Hyperion and Helios are remarkably similar redwoods in some ways. They both grow on steep slopes above Redwood Creek tributaries. Their diameters and heights are very similar. But there is one big difference – Helios is 2040 years old versus Hyperion is a sprightly 1260 years old. Then also Helios has reiterations in its crown versus Hyperion does not. A reiteration is regrowth after breakage.
I started to think, I wonder what the height of Helios was before its top broke off and grew back. Was it once taller than its current height of 377 feet or so?
Well, I think it was taller, a little over 400 feet tall, and that was not so long ago.
2 Helios Height Estimate Before Reiteration
The idea is to review diameter at 80 meters in height for Helios and Hyperion, then for calculation purposes adjust Helios’ diameter at 80 meters downward a bit due to its greater age.
Then, take the amount of growth in Hyperion above 80 meters as a function of its trunk diameter at 80 meters. This is then applied to the Helios diameter at 80 meters to arrive at a Helios height before reiteration. Remember Hyperion has no reiteration in its crown.
Then to get the approximate date of the Helios reiteration take the Helios average change in height per year and apply this to the amount of height that is above the reiteration.
So we start with this table:
Diameter cm at 80 meter height (est)
Ring Width cm at 80 meter height (est)
Diameter cm at 80 meter height age adjustment
cm growth above 80 / cm diam at 80
And from there do this set of calculations:
Hyperion cm growth above 80 m / cm diameter at 80 m
Helios original growth above 80 m based on Hyperion
Helios height pre reiteration in meters (est)
Helios height pre reiteration in feet (est)
Helios reiteration point height meters
Helios actual reiterated growth meters
Helios growth rate per year centimeters (past 10 yrs)
Helios estimated age of reiteration in years
So it can be inferred there was at least one 400 foot redwood in the past, it was Helios. The top was probably blown out during a major windstorm between 1900 and 1925.
Helios may be a 400 foot redwood once more, but that will take another 70 years or so.
If there is a 400 foot redwood again it will probably be Helios, Hyperion, or some other redwood growing on a bench on a steep hillside with relative protection from high winds. Trees growing on flats along Bull Creek or Redwood Creek are probably too exposed to high winds to avoid breakage once they get a lot taller than the rest of the surrounding redwoods.
Then the other factor is the timing of the next Cascadia earthquake. That will snap off a lot of the tops.
The remnant forest on Flint Ridge above the mouth of the Klamath River is quite spectacular. The trail starts out near an old logging pond. There is an interesting hike around the pond, some of it on an old narrow gauge railroad bed. Remnant bumper piers built to control the log runs are visible. There are colorful wood ducks paddling on the water.
The climb up the east slope of Flint Ridge is nice, the switchbacks are well designed and maintained and the trail bridges are in good shape. The old growth redwoods start on the switchbacks not too far above the pond, with a number of redwoods in the 16 foot diameter / 325 feet height class. The appearance of the old growth is very sudden and scenic. That’s Mario and Ed, who joined me on this hike, in the pic. Mario has a much, much better picture of the three of us at this location on his web site.
The good size redwoods run from this point all the way up the ridge.
On the upper half of the ridge Douglas fir are mixed in with the redwoods. These fir trees are very tall, there is one right by a bridge on the trail that is about 300 feet in height.
Near the top of the ridge the nearby ocean starts to have an influence. A few Sitka spruce start to appear. There is a very interesting distinctive red cedar right by the trail.
This trail reminds me of the new James Irvine trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods, but Flint Ridge is less crowded and has more interesting and large trees right by the trail.
2 Prairie Creek Redwoods
Prairie Creek Redwoods provides a high level of easy access to large redwoods. Drury Parkway and Cal Barrel Road (open in summer) have giant redwoods right by the road, then there is a web of trails that wind through many of the groves with the biggest redwood trees. It is a busy park (even on a late October weekend) and you will meet people from all over the United States and the world on the trails.
I did some hiking on both the old and new James Irvine trails. It was interesting to see some of the big trees in the valley (old trail, no longer maintained) and then see the crowns of the same trees from the hillside (new trail).
I also spent some time on the trails near and along Prairie Creek. There are many notable redwoods that grow along Prairie Creek. Some of the big ones right by the road have a lot of wear and tear from foot traffic. However some trees are protected by their location, being neither adjacent to a road or a trail.
3 Humboldt Redwoods
Later on the weekend I drove down to Humboldt Redwoods to do some exploration and hiking. I was very keen to pick out the Millennium Redwood, which is a 370 foot redwood located in a small but beautiful grove in Humboldt Redwoods. I had found the grove last summer, then received an obscure clue to help me locate the specific redwood. As it turns out I had been to the very tree in June.
I also spent some time in the Harper Flat area. Harper Flat is an even aged forest on the south side of Bull Creek a little east of the Giant Tree area. There are many very tall redwoods, with more than a few of them having fused trunks or immediately adjacent trees. Maybe abound 1,300 years ago this area was leveled by a flood or Cascadia earthquake and clonal sprouts from common stumps grew and fused over time.
The forest in Harper Flat is very dense, if you use GPS it will have problems in there. However nearby Bull Creek with distinctive logs in the creek is always available as a reference.
It appears one very tall redwood in Harper Flat has fallen. It was the north side of this pair, note the root ball.
Now for a little bit more ….
4 Tallest tree Lists
The tallest tree lists have not been updated for a while with any new measurement results kept private. So what is the current top twenty is anybody’s guess. Many redwoods, including Hyperion, have apparently increased their growth rates in the last ten years. This could be due to an increase in annual sunlight coupled with a higher level of atmospheric carbon. More sunlight and more carbon in the atmosphere provide more energy for photosynthesis. Then also the state wide drought has been less severe in northern California, so there has been sufficient seasonal rainfall on top of the frequent fog drip.
For Hyperion, I am pretty sure it is still the tallest tree. There was a recent Facebook Live ranger talk where it was mentioned the tallest tree in Redwood National Park was 380 feet four inches tall (115.92 meters). That has to be Hyperion, it was confirmed at 380.12 or so a couple years ago and was noted as growing. Helios is about three feet behind based on published heights a couple years ago and still has a lot of catching up to do.
Based on growth rates and a few scraps of information, this would be my guess at a current top fifteen list:
2016 Height Estimate (Feet)
Mother & Daughter
And more of a little bit more …..
5 The Big Reveal Website
The big reveal web site has been populated with GPS and hiking directions to some of the tallest and largest redwoods for about 18 months now. For trees right by roads such as Drury Tree or Howland Hills Giant this site has not had much impact, as there was already a huge amount of wear around the trees.
Although my visits to redwoods are infrequent, I have noted newly created human foot traffic trails around both the Mendocino redwood and unfortunately coming out of the creek up to Hyperion. Wear and tear will happen even if people take care. It just has to happen when say over a few months a couple hundred people make their way through the ferns up to Hyperion. This is the down side to the big reveal web site. If people were searching for Hyperion here and there, then any effect of off trail hiking was spread out. Now it is concentrated to the routes leading up to and around these trees.
Now the up side is that site has helped a number of people, including me, find some notable and amazing redwoods. Not that futile searches are bad, any old growth redwood grove is magnificent. Then also for casual tourists there is lots of information on drive thru trees as well as notable redwoods adjacent to trails.
It would be very good if the big reveal web site could refrain from publishing details for locations and hiking routes to Helios and Grogan’s Fault. You have already proved you are good at uncovering and using clues and also can do some tough hiking. Your immersive photography is also very nice. How about leaving a little mystery to the tree search for those who like to intuitively search for trees versus following GPS, and at the same time keeping the approach and area around a couple exemplary redwoods pristine. If you locate either Helios or Grogan’s Fault put up your immersive photography, with some care to not show too much, and refrain from location description, hiking directions, or GPS. Just an idea for you. I don’t know you but I think you could be receptive to this suggestion.