Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wild Trees

As I was preparing to lead the Adventurous Young Mazamas to the Redwoods National Park,  I came across Richard Preston's book Wild Trees.  This book is about some of the folks who would climb very tall trees, such as the Coastal Redwoods, for scientific research.  It appealed to my appreciation of trees and climbing, so I checked it out from the library.

On the surface this book follows the ups and downs of the principle characters.  The first is Steve Sillet, who is currently a professor at Humbolt State University.  The second is Michael Taylor, who explores the thick Redwood forests in search of the tallest Redwood that still stands.  He eventually found  the 391.1 foot Hyperion, which stands in an undisclosed location in Redwoods National Park.

What I found fascinating was to learn about all of the life that is found up in the forest canopy.  It was not surprising to learn about salamanders and lichens that live up there. But to read about Sillet free climbing a redwood and eating huckleberries was amazing.  It seems that over the years drifting soil collects in the tall trees, making it possible for ferns, Salal, and other trees to take root and thrive .  I have visited Redwoods National Park twice. In the depth of my awe for these grand trees it never occurred to me that there was a diverse eco-system high above me.  I think that is one of the important points of this book, that people like Sillet and Taylor are showing us there are still places in our backyard that have yet to be discovered.   95% of the Coastal Redwoods have been lost to logging, I pray that we're not too late.

I had to cancel the Redwoods trip due to a grim weather forecast.  This book certainly increased my resolve to return, for I can appreciate the diversity of life up in the tree canopy more.  While I feel the author sensationalized some matters, he certainly conveyed the drive behind these people who find meaning up in the forest canopy. 

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