Wednesday, March 24, 2010


So, the last few days I've been offline, staying at a B&B in Ferndale -- "The Shaw House", a fine old place built in 1854, about the same time my home town was incorporated.

Since last posting, I've found out the body I saw being carried up from the Smith River was a rescue, not the retrieval of a corpse (that'd rather been bothering me the last few days).

I've seen what was once the world's tallest tree, the Dyerville Giant, until nineteen years ago when the domino effect (a misguided botch of a foreign policy back in my youth, but a reality in the world of tall trees) knocked it over. A slender new trunk is sprouting up from the (massive) roots, so let's hope it succeeds and survives.

I've found out that redwoods have astonishing vitality, maybe more than any other tree. I've walked through trees with hollows, including some with the center entirely burned out (like the 'Chimney Tree'); the remaining semi-circle of bark still putting out new branches and needles and carries on living. Trees that have fallen over sometimes turn surviving branches that now happen to point up into new trunks. Trees cut down can grow a circle of new trunks out of the stump, so that when the last of the original trees finally rots away you get what is called a "cathedral tree" of separate but linked trees. Trees that lose their tops put out a radius of new branches to form a platform-like crown (which they've recently discovered has its own ecosystem). Small trees may sprout, grow to twenty or thirty feet, and then wait centuries for a neighboring giant to fall before shooting up to replace them when their chance finally comes. Truly amazing trees.

I've visited a strange cemetery in continuous use for more than a century and a half, set on a hillside, with most 'graves' being family plots entirely covered by huge concrete slabs. Here too was the other 'Shaw House': the mausoleum for the Shaw family, including the builder of our B&B.

I walked more than 10,000 steps today alone, according to my pedometer, even more than yesterday.

I found out you can have yellow violets; they grow wild around the feet of the redwood giants (along with ferns, what looks like shamrocks but are apparently 'redwood sorrel', and others -- there are apparently a lot of huckleberries growing up in the crowns 300+ feet up). Fortunately, I was able to save the old poem with a little work:

Roses are red
Violets are yellow
If you'll be my gal
I'll be your fella.

--John R.


David Bratman said...

Some years ago the New Yorker had an article about forest ecologists studying the old redwood trees in the deep forest, discovering that some of them form huge platforms in the sky with literally hundreds of branch trunks sprouting up looking for sunlight. Whole ecologies of arboreal creatures live up there, never going down to the ground.

Not only did it remind me of the scene where Bilbo pops his head up above the cover of Mirkwood, but the scientists have given the trees Tolkienian names, mostly (I was pleased to see) from the Silmarillion.

Ardamir said...

I think it's a pity that such trees are not be found in Europe (formerly Middle-earth)..

John D. Rateliff said...

David: Yes, I thought of the flets of Lorien as well. There's a nice discussion of the redwoods canopy in the recent Nat'l Geographic special CLIMBING REDWOOD GIANTS, which we saw at our B&B in Ferndale.

Ardamir: Actually, I have seen a sequoia in Oxfordshire, at Kingston Bagpuize. It's about two hundred years old, I think, and amazingly high. But at this length of time (that was in '87) I don't remember which kind it was: a Coastal Redwood (like the ones we saw) or a Giant Sequoia. Not a Metasequoia, since those hadn't been rediscoverd yet. There is a little pull-off in Jedediah Smith State Park, the northernmost of the sequoia parks, which had one of each planted around its parking lot; nice to get a chance to contrast all three.