Friday, January 28, 2011

of men and moose and pine trees*

Solitary Tree by David Hayward, creator of the Naked Pastor blog

Synchronicity seems to be a favorite word in the blogosphere. I see it used a lot and I believe that is because as we open ourselves to one another via our blog posts and comments/replies we are dazzled by how unique we each are...but are often amazed at how our thoughts criss-cross in space and meld into a wonderland of, not necessarily similarity, but sensitivity to our having intersected in thought or action, time or place.

Such was the case recently when, in the same week, Naked Pastor's email newsletter provided subscribers with a free download of one of his paintings, the beautiful Solitary Tree shown above, and I read a news article about a record-tall ponderosa pine having been spotted here in Oregon. If that is not a sublime example of synchronicity, then I do not know what is.

We each may have in our minds our own iconic representation for nature, the one thing we would draw, photograph, or write about to describe the natural world. I am surely not alone in saying that my nature icon would be a tree. And if a 268.35 feet high ponderosa pine is not iconic for all that we should treasure in this world, then I do not know what is.

The full article may be read at the Medford Mail Tribune. A portion of the article follows:

Tallest of the tall
January 23, 2011
By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
A Southern Oregon ponderosa found by two big-tree hunters may be the biggest pine on the planet
Height of the record-setting tree: 268.35 feet; three other ponderosas in the grove also are extraordinary — topping out at 266, 262 and 259.5 feet.

    * The tallest previously known ponderosa pine: 259 feet, in the Big Pine Campground southwest of Grants Pass (Oregon).
    * Previous top pine in the world: A sugar pine measured at 269.2 feet in Yosemite National Park, which died in 2009.

Mammoth-tree hunters Michael Taylor of Trinity County, Calif., and Mario Vaden of Beaverton instantly knew on Jan. 3 they had discovered a new pine king.
"We were walking along, saw the top of the tree sticking up, and we both said, 'Wow!' " Taylor said. "I knew right away it was the tallest."

"We have a new world record," Vaden said.

Not only is the ponderosa, at 268.35 feet high, the tallest known of its species, it is also the tallest known pine tree — of any pine species — on the planet, they say.

Consider this: The pine's height is roughly 32 feet shy of a football field turned on end.

What's more, it is among at least four trees in the grove that are taller than the tallest-known pines on the globe, they add.

"This is like walking into a cathedral," marveled Frank Callahan, 63, of Central Point, a botanist and Oregon's reigning big-tree finder who joined the duo on a visit to the titanic trees last week...

Welcome to the land of giants.

The site is a heavily treed little basin in the Wild Rivers Ranger District within two-dozen miles west of Grants Pass and south of the Rogue River. The tree hunters asked that the pines' exact location not be identified because of concerns they may be vandalized.

Big-tree hunters such as Callahan use a formula including height, diameter and circumference to come up with a champion tree, which is then placed on the National Register of Big Trees kept by American Forests, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. In fact, Callahan has 19 national champion trees in Oregon to his credit, making him the top big-tree hunter in the state, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

But Taylor, 44, an engineer by training, and professional arborist Vaden, 51, focus on height in their search. Taylor, along with Chris Atkins, discovered a redwood tree dubbed "Hyperion," which towers 379.3 feet above the ground, making it the tallest known redwood on Earth.

Their hunt for that redwood, located in Redwood National Park south of Crescent City, Calif., was featured in the book about tall-tree hunters, "Wild Trees," by acclaimed author Richard Preston.

To precisely measure a tree's height, Taylor and Vaden employ a laser range finder. The computerized device, which considers factors such as the angle, determines how tall a tree is by measuring the time it takes the light to reflect back to the receiver.

They say the champion tree is actually a bit taller than measured because the tripod holding the range finder had to be placed slightly uphill from ground level of the tree to allow the top to be seen. They used three different range finders to verify their measurements.

However, they say the tree will need to be physically measured by a climber to confirm its height. They have notified forest officials, who did not know about these particular tall pines.

Wayne Rolle, a forest botanist, called the discovery "exciting."

"We're looking forward to learning the exact location of this tree, and taking any necessary steps to keep this tree intact and healthy," Rolle said. . . .

. . . "I am confident a taller sugar (emphasis added) pine will be found in Southern Oregon by the end of the year," Taylor said, citing the region's history of producing tall conifers.

But the ponderosas (emphasis added) in the little basin are unique, he said.

"I've done thousands of ponderosas in California," he said. "The big ones always max out at 225 to 230 feet. It is really rare to see a 240-foot ponderosa. So this is really freakish. There is something really special about this place.

"I never thought a ponderosa would get as tall as sugar pines," he added. "Sugar pines are the king of pines. They have always been thought to be the tallest pines without any competition. But now we have these ponderosas giving them a run for their money."

The grove containing the mammoth pines consists mostly of Douglas firs which, at perhaps 150 feet at the most in the area, are decidedly shorter than their ponderosa pals.

Several fir stumps around the big pine indicate the area was selectively logged two decades or so ago. Blue tags on many of the firs in the immediate area illustrate another selective harvest is planned.

"The ponderosa probably would benefit from a selective logging of the immediate understory, but if the area is clear-cut, the tree will probably either fall over or blow out its top," Taylor said. "Such a tall ponderosa would never grow in an open area."

"Once you cut a tree down, the root system dies and composts," Callahan noted. "The remaining nearby trees enjoy the benefit of that composting. So it is a beneficial thing to these giants to take out the intruders. That allows the big boys to take off again."

Taylor estimates the tallest tree is around 300 years old, which he figures is young for its height. Its diameter at chest height to a human is only 5.7 feet, he noted.

"Sometimes trees like this don't have that enormous girth — they just skyrocket," Callahan said. "They are like toothpicks in the sky."

"All the energy and growth is going into the vertical," Taylor said. "That indicates it is a younger tree, a mature ponderosa but still a younger tree."

The intense competition causes the trees to reach skyward for sunlight, he said, adding that the basin contains several small streams, providing ample water to the grove. . .

. . . "I appreciate seeing something like this still remaining out here," Vaden said. "So many of the really big trees have been cut down in Oregon.

"When I see a tree of this age and size, it represents a glimpse of an older forest, a peek into history, so to speak," he added. "It represents the smallest of what used to be. We have to look hard to find trees like this now."

The big pines were taking root before our nation was born, he said.

"When we came to this country, we wiped out the passenger pigeon, the great ox, the Carolina parakeet and almost took out the American bison," Callahan said. "We are like the cancer on the planet."

Before leaving the grove of giants, the three talked about what they hope will happen — or not happen — to the tall pines.

"Not to have them cut down," Taylor stressed.

"And have no trail or no sign leading to them," Vaden added.

Callahan agreed.

"The tallest one still has a youthful crown," he said. "It's still pushing up. This tree has potential to keep growing."

*Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.  ~Henry David Thoreau

pine cone clipart by



mythopolis said...

Two thoughts come to mind.

One, causality is a concept that helps us think we know what we are doing. We plan our course with such purpose. Yet, fact is, in looking back we find that at places along the way it was synchronicity, chance, and coincidence that stepped in to shape and steer our path.

Trees are such treasures. Reckless disregard for their ecosystem can lead to extinction of entire species. The American Chestnut is a good example. Exotic plants from distant places once imported, may bring with them blight-inducing fungi native plants may succumb to. With the pines, they are threatened by the blue-stain fungus carried by an exotic beetle. In the Smokies, the douglas fir are dying out as a result.
I like the Beech tree and the Indian lore around it as a place of safety. I love to come across one in the woods. Hug a tree today!

izzy said...

Thank you for the quote and this post.Evergreens always speak
to my spirit I get cross with the white pine for being a bit messy and fragile on the one hand- yet we had some lovely tree houses in them as youngsters.
I am also very fond of others- hemlock for its delicate tips, spruces for their colors- and the scent! so fresh and
unique. The little seed cones are beautiful in their variety too.
I have to go study sugar pines now!

susan said...

Ah yes, the world still holds magic and mystery for us to discover - or not. The painting is elegant and the pine still grows. I'm glad.

kj said...

lydia, so tall and yet so fragile, just like ourselves at our proud best and shaky worse.

this photo is stunning. i keep looking at it: the striking strength and the bluest blue background. and i think, 'good thing trees know how to bend.'

i am loving your blog, lydia. so much natural wisdom


Looking to the Stars said...

Wow, what a great post. Thank you for sharing. Love the quote from Thoreau :)

Darlene said...

I found it very interesting to learn how they measure the height of a tall tree. I sure wouldn't want to climb one with a tape measure. ;-)

Stickup Artist said...

Funny you should mention it. I went to a blog the other day to look at a photo of a "Jesus Christ Lizard" on the same day that a 5 ft. lizard was found in my own neighborhood!

Fascinating about the tall tree hunters. I've seen giant sequoias so can imagine what their ponderosa pine must look like in all its towering majesty.

Erin Davis said...

What a gift the Naked Pastor has given with his free download of this marvelous picture. I live among many men, pine trees, and the occassional moose, so I was tickled by the title of your post, and even more tickled after I read it. I didn't grow up around pine trees, but I have always loved them and feel so blessed to be surrounded by them now. When I visit family and friends in So. California and Arizona, I feel tree-deprived after a short period of time. To me, coming home now means reuniting with pine trees. Your post has caused me to reflect on what a miracle that is! Oh, and I'm a big Thoreau fan, so I love the quote.

Lydia said...

*******Mythopolis, izzy, susan, kj, Looking to the Stars, and Darlene******** I actually did write replies to each of you on Saturday night, but obviously something went awry....

Mythopolis~ I have never seen a Beech tree, although we have two Birch trees and one Aspen. I wonder if they are similar? I'm sad to read about the Doug firs in the Smokies. It's horrible news and I hope that beetle doesn't arrive here. We already have a pine beetle killing off whole forests. Indeed, every day should be hug-a-tree-day!

izzy~ In my reply that didn't publish I mentioned that I wish I could introduce you to some of the trees around our yard: three giant Sequoias, one blue spruce, and one Sugar Pine! The sugar pine is going to be taller than the Sequoias one of these days, I guess. Wow.

susan~ In my reply to you that didn't publish I mentioned that I purchased one painting from David Hayward: a crow. "Elegant" is a good description of this painting.

kj~ I am so glad that you fully appreciated David Hayward's artwork.
Thank you so much for your comment about my blog. :)

Looking to the Stars~ I love the quote too. Now there is a person from the past that I wish I could timetravel to meet!

Darlene~ That was news to me! It is quite a science. I shudder to think of being the official that must climb the tree to validate their findings!

Lydia said...

Stickup Artist~ What a story about the lizard(s)! I hope someone who knew what they were doing too charge of the one found in your neighborhood.
I live with three giant sequoias in the backyard. It is an honor.

Erin~ Sounds like the post was sort of made to order for you. The forests around our town are so special. When I have been back in Nevada for visits I always feel so exposed while there!
David Hayward has an etsy shop if you want to see his work (click on the link to his blog). His generous spirit shows on Freebie Fridays at his blog.
Moose are scare in my life, but I love Thoreau too. :)

the watercats said...

Some synchronicity is the fact that that painting is almost an exact image of a lightning struck pine tree in our paddock. We love the tree and it is a huge part of our bond with this place. Every morning the crows gather on it making stark sillouhettes and I have taken countless photos of it against various skies... love this post, it's beautiful the fact that those trees have been growing away un-touched and un-noticed. There is something truly awe- inspiring about being in the presence of ancient trees.

Lydia said...

the watercats~ There are times when your writing is simply transcendent. The comment you left about your pine tree is a perfect example. Brought a tear.



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