Saturday, July 14, 2012
The Cave Tree and Mystery Sticks: Montgomery Woods
I went for a walk in Montgomery Woods yesterday afternoon and had a new experience. There is one particular enormous tree that grows right along the trail. Pictures do it zero justice. This tree has a massive cave at it's base, and a hole about 30 feet up. It's the kind of hole all children draw on trees. The kind you would expect a cartoon owl to pop out of. Anyhow, the base of the tree has one of the largest circumferences of any of the trees in the park. The tree looks like it could cave in on itself (no pun intended of course) any day now.
When I walked past the tree, it was making all kinds of noise. I stopped for a minute to listen. It sounded like a woodpecker was banging on it from the inside. Then it sounded like mice squeaking from up above. Then I heard cracking noises. It was actually terrifying. I was wondering if the tree was about to give up it's life. I had to keep listening. I decided to walk into the tree, into the cave to get a better listen.
Once I walked into the tree, I heard the most amazing sound. It sounded like water flowing through the tree. It was the same low pitch gurgling that I've heard walking across small creeks that are covered by huge boulders. The squeaking and cracking continued. I had to get out of there. It's been really warm here the last couple of weeks and I have heard stories of trees exploding when it gets too hot. It was probably an irrational fear, but I had to wonder if the water sound was a result of the warm temperature today.
Also, completely non-related, I've developed a theory about a mystery that's been bothering me lately in the redwood forest. Every grove I've been to, I find trees with random sticks attached to the bark, almost as if they had been placed there somehow. I thought perhaps climbers were marking the trees in a way that most visitors would not notice. Once I noticed these sticks, I started seeing them everywhere. They obviously weren't growing out of the tree, just lodged between the bark. They never seem to be branches either. Just sticks. Well, I don't think they are placed there by climbers. When I came across the two fallen giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park three weeks ago, one of the nearby trees that had been scuffed by one of the fallen trees had a fresh slash on it's trunk with one small sized branch stuck on the bark. I think what happens is that when a tree falls, as it is crashing to the ground and the branches strike the surrounding trees, every now and then a single branch breaks off the falling tree and gets lodged into the bark of it's neighbor. The one thing that has been throwing this hypothesis off for me, is sometimes I don't see any evidence of a downed tree nearby, such as the picture above in Montgomery Woods. Maybe branches falling from the tree above can also do the same thing. In the case of Montgomery Woods, the branches were probably moved into the brush to keep the main grove looking clean. I still don't know why there never seem to be needles on the branches. Again, just sticks.