have hat, will travel: Eric’s headgear has accompanied him on his travels.

The ability to document as you go is critical, Eric has found. Poetic license is fine for fiction, but Eric’s efforts require more precision. When a reader spots a tree or a mammal on a hike, Eric wants to help them know what they’re seeing, whether it’s a box elder or a bobcat.

From Russia, With Love

He doesn’t neglect the human element, either, though. Take the tale Eric spins about Osip Volkov. It’s a story that could have been told by Jack London. Or Jane Austen.

A young, energetic Russian adventurer plying the strange shores of 19th century California aboard a bark full of fur traders decides he’s had enough. Volkov jumps ship in Monterey – then a part of Spain – persuades the pretty daughter of a local landowner, Maria Castro, to marry him, and changes his name to Jose Bolcoff.

One of the few in the region who could read and write, Bolcoff soon becomes one of the biggest landholders in California. And that’s just a small slice of the little-told history of Wilder Ranch State Park, a sprawling 7,000-acre state park less than an hour’s drive from NVIDIA’s Silicon Valley campus.

‘Astounding Enterprises’

It’s the kind of tale you’ll find again and again in California. The people here have a habit – as Eric’s literary hero, Mark Twain, once said – of getting up to “astounding enterprises.” And they’ve been at it far longer than most realize.

And it all puts NVIDIA’s story in context, too. Ask Eric to come up with a guidebook to NVIDIA and he comes up with an outline in all but an instant – starting with NVIDIA’s history as a scrappy startup founded in a nearby Denny’s.

But that’s a tale for another day. Maybe Eric can even be convinced to help tell it.