All posts by MarkGWP

Hiking to 44 Grove in Redwood National Park – Redwoods Are Fine but Tan Oaks are Toast

1      Hike to 44 Grove

A 1963 survey of redwoods along Redwood Creek in what would become Redwood National Park five years later determined a tall redwood growing on a flat along Redwood Creek across from 44 Creek outflow was the second tallest tree in the area and a sign was erected at its base.  The tree and sign still exist today, but getting there involves a very steep climb down from the Redwood Creek trail in the 44 creek area followed by a creek crossing or alternatively a series of five creek crossings hiking north from Tall Trees Grove.  In either instance the creek can only be safely crossed when the flow rate is low in mid to late summer.   A few weeks ago I hiked to this flat, called 44 Grove, from Tall Trees Grove.  It was a pleasant hike, the stream crossings were not difficult, only a little over knee high, and the cobbles in the gravel bar got smaller as we headed away from Tall Trees Grove, making the gravel bar walking fairly easy.  It took about 25 minutes to do the one mile hike downstream from Tall Trees Grove to 44 Grove.

2      44 Grove and Harry Cole Redwood

Forty-four Grove is revealed in a spectacular fashion as a bend in the creek is followed.  This grove includes the Harry Cole tree, which was 367 feet tall in 1964 (so the sign says) and identified as the second tallest tree in the area (so the same sign says).  This tree remains about 367 feet tall today, and maybe a little taller based on the measuring I did with a rangefinder.  It has a healthy looking top.

Here are pictures of 44 Grove from the south, Harry Cole is the second tree in from the creek.  Then the remaining pictures show the still standing sign stating “Second Tallest Redwood 367.4 Feet 1964” as well as a couple additional photos of Harry Cole.  There is a huckleberry bush growing on the sign with ripe huckleberries.

44 Grove from south. Note browned out tan oaks bottom right.
Hard to read but sign says “Second Tallest Tree – 367.4 Feet”. Sign erected in 1964. Note huckleberry bush on post.
Forty four flat redwood south side of trunk. DBH is 16 feet.
View of tall forty four flat redwood upper trunk and crown.

3      Sudden Oak Death Among Tan Oaks in 44 Creek Area

It was sad to see so many brown dried out dead or dying tan oaks in the 44 Creek area.  There is an interesting Master degree thesis done by a Humboldt State student in 2017 on mitigation and propagation of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in Redwood Creek.  Apparently the area between Bond and 44 Creek and the area around Bridge creek evidenced significant SOD among tan oaks starting a few years ago and mitigation treatments including cutting, establishing a buffer, and wood removal occurred in 2014 and 2015.  This SOD mitigation involved tan oaks and bay laurels (which carry SOD).  The redwoods and other tree species were left alone.  SOD does not affect redwoods.

Then after all this work the SOD still spread downstream to the Emerald Creek area from Bridge creek and also downstream past Bond Creek from 44 Creek.  There are affected tan oaks even north of Elam Creek. Apparently the SOD spores were able to move as much as 1.5 km in a short time due to two causes.  First, the pineapple express late winter storms with strong south winds spread the spores.  Second, the annual rise in the level of Redwood Creek due to winter rains allows the water to flow against low tan oak branches along the creek, and the spores are trapped in branch cavities.

What to do ….. sure it is being debated.  The thesis mentions giant buffers could be cut around the affected areas, 300 meters in width, where non affected tan oaks and bay laurel are removed.  But as also mentioned so much of Redwood Creek would be involved and the work only postpones the inevitable.  It may be the tan oaks will be left to their fate, and they will brown and die along Redwood Creek, all of them.  The same may happen along the feeder creeks, more slowly.

This die off will provide more fuel and any wildfires will burn hotter.  It is thought the older redwoods would tolerate a hot fire without issue but redwoods under two feet in diameter could be killed by such a fire.

Here are some pictures of dying tan oaks seen along Redwood Creek.  If you go to Google Maps “satellite view” you will see a lot of brown in the 44 / Bond and Emerald/Bridge creek areas, those are the dying tan oaks.  Pretty sad.

Redwood Creek just north of Tall Trees Grove. Note brown tan oaks on right bank.
Redwood Creek a little south of 44 creek outflow. Note very unhealthy large tan oak.

Thanks for reading.

The Ghost Giant

1      Coast Redwoods Over 50,000 Cubic Feet Volume – Ghosts of the Past?

Have you seen the images of the redwood giants of the past, such as the 70,000 cubic foot Crannell Creek Giant?    Or maybe the 393 foot tall Lindsay Creek tree, which is alleged to have been 90,000 cubic feet volume.  Today, living redwoods approach the record heights of the past.  For example the height of Hyperion redwood at 380 feet attains 97% of the 393 foot height stated for the Lindsay Creek tree.  However the largest volume redwood, Spartan aka Grogan’s Fault, with 41.3 thousand cubic feet of volume, is just 60% of the volume of the Crannell Giant, which was accurately measured.  Why is this, why are all the largest of the redwood giants gone?  Or are they?

2      Tall Redwood Surprises

When I was I kid in the late 1960’s I was always interested in superlatives, including the tallest tree.  I remember reading heights for the tallest redwood given as 363 feet or 367 feet.  But right around that time there was an unannounced discovery of a 385 foot redwood growing on a flat along Redwood Creek near the Bond Creek outflow.  This tree was one of the last to be cut down along lower Redwood Creek before the establishment of Redwood National Park in 1968.

Starting around 2000 there was a new round of tall tree discoveries as laser range finders made it easier to identify tall trees. Hyperion and Helios were the new tallest trees found during this period, with heights 2.5% taller than the previously known tallest trees.  Then in the late 2000’s LiDAR aerial surveys were carried out where entire groves could be definitively surveyed for height.  From this came a list of a few dozen unknown redwoods taller than 106 meters in height, but none were taller than Hyperion.

3      Large Volume Redwood Surprises

It is much more difficult to measure the volume of a redwood than its height.  Any tree approximates a tapering cylinder and formulae for types of cones or canonical frustums need to be applied to sections of the tree to determine volume.  On top of this, for the largest redwoods, they are going to be hidden among other smaller redwood trees, with their tops seldom exceeding the 106 meter height used to ground truth LiDAR height measurements.

If you look at the largest redwood lists, it seems to be a list of the largest redwoods by a road or by a trail or along a major tributary such as Prairie Creek, Mill Creek, or Redwood Creek.   Nothing there for redwoods growing along feeder creeks on schist benches with nearby springs.   Some of the tallest redwoods grow up the feeder creeks, why can’t some of the largest redwoods as well?

4      The 50,000 Cubic Feet Ghost Redwood

If there is a 50,000 cubic foot redwood still growing, it is well hidden.  Like some smaller giants it would be maybe 325 feet in height, just a little too low to attract LiDAR height investigation.  It would be away from a road and a trail and a major tributary.  But maybe not too far away.  It would be on a nice dark soil bench, with a seasonal spring close by.  It could be in the big forest south of the old Redwood Creek mill site, or maybe in lower Lost Man.  It could be on the hill above the Atlas Grove in Prairie Creek or maybe in the marbled murrelet wilderness in the same park.  It could be in the Klamath area, or the untrailed tracts of Jedediah Smith Redwoods.

A redwood tree of 50,000 cubic feet volume is not much of a stretch from the current largest known at 41,000 cubic feet.  All you need is an extra six percent or so in both height and diameter to get you that extra twenty percent of volume.  That is how the geometry works.  And that six percent is no more of a stretch than the fact a 385 foot redwood was found along redwood creek at the time when the tallest trees were thought to be around 365 feet.

A 50,000 cubic foot redwood would be a ghost, a reminder of the start of the twentieth century with men in suspenders and derby caps and women in long flowing dresses with rolled up umbrellas posed around giant redwood trunks.  I can picture such a tree, deep in a forest, over 300 feet in height, with a 25 foot diameter at chest height and a 20 foot diameter at 70 feet.  With 26,000 cubic feet of wood in that section alone, and another 26,000 feet in wood above it.  A 52,000 cubic foot redwood, right up there with General Sherman.  This Redwood Ghost would look something like Howland Hill Giant or Sir Isaac Newton, only wider, especially up the trunk.  It would have some big redwoods as neighbors with perhaps some tan oaks, Sitka spruce, and western hemlock sprinkled in, all in a carpet of ferns.

Maybe I have seen this ghost, or maybe it was a dream.   It was not a dream.

Thanks for reading.

Redwoods Hiking June 2018 – Damnation Creek Trail

1      Damnation creek Trail – Upper Section

Del Norte Redwoods State Park is much more than the land of high bluffs, fog, and lane closures between Klamath and Crescent City.  There are some nice redwood groves in this park, with many trees over 300 feet in height.  The Damnation Creek Trail really shows off what the park has to offer.  Parking for this trail is on the west side of US 101 and I strongly suggest entering and exiting the parking area while traveling south as the northbound lanes include a passing lane with very fast traffic. The trail is not associated with Damnation Creek until the very end.  Instead the trail winds down a separate valley just to the south of Damnation Creek valley.

The upper section of the trail has some big diameter trees and nice rhododendron displays in May and June.  Here are a couple pics of the rhododendron on the upper section of this trial.

Rhododendron in late afternoon light

 

Rhododendron and big redwoods

 

2      Damnation Creek Trail – Middle Section to Lower Section

 

There is a remarkable grove with tall redwoods in the middle section of Damnation Creek Trail.  This grove is along and below the intersection of the Damnation Creek Trail with the Coastal Trail.  The redwoods are beautiful but end abruptly at about 500 feet elevation above the ocean where the bluffs get extremely steep.  When near the edge of the redwood habitat the air carries the smell of the ocean, waves can be heard, and the blue ocean peeks through tree trunks and crowns.

Below is a Coastal Trail / old coastal highway road marker for the grove, apparently erected in 1925.  The grove honors Henry Solon Groves – “forester, educator, and administrator”.  This marker is toward the south side of the canyon.

Henry Solon Graves grove marker apparently erected in 1925.

 

The coastal trail circles the entire canyon, and the Damnation Creek trail winds down along the north side.  The redwoods are quite spectacular in the late afternoon, with their lower trunks shading each other but with the tops lit up by the setting western sun.  The view from the tops of these redwoods must be spectacular.

Here are some views of redwoods in this canyon from the Coastal Trail as well as from the Damnation Creek trail below the Coastal Trail.

Redwoods along old coastal highway

 

Tall redwood crowns along Damnation Creek trail below Coastal Trail lit by late afternoon sun

 

Tall redwoods near edge of bluff along Damnation Creek Trail

 

Thanks for reading.

Coast Redwood – Summary of the 2,000 Trees Over 100 Meters in Height

1      Coast Redwood – The 100 Meter Tree

The only known tree species with living 100 meter specimens is the coast redwood.  There are five other species that exceed the 90 meter mark, but at the moment just coast redwoods have 100 meter class trees.

A few months ago I posted some details on 100 meter trees in Humboldt redwoods and from that inferred the total number of 100 meter redwoods in other parks based on some published information on the number of acres in each park capable of supporting 90 meter redwoods.  After further research and analysis, including processing many point cloud data sets, it is evident the number of 100 meter redwoods is around 2,000, not 5,000 as I previously posted.

2      100 Meter Trees in Northern Redwood Parks

 

Using Michael Taylor’s 2013 and 2015 tree height lists, the number of 105 meter trees in each redwood park can be determined with good accuracy.   Then for Humboldt Redwoods I have fairly complete LiDAR sourced information, either through data I processed myself using ArcGIS or via rendered maps.  So I used the association between 100 plus and 105 plus meter trees at Humboldt to estimate 100 plus meter trees in the three northern redwood parks.

This results in the following chart.  I have added the 100 meter tree data from other areas, with the source noted.

So there are 2,000 or so coast redwoods above 100 meters in height (328 feet).

100 Meter Plus Redwoods

 

3      100 Meter vs 100 Yard Redwood Trees

 

There are many, many redwood trees that exceed 100 yards (300 feet) in height.   At least 25,000.  So we have a pretty big drop off from 100 yard redwoods to 100 meter redwoods.  There are special conditions required for redwood trees to reach 100 meters.

For example, this is from NOAA LiDAR of the north tip of Orick Hill.  All the white dots are 300 foot redwoods, there are about 40.  But if this is changed to 100 meters (328 feet), there is only one dot left, and it is halfway up the hill toward the south end of this map.  What about the location of this tree enables it to get to 330 feet, versus everything downstream is between 300 and 330 feet.

Orick Hill NOAA LiDAR 300 foot trees (white dots)

Why this drop off, and what is required for a redwood to grow exceptionally tall?  One very interesting contributor is the ebb and flow of the marine fog layer.  Where the layer persists in the summer, height is suppressed.  Where the layer comes and goes daily in the summer, height is maximized.  Where the layer does not reach in the summer, height is again suppressed.   I will write more about this in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Redwoods Hiking June 2018

1      Humboldt Redwoods State Park

I spent an enjoyable Sunday in early June 2018 looking through the groves along the Avenue of the Giants, including Bolling, Kent, Federation, and Founders Groves.  There were a series of tall trees I wanted to locate in each of these groves and was successful, combining older clues involving groves and tree descriptions with newer information available on Open Topography LiDAR portal.  Finding the trees became a test of GPS navigation and inference, with a bit of range finder height measurements to confirm certain tall trees.

The Bolling Grove sits right by the Avenue.  The area of tall trees is very small, and the trunks are arranged in a pleasant pattern that recalls a sculpture garden.  Three of the four trees in the main grouping are over 100 meters.  Here you can see the rendered LiDAR point cloud data, where purple is 105 meters in height and red is 100 meters in height.

Bolling Grove processed LiDAR point cloud data, red is 100 meters, purple is 105 meters height

Then you can compare the LiDAR with the photo of the tree grouping.  The one in front is 100 meters, then the ones to back left (Bolling Stovepipe) and back right have crown points above 105 meters.

Bollling Grove – a sculptural garden of massive redwoods

The grove is dedicated to Colonel Raynal C. Bolling who was killed in action 100 years ago (March 2018) during World War I.

A little later in the day I hiked the Founders Grove trails.  There are many great trees all over this grove, with 200 or so trees in the grove over 100 meters in height.

Founders Grove – all purple circles are 100 meter redwoods

Here is one of the tall trees in Founders Grove, aptly named Javelin.  Sure you can see why.

Redwood tree in Founders Grove

2      Jedediah Smith Redwoods

A few days later in the same week I did some group hikes in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, near Route 199 in the Walker Road area.   There are nice flats in this area with a good number of 100 meter plus redwoods.  I believe this area has the northernmost 100 meter coast redwood trees.

The loop trails along Walker Road are really nice.  The amount of western hemlock is amazing, they grow everywhere on everything.

Here are a couple tall trees in the area, both well above 100 meters.  The bench was built in 1972 as a viewing point to the second tree pictured.  Its trail is no longer maintained but still gets a lot of use.

Tall double spike top at Walker Road and Route 199
Tall symmetrical redwood west of Walker Road (John King Fesler Grove)
Bench is positioned to view the tall symmetrical redwood. Dedicated in 1972

I will post more about this trip later.  Thanks for reading.

Sworn Statement

1      Sworn Statement

This is a sworn statement by Mark Edward Graham, as published on June 22, 2019.

I, Mark Edward Graham, certify under penalty of perjury in any state of the United States, including Illinois and California, the following four declarations:

I am not an owner of the site famousredwoods.com.

I am not a contributor to the site famousredwoods.com.

I have never been an owner of the site famousredwoods.com.

I have never been a contributor to the site famousredwoods.com

Thanks for reading.

Redwoods Hiking Summer 2017 – Crescent City Forest

1      Crescent City Forest

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park can certainly be described as Crescent City’s forest.  When viewed in Google Earth the start of the park is very abrupt, with farm land, commercial land, and housing immediately to the west of the park’s border.   As an example the Boy Scout Tree redwood is less than three miles from the Crescent City Walmart.

But don’t be fooled, there is a lot of remoteness for much of JSRSP.   There is an especially big patch of redwoods south of Highway 199 and north of the Boy Scout Tree trail that is pretty much free of trails and roads.  On a Saturday in August Mario and I did some exploration in this forest.  Not to any known giant trees, but just to look around.   This area has a wrinkled landscape and receives a lot of rain.  Therefore there are many creeks, generally flowing either north toward Smith River or south toward Jordan Creek and the Pacific ocean.    In one valley the water may flow north, then crossing to the next valley, at the same latitude, the water may flow south.

We took our time, looking over a small portion of the area, and found some really interesting “stuff”.

2      Big and Small Redwoods

 

We found this big whopper redwood with one of the nicest crowns you’ll ever want to see.

Large redwood with huge crown, a boiling cloud of green.

 

Then this is a classic nursery log, with a line of ten or so young redwoods growing out of the log.  That’s Mario along the log.

Nursery log supporting ten young redwoods

 

Here’s a nice cluster of big redwoods, maybe they can be called the Crescent City Towers.  Occupants are flying squirrels and marbled murrelets.  Mario’s in lower right for scale.

Crescent City Towers

 

3      The Elk Herd

 

Just above one creek sits this redwood grouping.  We gave it the name Elk Herd as there are elk sign in this area, lots of hoof prints and nibbled off vegetation from earlier in the summer.  It would be quite a picture to get a herd of elk surrounding this herd of redwood trees.

Mario has a good picture of this grouping on his website where you can discern the impressive size more clearly.  But let me just say, at 4.5 feet above the ground, there is 35 feet of pure redwood diameter, no spacing.  The big one in the middle is over 20 feet diameter.

The Elk Herd

4      Chill Down

 

That evening Mario organized a FB meetup at a brew pub in Crescent City.  He got a good turnout, both people interested in redwood photography and redwood hiking.  About 25 in all, everyone had a good time.

Redwoods Hiking Spring 2017 – Boy Scout Tree Trail

1      Boy Scout Tree Trail

The Boy Scout Tree Trail is a great hike through the heart of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, starting from a big grove along Howland Hill road then winding all the way northwest to Fern Falls which is very near the western border of the park.  The trail goes up and down a 400 foot hill and a smaller hill and makes its way along slopes, uplands, and creek bottoms.   It goes by many large redwoods right by the trail, and most of the trail provides expansive views of the redwood forest.  Then at the end Fern Falls is very beautiful.  This is an out and back trail, with the start and finish at Howland Hill road.

To prepare for this hike I referred to three sources, all of them excellent:

  • GF Beranek has published a new book covering Jedediah Smith and Del Norte Redwoods State Parks. This is an excellent resource, with beautiful photos not just of redwoods but also photos and descriptions of their forest habitat including companion tree species, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insectivores.   Every section and trail in the park is covered in detail, including twenty pages dedicated to the Boy Scout Tree Trail.   This is a companion book to earlier publications on Humboldt Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Tree of Dreams and Fortune, all very good.   You can find these books in some of the visitor centers and almost all the gift shops around the redwood parks.  It should definitely be a fixture in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park visitor center.
  • Dave Baselt has a web site redwoodhikes.com which covers all the trails in all the redwood parks, with topographic maps, elevation profiles, hike descriptions, and photos. In addition his waterproof large foldout park maps can be ordered online or purchased in the park visitor centers.  I always bring and use his related map when I visit a park and hike a particular trail.
  • Mario Vaden has built quite a redwoods web site, which can be launched off his commercial landscaping website mdvaden.com. Lots of photos, essays, and trail descriptions, including the Boy Scout Tree Trail.  Some of his photos are for sale, including his famous epic sunset view of the Geisha Redwood.

The trail head for Boy Scout Tree Trail is on Howland Hill road about two miles north of the southern park entrance.  Howland Hill road is a great drive among big redwoods.  It is more or less a 10 mph road, given the bumps, blind corners, some tight squeezes between trees, and lots of pebbles which can work their way into your wheel cover or brakes.  Plus driving slower keeps the dust down.

I arrived on a sunny weekend day about 9 AM.  There were a few cars parked at the trail head.  When I finished this hike about four hours later there were  about 25 cars at the trail head and in side slip spaces nearby on Howland Hill road.  Maybe I met 75 people on the trail going out and back, which means running across a person or group every five to ten minutes or so, so lots of solitude as well.

Grove at Howland Hill road Boy Scout Tree Trail parking area
Boy Scout Tree Trail trail head sign

 

 

2      The Climb to Upland Redwoods

 

The first part of the trail is flat, then starting at the scenic bridge shown below it starts to climb at a moderate pace for about a mile or so, passing some big redwoods by the trail with expansive views to the north.  There is a under duct under one old log that kind of looks like a giant crocodile.

First bridge on flats near start of BSTT
Nice trail side redwood on climb up east slope
This log leaning over the trail on the way up looks a little like a crocodile

Upon reaching the summit I anticipated catching a bit of the cool ocean breeze as described by Jerry Beranek in his book.  And by golly, there it was, smack dab on top of the hill.  In addition to the northwest ocean breeze there is a hint of salt water in the wind.

This big trail side triple redwood is at the summit

The trail then circles around the hilltops, with nice redwoods growing among fern dominated ground cover.

Hill top redwoods in fern fields

 

3      Down to Jordan Creek

 

But what goes up must come down and eventually the trail starts to descend toward the Jordan Creek valley.  Here on the west side of the hill the terrain is more wrinkled and rugged, as is the trail.  There are lots of roots to negotiate, which can be your friend when braking going downhill or looking for steps going uphill but can be your enemy when catching a toe.  In fact it is so steep in places steps have been built into the trail for assistance.  These help a lot.

Helpful log stairs in trail going down to Jordan Creek

Jordan Creek itself is pretty small where the trail crosses near its headwaters.  But still it is a very dense setting, with lots of huckleberry and western hemlock mixed in with the redwoods.  There is a RCCI study plot in the back country on the west side of JSRSP, not particularly near this trail but having the same type of redwood habitat, which has the greatest measured biomass density of any area on the planet Earth.

This small bridge crosses Jordan Creek near its headwaters

 

4      Valley of the Giants

 

After crossing Jordan Creek there is a short climb to hill side terraces which follow the generally westward path of Jordan Creek.  The trail follows these steppes around some bends and pockets.  And along, below, and above these steppes and pockets, are sets of really large redwoods.  Ones Jerry Beranek calls Class AA and Dave Baselt describes as Giants.  Many are single stem, but there are others that started as adjacent single stem and then fused as their diameters expanded.

The two big redwoods shown below start the Valley of the Giants.  They are right across the trail from each other.  One has a spectacular up trunk burl holding a fern garden.

Large trail side redwood at eastern end of Valley of the Giants
Second large trail side redwood at eastern entrance of Valley of the Giants
A nice fern garden high on the trunk of big redwood at eastern end of Valley of the Giants

Some of the big redwoods can be seen in their full profile, while others are cloaked by the undergrowth or other trunks.   Here are some views along the trail.

Big redwood visible in full profile in Valley of the Giants
This single stem 20 foot diameter redwood grows right by the trail in the Valley of the Giants

5      Boy Scout Tree Area and Fern Falls

 

After leaving the Valley of the Giants there are still plenty of nice redwoods.    This past winter a large redwood fell across the trail in the section that descends to the Boy Scout Tree area.  There is still a pretty big crater in the trail where the trunk fell across it.   Then shortly after there is quite a large trail side redwood with a big reiteration, burl, and fern garden low on the trunk

Crater in trail on hill down to Boy Scout Tree, caused by redwood falling across the trail.
Big redwood on trail down to Boy Scout Tree with reiteration, burl, and fern garden low on the trunk.

As the trail enters the Boy Scout Tree area  there are still plenty of nice redwoods, and Sitka spruce start to make an appearance.

Nice redwood by trail in Boy Scout Tree area

Soon the spur trail on the right that leads up to the Boy Scout Tree is encountered.  The Boy Scout Tree is an impressive fused redwood.

Boy Scout redwood tree

From the Boy Scout Tree area the trail continues to descend and winds around a bend, where Fern Falls makes a sudden appearance.   The falls are quite spectacular, especially when the flow rate is high such as the day I encountered them.

Rounding this bend, Fern Falls comes into view
Fern Falls at western end of Boy Scout Tree trail

While at this end of the park there is a hint of Crescent City, with an occasional hum of truck tires or the harbor horn.  Just a whisper, nothing unpleasant and it adds to the hike.

The hike back was just as enjoyable though maybe a little more tiring going up the tall hill from the west side.  But not too strenuous and the downhill jaunt to the parking lot at Howland Hill road was fun.

Redwood Thunder

1      Redwood Thunder

Redwood thunder is an uncommon but not rare event. It occurs when a large redwood tree falls to the forest floor, sometimes striking and taking other redwoods, firs, spruce, oaks, and maples with it. A cubic foot of redwood weighs 50 pounds, so if a moderately large 20,000 cubic foot redwood topples that is a million pounds, or 500 tons of wood crashing to the earth.

For redwood thunder to occur usually soaked soil and wind are required, though if the tree fractures on itself soaked soil is not an ingredient.  Sometimes before redwood thunder occurs the tree will lean against an adjacent tree, with the trunks and branches rubbing with the wind and making screeching sounds like giant stringed instruments.

All redwood trees eventually topple, or at least break off down to a low point on the trunk.  If a given old growth redwood has a one in a thousand chance of falling in any given year than that means, based on acres of old growth redwoods, the average annual tree fall count in the large redwood parks is about 300 trees, per park.

If there are multiple trees involved in a tree fall or if the tree falls across a creek, the tree fall is noticeable in Google Earth.  If you hike the same trails over several years you will for sure see trees that have recently fallen.  Their upper trunks are huge and their logs run sometimes more than a football field along the forest floor.

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2      Examples of Tree Falls

 

Here are several examples of tree falls I ran across in 2016.  Included are a picture I took of the tree fall accompanied by before and after Google Earth views of the tree fall areas (using Google Earth historical imagery).

In Humboldt redwoods a neighbor of the big Dyerville Giant log fell in the late spring 2016.  Its trunk shattered and splintered into sections where it struck the Dyerville Giant log.

Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove
Tree fall across Dyerville Giant in Founders Grove

 

Founders Grove - tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)
Founders Grove – tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Founders Grove - space left by fallen tree marked by X. (image from Google Earth)
Founders Grove – space left by fallen tree marked by X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Another recent tree fall in Humboldt was in the area where a seasonal foot bridge is put in to link the Rockefeller Redwood area to the Giant Tree area on either side of Bull Creek in the upper Bull Creek Flats.  The new big log is used a lot to cross the creek, though it would be a pretty tough eight foot or so fall from the log to the rocky creek bottom if your foot or the bark slipped.

Log across Bull Creek in Giant Tree area
Log across Bull Creek in Giant Tree area

 

Bull Creek Giant Tree area - tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)
Bull Creek Giant Tree area – tree to fall marked with X. (Image from Google Earth)

 

Bull Creek Giant Tree area, empty area where fallen tree was standing marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Bull Creek Giant Tree area, empty area where fallen tree was standing marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

A third fall in Humboldt occurred in Harper Flat.  The tall north side of a twin trunk redwood fell in the last couple years.

Harper Flat fallen tree, north side of pair (still from I Phone video)
Harper Flat fallen tree, north side of pair (still from I Phone video)

 

Harper Flat - tree to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Harper Flat – tree to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

Harper Flat - area left by fallen tree marked by X (Image from Google Earth)
Harper Flat – area left by fallen tree marked by X (Image from Google Earth)

 

The final example is in an area of tall hillside redwoods on the east side of Redwood Creek a little north of McArthur creek near the seasonal foot bridge.  Here the tree fall took out a number of redwoods and the whole group of fallen trees is slowly sliding down toward Redwood Creek.

Redwood Creek tree fall area, trees are slowly sliding downhill.
Redwood Creek tree fall area, trees are slowly sliding downhill.

 

Redwood Creek hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, trees to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, trees to fall marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

 

Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, area where trees stood marked with X (Image from Google Earth)
Redwood Creek east hillside above north seasonal foot bridge, area where trees stood marked with X (Image from Google Earth)

3      What Can Be Learned From Fallen Redwoods

 

A recently fallen redwood is a great opportunity for whole tree research once the soil in the fall area has stabilized.   The root system and affixed soils can be studied without any digging, this is the big primary benefit.  But also core samples can be extracted without having to climb and core living trees.  The canopy structure can be measured and reviewed without climbing and an unlimited amount of destructive sampling can be done.

Thanks for reading.

Hiking to Hyperion – Neither Triumph nor Failure

1      June 8, 2015.   The Big Day

The Hyperion redwood tree.  Tallest tree in the world.  It was always “there”, and probably passed over by more than a few redwood researchers and explorers.  But in August 2006 Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins put the rangefinders on the tree and found a height of 378 feet, making it the new tallest tree.  And in 2016 it remains the world’s tallest tree, at 380 feet 4 inches.

So that’s great, but where is this tree?   Well, in 2006, and for many years after that, no one would say.   But the tree was featured in a best seller.  And even today you can go to You Tube to play views from Hyperion’s canopy, and order a CD from National Geographic if you want even clearer canopy views.  Those canopy views gave away the general area for Hyperion to a number of people, more so over time as Google Earth capabilities and clarity improved.

So armed with my “definitive” analysis, I was set to find Hyperion.  This was a third attempt.  The first time was very fun and interesting but wrong area.  The second time was also fun and interesting but still wrong area.  Gosh the remote areas of Redwood National Park are incredibly green and beautiful with many, many giant trees.  But the areas were wrong for Hyperion.  But this third time would be the charm, I hoped.

2      Off to Hyperion

Around 11 AM I arrived at the mouth of the suspected creek.  This required a crossing of Redwood Creek which was knee deep with a pretty quick flow but really not that difficult on this day.  This crossing is impossible in wetter months as Redwood Creek can be twenty feet deep.

The feeder creek, the one hopefully housing Hyperion, was very pleasant, with a lot of small frogs.  The creek bed has some uniform shaped stones which are a little slippery to walk over, I suspect these may be left over from the beds of logging roads that were once in the area.   Since I was alone I took care with every step, I did not want to slip and fall and hit my head on a rock, that would be really bad.  Every now and then there were some nettles to move aside and deeper pools to avoid.  I saw no human footprints.

There was a little under duck beneath a small log pile.  It looked solid enough and kind of served as an official entrance to the area of the creek where the mature redwoods start.   It was almost as if a sign could be put up there that says “This Way to Hyperion Grove”.

This Way to Hyperion
This Way to Hyperion

So all was well, I was making slow progress up the creek.  But then, some motion to my left, followed by the loudest, most guttural bellow I had ever heard.  And the source was close.  A bear, and he or she was very pissed off at me!   Well, I bellowed right back, HEY!!!!, and stomped around the creek.  I never heard from the bear again, it must have then moved out of the area.   Sounds unbelievable, but this is the honest to goodness truth.

The bear trap
The bear trap

Now armed with an extra dose of adrenaline I continued up the creek.  There were some nice tall redwoods to the right up on the hillside.  They didn’t exactly look like some of the Hyperion pictures, but who knows.

Hyperion Teasers
Hyperion Teasers

But I knew I needed to keep going.  I had one more good clue, a picture of some guys climbing over a log pile.  I was looking for that log pile.  And then, forty careful minutes into the hike up the creek, there it was, the log pile.  I was right!  This was Hyperion’s creek!

Log Pile Near Hyperion
Log Pile Near Hyperion

3      Hyperion Grove

So up and over that log pile I went.   Just like the guys in the photo.  No problems.   After that I was really amongst the old growth, with big mature trees on both sides of the creek.  The sweet smell of bay laurel / pepper wood permeated the air and the big timber muffled all sounds.  I knew Hyperion would be on the right side of the creek as moving upstream and right in this area.  So where was it, which tree is it?  There were a couple dozen to pick from.

Now I need to tell you Hyperion looks nothing like many of the pre 2015 photos on the internet.  It is much closer to the creek, just above the end of the sword ferns.  And it is very eroded on the downhill side, really pitifully eroded.  That tree could fall anytime, at least that’s the way it looks to me.   If it were growing that way along 101 I think Cal Trans would cut it down.  And those pictures of the grove called “Hyperion from Below” – no, they are not from below, they are from across the creek’s valley.

So I walked right by Hyperion.  Saw it, said nah, and walked right by it.  Unbelievable, but true.  I am sure others have done it.   A short way further along I saw a couple trees on the right that were good suspects.  And I saw another tree further ahead that looked like a candidate.  But I was getting tired, the day was moving along, and I decided to go up through the ferns right there to the two trees.

Candidate tree - not Hyperion
Candidate tree – not Hyperion
Candidate trees near Hyperion
Candidate trees near Hyperion

After hiking to the two trees I realized they were not Hyperion and its neighbor.  So I sat there for a while, feeling defeated.   I did not realize I was sitting sixty feet west of Hyperion and its neighbor.  The neighbor was blocking Hyperion and the distinguishing adjacent log.  So after about twenty minutes of reflection I walked back down to the creek, looking right at Hyperion on the way down.  I can still see it in my mind.  I didn’t recognize it for what it was.  How about that.

Later last summer more information on Hyperion was leaked and I was able to go back later in the year and locate the tree no problem.  While sitting behind Hyperion I looked over to the two redwoods I was sitting beside three months earlier and just shook my head.

Hyperion
The tallest tree

Thanks for reading.