One of the fun and exciting aspects of redwood exploring, is the secret nature of the discoveries. For a layman like me, it can be maddening. Take the Mendocino Tree for example. It was once the record holder for the tallest tree from 1996 to 2000. The tree comes in at 368.1 feet, and I would guess will hit the 370 mark in the near future. The very small group of people who know where this tree is keep a tight, tight lid on its whereabouts for good reason. There is no information that I am aware of that indicates the location of this tree.
I've been to Montgomery Woods at least a dozen times now, and I'm starting to get to recognize most of the trees individually. I can't for the life of me, tell which trees are the tallest from the ground. I feel like an explorer searching for the ark of the covenant, bordering on obsession. This past week, I just happened to put together a few clues as to where the Mendocino Tree might be. I went to Montgomery Woods yesterday after work giddy with excitement, thinking that I was at last going to figure it out and confirm the location. No such luck! The clues I thought I had in my possession seem to be mostly smoke and mirrors. The Mendocino Tree is out there, but it's any one's guess as to which one it is.
Again, I am just now, for the first time, seeing the canopies of these magnificent trees. I think visiting this park in the evenings has helped a lot, since the glow of the setting sun reflects off the high canopies like alpine glow in the mountains. Carrying binoculars has helped too. I never thought I'd be one carrying around binoculars on my hikes, but it's been a fantastic addition.
Many of the trees in the grove are tagged, like the one above. Again, it's any one's guess what the numbers mean. All of the information is probably stored in a computer in an academic office somewhere. As an outsider, I must accept that the information is not for me to know, although it is excruciating.
By the way, the true defenders of the wilderness were out in full force last night: The buzz of the mosquito in my ears was the soundtrack playing in the background of my mind during the hike. Another fantastic sunset on the way home. I had to return home defeated last night. The mysteries of the forest remain for now, and maybe its better that way.