Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Redwoods

While reading the book The Wild Trees, there was a brief reference to a park in Mendocino county that once held what was thought to be the world's tallest tree, discovered by Michael Taylor a few years ago. Immediately I began to wonder where it was. After a little research, I found out that it was good ol' Montgomery Woods. Locals were relieved when an even larger tree was found in a remote unexplored section of Redwood National Park by Taylor again. After a brief period where Montgomery Woods was "trampled," redwood enthusiasts focused their excitement elsewhere, and Montgomery Woods was left in relative peace. Currently, a tree dubbed Hyperion is the world record holder, discovered by Taylor in 2006 in Redwood National Park.

Spend enough time with any person, place, or thing, and you begin to appreciate it more and more. Like any relationship, time and effort is required, creating stronger bonds. I was happy to hear that "my" park was indeed quite special. In fact, several of the tallest trees remaining in the world are located in this humble grove. They are kept somewhat of a secret, it's any one's guess which ones are the tallest. Today, I had greater appreciation for the park's location and protection. It really is a magnificent place!

Driving from Ukiah this afternoon, the weather was warm and dry. Once I reached the area where the Redwood forest began to thicken, the temperature dropped noticeably, fog lingered in the air, and water droplets began to splash on my windshield. The weather had changed. Do the trees create their own weather, or does the area's location attract cooler, damper air? One can't help but think about the forest, our relationship with it, and what the future will bring when walking here. The scars are too noticeable not to think about it. The area's history is still unfolding, requiring one to think about it. The power of these gigantic trees beg one to question.

While hiking along the PCT in Southern California, Answerman and I hiked past a wildlife refuge located off a two lane highway just south of Aqua Dulce. The refuge was located a hundred feet or so below us. A huge fence was warning people of trespassing, alerting people of wild animals. Dilapidated structures, cages, tarps, and vehicles were littered about on the property. Every now and then, we would hear a roar coming from a cage down below. I remember telling Answerman how ironic it was, that if any of these animals happened to escape, they probably would be killed by law enforcement within a matter of minutes or hours. The evolutionary advantage, the wildness within each of these creatures was now a disadvantage in the modern world. For many large beasts, their hunting, aggressive nature is now an evolutionary liability.

The same seems to be true of the Redwoods. Whatever evolutionary advantage of growing 350 feet tall, living 2000 years, and containing 18,000 cubic feet of wood, (beautiful weather resistant wood no less), now seems like an evolutionary disadvantage. Today, while examining a recent blow down, I caught myself saying how nice the wood looked, imagining a patio, furniture, or house built with the lumber. Once again, 96% of the old growth Redwood forest has been cut. 96%!

Is the same true of humans? Has our perceived strength, our ability to control and thrive in our environment becoming an evolutionary liability as resources diminish?

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