All posts by MarkGWP

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.

Helios Was a 400 Foot Redwood Not So Long Ago

 

1      Hyperion and Helios

Disclaimer:  This analysis is based on my own interpretation of published redwood study information, primarily from this source:

How do tree structure and old age affect growth potential of California redwoods?

Stephen C. Sillett, Robert Van Pelt, Allyson L. Carroll, Russell D. Kramer, Anthony R. Ambrose, D’Arcy Trask

Ecological Monographs 2015 Vol: 85 (2) :181-212.
doi: 10.1890/14-1016.1

So here we go ….

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:

Tree Name Age Study Year Height 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
Hyperion 1260 2010 115.62 163 0.065 0 21.9
Helios 2040 2013 114.82 198 0.048 -4

And from there do this set of calculations:

Hyperion cm growth above 80 m / cm diameter at 80 m 21.9
Helios original growth above 80 m based on Hyperion 4236
Helios height pre reiteration in meters (est) 122.36
Helios height pre reiteration in feet (est) 401.5
Helios reiteration point height meters 106.5
Helios actual reiterated growth meters 8.32
Helios growth rate per year centimeters (past 10 yrs) 9.2
Helios estimated age of reiteration in years 90.4

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.

Thanks for reading.

Redwoods Hiking Fall 2016 and a Little Bit More

Redwoods Hiking Fall 2016 and a Little Bit More

1      Klamath Redwoods

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.

Flint Ridge at start of old growth
Flint Ridge at start of old growth

The good size redwoods run from this point all the way up the ridge.

Scenic old growth about half way up Fint Ridge
Scenic old growth about half way up Flint 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.

Flint Ridge very tall Douglas fir
Flint Ridge very tall Douglas fir

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.

Red cedar high on Flint Ridge
Red cedar high on Flint Ridge

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).

James Irvine Giant redwood
James Irvine Giant redwood

 

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.

Distant view of Adventure Redwood crown
Distant view of Adventure Redwood crown

 

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.

Millenium Grove crowns
Millennium Grove crowns

 

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.

Randy Stoltmann redwood
Randy Stoltmann redwood

 

It appears one very tall redwood in Harper Flat has fallen.  It was the north side of this pair, note the root ball.

Harper Flat tall tree down
Harper Flat tall tree down

 

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:

Name Park 2016 Height Estimate (Feet)
Hyperion RNP 380.3
Helios RNP 377.2
Stratosphere Giant HRSP 373.9
Lauralyn HRSP 372.4
Nugget RNP 372.0
Paradox HRSP 371.4
Orion RNP 371.2
Icarus RNP 371.2
Millennium HRSP 370.7
Paul Zinke HRSP 370.1
Mother & Daughter HRSP 369.8
Mendocino MWR 368.4
Minaret HRSP 368.4
Pipe Dream HRSP 367.9

 

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.

Thanks for reading.

The Largest Redwoods – An Unfinished Story

1      Tree Height Versus Tree Volume

 

Tree height is an easy concept.  Measure the top and measure ground level and you have tree height.  Tree volume is more difficult to grasp.  The solid parts of a tree take up a certain amount of space, and that is the tree’s volume.  Since a tree is a tapering cylinder, cone cross section formulas can be used to estimate volumes of a tree by section.  Then sometimes the volume of the branches is estimated as well.  So tree volume is a pretty complicated business to nail down with precision.  For large redwoods the formula for a perfect cone usually gets you in the ballpark for estimating tree volume.

At some point in the near future technology may allow for rapid assessment of tree volumes in the same way the onset of laser rangefinders allowed for rapid assessment of tree height starting around the year 2000.  Think of a quadcopter with a digital camera that can measure tree height and width at various increments as it flies around and up and down a tree’s trunk.   Then think of this quadcopter moving up and down a hillside, doing these measurements for all trees over a certain size on the ridge.    This technology measures the trunk only.   Measuring limb volume is much more complex, and generally limb volume is not included when noting the volume of the largest trees.

2      The Largest Redwoods – A Very Incomplete List

 

There are lists which show the largest known redwoods in terms of volume and the tallest known redwoods in terms of height.  The height list is certainly complete or near complete as airplane based LiDAR measurements have allowed for whole forests to be measured for height.  However the largest volume list is incomplete, perhaps markedly incomplete.

Although trails have been built through and near many exemplary redwood groves, there are many areas with exemplary redwoods which have no trails.  Places such as the west side of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the Lost Man Creek area in Redwood National Park, and  the slopes above Redwood creek.    Even in areas with trails there could be very large redwoods tucked out of sight just a little bit away from the trails.

Now think about where the largest volume redwoods have been located.   Mostly in groves that have trails.  Why are so many of the largest redwoods located in Prairie Creek Redwoods?  For one, Prairie Creek has a lot of great redwood habitat with lots of alluvial flats and sheltered hillsides.  But also Prairie Creek has many trails through this habitat to make the identification of large trees easier.   What is different between Prairie Creek and the nearby groves of Redwood National Park?   Not much, at least for the groves that are relatively low in elevation.  But Prairie Creek has a much more complete trail system through its groves.

Let’s amplify this point with some statistics.

 

3      Most Redwoods Over 25,000 Cubic Feet are Yet To Be Discovered

 

If we assess the volume distribution of the top 25 giant sequoias and top 25 coast redwoods we see the relative volume between the largest and 25th largest trees in each group is similar.  In other words, each group covers the same relative range in volume.

Sequoia and Coast Redwood Top 25 Largest Trees Relative Volumes
Sequoia and Coast Redwood Top 25 Largest Trees Relative Volumes

 

So sequoias and coast redwoods have the same relative range from the largest through the 25th largest tree.   But there are many, many more mature redwoods than mature sequoias.

Species Trees/Acre Old Growth Acres Old Growth Trees
Giant Sequoia 3        38,000       114,000
Coast Redwood 8        85,000       680,000

Here the coast redwood old growth acres include only the northern redwood parks.

So there are 6X as many old growth redwoods in their prime range than the total number of old growth sequoias.  Yet the band for the top 25 trees in each species is the same?   There is only one explanation for this, and that is many, many of the largest redwoods have been missed, so far.

As a second comparison, let’s review the relative volume distribution for the twenty five largest redwoods versus the relative height distribution for the twenty five tallest redwoods.  How do those bands look?  Well they look really, really different.

Top 25 Largest and Tallest Redwoods relative volumes
Top 25 Largest and Tallest Redwoods relative volumes and relative heights

 

The 25th tallest redwood is about 95% as tall as the tallest redwood.  The 25th largest redwood is about 60% as large as the largest redwood.   Why the difference?   All or almost all of the tallest redwoods have been identified, through the use of laser rangefinder and LiDAR technology.  And many of the largest redwoods have not been found, as there is no comparable technology to quickly assess tree volume.

The current largest coast redwood tree lists have 25 trees over 24,000 cubic feet.   That is only a sample, there are probably over 100 such trees.  And almost certainly several trees are out there that are larger than 38,000 cubic feet.

So lots of discoveries to be made.   And lots of upcoming technology in the form of quad copters with smart digital imaging to assist researchers in making the discoveries.

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.

Here is my GPS trace of the hike in the Hyperion area, it is a little erratic versus my actual course but generally correct.  H1 is Hyperion’s location.  What a stunning effort and what a colossal albeit temporary setback.

Trace of hike in Hyperion area
Trace of hike in Hyperion area

 

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
Hyperion

 

 

Thanks for reading.

Hiking to Redwood Tree Cathedrals

1      Redwood Tree Cathedrals

Tall redwood trees tend to grow in groups.  There are specific areas with the best soil, sufficient moisture, protection from wind, and the right mix of sun and fog to promote tall tree growth.  I recently spent a few days in the redwood parks hiking to tall trees along or near trails but still a little bit away from areas where most visitors hike.  These areas with tall trees are nature’s cathedrals, with the trunks serving as pillars and the crowns serving as rounded ceilings hundreds of feet off the forest floor.

2      Humboldt Redwoods

 

Day one hiking was in the Bull Creek Flats area in Humboldt.   I wanted to get some pictures from the “101 Big Cut” near Founders Grove.   On the way to that location there is a spectacular new tree fall at the Dyerville Giant location.   The Dyerville Giant was a tall redwood that fell in 1991 and its big log remains in Founders Grove.   Sometime in the early Spring an adjacent redwood fell across that big log and split in several sections.

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

 

Then on to the Big Cut Trail.  It is a moderately difficult twisting hike up to the top but the reward is a really nice view of the Bull Creek redwoods as well as some interesting civil engineering where the Avenue of the Giants crosses over US 101.

Looking up Bull Creek from Big Cut
Looking up Eel River South Fork from Big Cut

 

I spent some time in the Harper Flats area near Giant tree.  This area is thick with very tall even aged redwoods.  It is indeed a tall trees cathedral.

Harper Flat tall redwood
Harper Flat tall redwood
Harper Flat Cathedral
Harper Flat Cathedral

 

Another nice area visited was along Bull Creek a couple miles upstream from the Eel River South Fork.  I located a beautiful very tall round domed redwood right along Bull Creek.  Across the creek from this tree there are two tree trunks rubbing against each other in the wind, this makes a loud screeching sound which kind of sounds like whales singing.

Tall redwood along Bull Creek
Tall redwood along Bull Creek

 

Then in the flats above Bull Creek in this area is a scenic somewhat open forest area with big and tall redwoods.

Nice redwood mid Bull Creek Flats south side
Nice redwood mid Bull Creek Flats south side
Patriarch Forest Cathedral
Patriarch Forest Cathedral

 

3      Redwood National Park Tall Trees Grove to Forty Four Creek

 

On another day I hiked the Tall Trees Grove trail, crossed Redwood Creek on a seasonal footbridge which had just been put in that day, then hiked Redwood Creek trail north to Forty Four creek.  I had hoped to get a good view of the remnant redwood grove along Forty Four creek but did not have clear views of the crowns from the trail.   However the bridge and Forty Four creek are both scenic.  Be very careful on the bridge as some sections of the side rails are missing.

Forty four creek bridge
Forty four creek bridge
Forty Four Creek
Forty Four Creek

 

On the way back up and out I stopped at the Redwood Creek overlook and watched the evening fog roll up Redwood Creek valley from the Pacific Oean. It comes in at a pretty quick pace, maybe ten miles per hour on this day.

 

4      Redwood National Park Redwood Creek Trailhead to Elam Creek

 

The northern portions of Redwood Creek trail provide nice views of the redwoods along Redwood Creek in several areas, particularly where the trail crosses Redwood Creek just a little north of McArthur Creek.   Just north of the Elam Creek Bridge there is a side trail that goes up to the Elam Horse Camp and then intersects with one of the horse trails.  This horse trail follows Elam Creek upstream for about half a mile, then there is a single file bridge where the riders and horses cross Elam Creek.   This bridge affords a spectacular view of very tall redwood trees that surround Elam Creek at this point.  It is a real back country redwood tree cathedral.

Elam Creek half mile up north slope redwood
Elam Creek half mile up north slope redwood
Elam creek half mile up another tall redwood on the north slope
Elam creek half mile up another tall redwood on the north slope
Elam Creek half mile up tall redwoods on south slope
Elam Creek half mile up tall redwoods on south slope

 

5      Redwood National Park Trillium Falls Trail

 

The Trillium Falls trail forms a nice loop through old growth redwoods.  The first part of the trail up to Trillium Falls is pretty busy but after that point the trail is less busy.  This is probably due to the steep climb to the upland redwoods and the overall length of the loop (about 3 miles).

Trillium Falls itself is very scenic.  There are also very nice redwoods around these falls.  Then past the falls there are some areas with really big and ancient redwoods.

Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls
Trillium Falls trail big trees grove
Trillium Falls trail big trees grove

6      Redwood National Park Flint Ridge Trail

 

There are big redwoods on the climb up Flint Ridge from the Klamath River.   On this day I wasn’t able to get to this area due to trail conditions.  But reading about the 1964 flood and viewing what remains of the original Klamath River coastal highway bridge was very interesting.  This old bridge has bear statues too, just like the new one.

Old Klamath River bridge
Old Klamath River bridge

7      Jedediah Smith Redwoods Trails

 

One up side from missing Flint Ridge was it provided some time to get up to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  Road repairs had just been completed and the park was accessible from the south all the way up to Stout Grove.  I did some hiking in the big trees area and enjoyed trail side views of some big redwoods.

Distant view of Del Norte Titan crown
Distant view of Del Norte Titan crown
Sacajawea
Sacajawea

8      Montgomery Woods

 

On another day I met my friends Jerry and Teri Beranek for a hike through Montgomery Woods.  The many tall redwoods in the flats above the earthen dam and below the surrounding steep hillsides form a continuous redwood cathedral.   I get a lot of insights and plant identifications when hiking with Jerry and Teri.  Jerry has a couple new books, one on Humboldt and one on Prairie Creek.  They are very good, providing interesting background and perspective and many great photos and maps.  Look for them in the gift shops along the Avenue of the Giants and the Humboldt Visitors Center.

All three pieces entered ground at same angle
All three pieces entered ground at same angle
Montgomery Woods Cathedral
Montgomery Woods Cathedral

 

Thanks for reading.

Height Changes in Very Tall Coast Redwood Trees

1      Redwood Tree Height

In the past twenty years it has become possible to systemically search old growth redwood forests for tall trees.  Overhead LiDAR data can identify very tall trees.  Then follow up measurements with laser range finders can identify height accurately within a foot or so.  If more accuracy is required then advanced climbing techniques followed by the use of a measuring pole and direct tape drop can accurately measure height with a precision of a centimeter or so.

For trees on slopes or mounded trees there is still some judgement involved when determining true ground level.  So not everyone will agree on the exact height of certain very tall redwoods.

2      Average Annual Height Changes in Redwood Trees

 

Using published sources the height of the one hundred tallest known redwoods in 2000 can be compared to the 2012 height for the exact same trees.  When doing this comparison several interesting observations can be made.

  • First, ALL one hundred tallest known redwoods from 2000 were still standing in 2012. Assuming each individual tree has a one in a thousand chance of toppling in a given year there is a 70 percent chance at least one tree would fall during this period.  But none did.   So a quiet interval for the redwoods, versus the 1990’s when two of the tallest redwoods fell (Telperion and Dyerville Giant).
  • Second, just six of the one hundred tallest known redwoods lost height from 2000 to 2012. So very little die back of the tops.
  • Third, about one third of the one hundred tallest trees grew at an average rate of six inches or more per year. That’s a pretty good growth rate for an old growth redwood tree.

3      Some Tables Concerning Height Changes

 

This table shows twelve year height changes by individual tree, with the starting heights sorted from low to high as move from left to right.  Here note some of the tallest redwoods had pretty good growth rates but overall there is a slightly negative association between starting tree height and height change.

Height Change vs Height Rank
Height Change vs Height Rank

 

 

This table shows the average height change in feet per year by park.  Note the low tree count for Redwood National Park, many of the tallest redwoods in RNP were unidentified in the year 2000.

On average these tallest redwoods gained three inches in height per year.

Height Change by Park
Height Change by Park

 

 

This table shows detail for areas of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Note the fastest growth area is the even aged very tall stand of redwoods in Harper Flat.   Here the redwoods averaged almost five inches of growth per year.

Height Change by Humboldt Area
Height Change by Humboldt Area, chg/yr in feet

 

4      Height Changes for a Few Specific Redwoods

 

Here are examples of trees with negative of zero change in height.

Giant Tree. About nine feet shorter than the sign says.
Giant Tree. Lost about a foot in height over 12 years.

 

Redwood Creek Giant - no height change
Redwood Creek Giant – no height change but nice emoji

 

These three top ten tallest redwoods all had about the same average annual increase in height per year between 2000 and 2012, about 3.5 inches.

THE Stratosphere Giant
THE Stratosphere Giant

 

Paradox
Paradox

 

Laurelin, as inspired by Tolkien
Laurelin, as inspired by Tolkien

 

This is Nugget in Redwood National Park, it increased in height a bit more between 2000 and 2012 than the other top ten redwoods, about 4.25 inches per year.

Nugget
Nugget

 

There were two redwood trees on Harper Flat that grew a whopping seven feet between 2000 and 2012.   This tree is one of them.

Harper Flat up seven feet in twelve years
Harper Flat redwood up seven feet in twelve years

 

The two tallest redwoods, Hyperion and Helios, are not included in these tables as their discovery year was after 2000.  In general Hyperion is growing relatively slowly compared to the other tallest redwoods while Helios is growing at a rate similar to Laurelin, Paradox, and Stratosphere Giant.

Hyperion did pick up the pace a bit after 2012.

 

Hyperion
Hyperion.  The tallest.

 

I read a Humboldt State dendrochronology (tree ring) study which indicated redwoods are putting on more mass now than at any other time in the past one thousand years.  This is also exhibited in the general height increase of all the tallest redwoods from 2000 to 2012.

Why is this?

 

 

 

 

Tall Redwoods Need Loads of Schist

1      Tall Redwoods and Creeks

There is an association between alluvial flats built up from by stream flood deposits and tall redwood trees.  The tall redwoods spread their roots through this nutrient rich soil, often in multiple iterations as alluvial soil builds up from flooding events over the centuries.   However these streams are not an important source of water for these redwood trees.  Instead high amounts of annual rainfall as well as year round fog drip provide the water for these giants.   However there is another way rich soil can accumulate to support the growth of tall redwoods.

2      Tall Redwoods and Schist Filled Benches

If you have been on the hillsides above redwood creeks you may have noticed several things.

  • First, the hillsides can be very steep, with gradients often between 20 and 40 percent.
  • Second, there are convex (slightly bowl shaped relative to the slope) benches that occur at different elevations on these hillsides.
  • Third, these benches have a dark, fine soil. That dark fine soil is called schist and when you stand on these benches you are standing on a pile of schist.   Schist is great soil to support redwood tree growth.    In the Redwood Creek Basin the soil on the hillsides (all of it) creeps about 2 millimeters per year and can also flow up to 200 millimeters during a very heavy rain event.  The convex shape of the hillside benches induces the capture of the creeping schist soil.  Presto, you have the perfect growing medium for a redwood.

If a redwood grows on a schist bench in an area that is within reach of fog year round it can grow very tall.  As tall as any redwood that grows in the alluvial flats.

Hyperion grows on a schist bench.  By all accounts Helios and Orion also grow on schist benches.

Much of the alluvial flat soil is schist that has washed, flowed, or crept down the hillside, mixed with the flowing creek, and then left on the flats above the creek banks as the waters receded.    To some extent this occurs every year during the transition from the wet to the dry season.  One type of schist soil is called greywacke.  There is a redwood on the upper Bull Creek flats in Humboldt Redwoods that is named Graywacke after this soil type.

 

3      Schist in Northern California Is Formed by Plate Tectonics

 

A lot of geology is hard for me to follow but apparently the schist associated with northern California redwood forests was induced by tectonic fracturing and shearing of underlying bedrock.  There is a tremendous amount of tectonic activity in the northern California redwood belt, as this is the location of the Mendocino Triple Junction where three large tectonic plates meet.   There is a subduction zone a short distance offshore which induces giant (9.0 magnitude) earthquakes every 300-500 years (the last one was in 1700).   Off the major faults are many minor faults, and the some of the notable redwood creeks follow these minor faults.  Examples are Redwood Creek following Grogan Fault and Lost Man Creek following Lost Man Fault.

The tectonic activity and associated periodic earthquakes have created the benches on the hillsides and contributed to the unstable nature of the soil formations.  The soil formations then  creep over time, allowing for the collection of the soil in the convex benches.

4      Schist in Northern California Needs Flooding for Active Transport

 

Heavy rains induce the hillside schist soils to flow over the underlying bedrock.  This can help the convex hillside benches “fill up” with soil as well as transport soil down to the creeks.  Once in the creek the schist soil mixes in with the fast moving floodwaters.  Then as the flood waters become less turbid and start to recede the schist falls out of solution and adds soil to the alluvial flats along the creek.

 

5      The Formula for Tall Redwoods in Northern California

 

A unique set of circumstances have combined to create the spectacular redwood forests in northern California.   These forests would not be as impressive or even exist at all if even one of these ingredients was missing:

  • High annual rainfall
  • Some fog to provide moisture during the dry season
  • Temperatures above freezing year round
  • Incredibly rich schist soils which are the product of tectonic activity
  • Flooding rainfalls to move the soil into the convex benches and build the alluvial flats

Forests with tall redwoods need earthquakes and floods to thrive over the millennia.

 

6      It is Difficult to Measure the Height of Redwoods on Hillsides

 

Exceptional redwoods have been noted and measured in the northern California redwood forests for over fifty years.  Looking through the data the redwood dimensions are defined in these ways:

  • Diameter (or circumference which we recall from trignometry is pi x diameter).  This is by far the easiest dimension to measure as you walk up to the trunk and use a tape wrap or rangefinder to do the measurement.
  • Height. This can be difficult as the top of the tree needs to be hit at a distance with a rangefinder, then the height differential between the measure point and the point where the trunk meets soil needs to be determined.
  • American Forestry Points:  Trunk circumference inches plus height in feet plus one fourth average crown spread in feet.  So here the crown spread has been added as an additional measurement to base circumference and height.
  • Mass or volume. This is exceedingly difficult to measure and requires multiple measure points along the trunk as well as some kind of estimate of wood in the limbs and branches.  Based on the overall shape of the redwood formulas for different geometric cone forms can be used as an estimate.

When a tall redwood is on a hillside all these measurements become more difficult.

  • For diameter the determination of average breast height (4.5 feet) measure point can involve some judgement as the point where the trunk meets soil can be ten feet higher on the up slope side of the tree versus the down slope side of the tree.
  • For height the elevation differential between measure point and trunk elevation can become difficult. Many hillside redwood tops will measure around five hundred feet in height from a measure point on the flats but how high is the tree base above the flat?   The GPS can become a little erratic on a remote forested hillside and GPS altitude  readings are usually a little off.  So even if you get coordinates right at the trunk that may or may not be correct for altitude.

Also LiDAR has had its problems measuring trees on slopes.   If a tree leans to the downhill the height will be overestimated.  But there are also many redwood trees that lean a little uphill.  This is due to the downslope buttressing seen in many hillside redwoods.   Redwoods leaning uphill will have an underestimated LiDAR height.  By the way, this hillside buttressing is an area of controversy in determining the ground level for hillside redwoods.

Demonstrated LiDAR errors for redwoods heights are up to five percent.  This would result in an 18 foot or so error for a very tall redwood.

It is possible the tallest redwood is not Hyperion but rather a hillside redwood that has been missed so far.   It is very easy to walk right by a tall hillside redwood.  There is a chance a redwood or two growing out of a schist bench on a steep hillside slope could be taller than Hyperion.  As one redwood explorer has commented, “chance has potential”.

7      Views of Tall Redwoods Growing on Schist Filled Hillside Benches

 

Tall redwoods growing on schist filled bench above Redwood Creek tributary
Tall redwoods growing on schist filled bench above Redwood Creek tributary

 

Tall redwoods growing along schist filled bench above Lost Man Creek
Tall redwoods growing along schist filled bench above Lost Man Creek

 

8      Views of Tall Redwoods Growing on Schist Filled Alluvial Flats

 

Harper Flat. Even aged forest of tall redwoods with many fusions. Fused redwoods are clonal sprouts from same roots that fused over time as the trunks touched and grew. Even age of stand and clonal fusions due to flooding event 1,000 years ago.
Harper Flat. Even aged forest of tall redwoods with many fusions. Fused redwoods are clonal sprouts from same roots that fused over time as the trunks touched and grew. Even age of stand and bias toward clonal propagation  due to flooding event 1,000 years ago.

 

Redwood National Park Tall Trees Grove. Iconic alluvial flats grove.
Redwood National Park Tall Trees Grove. Iconic alluvial flats grove.

 

 

Cascadia Subduction Earthquakes – Effects on Redwood Forests

 

1      Bull Creek Giant – January 26, 1700

Please note this section involves speculation but is based on a known geologic event.

The Bull Creek Giant stands as the king of the redwood forests along Bull Creek in what will become Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California.  Its top leaves quiver in the evening breeze 390 feet above its 21 foot diameter base. It is nine in the evening, and wispy fingers of fog are starting to flow up the Eel River and into Bull Creek Canyon.  The forest is very green and damp from the ample winter rains.

Suddenly a pulse moves through the ground underneath the giant redwood.  Then a few seconds later the ground starts to rumble, then shake, then lurch.  The shaking continues for one minute….two minutes…..three minutes……four minutes and gets worse and worse minute by minute.  The root ball of the giant starts to twist in relation to the axis of the tree.  This induces a circular motion at the top of the tree with ever increasing centrifugal force.  Suddenly the top sixty feet of the tree snap off and crash to the earth.   Now the shaking starts to decrease in intensity and then ends rather quickly.  There will be many strong aftershocks during the upcoming hours and days but the main event is over.  For the third time in its lifetime the Bull Creek Giant has endured a 9.0 magnitude Cascadia subduction earthquake.  This time the redwood did not get off damage free.   It is no longer the tallest tree on Earth.

Bull Creek Giant - survivor of at least three 8.7 to 9.2 magnitude earthquakes
Bull Creek Giant – survivor of at least three 8.7 to 9.2 magnitude earthquakes

 

2      Original American Villages in Areas That Will Become Eureka, Arcata, Orick, and Crescent City – January 26, 1700

Please note this section involves speculation though it is based on oral traditions and a known geologic event.

Groups of native, or original, Americans have lived along the Pacific Northwest coast for over ten thousand years.  In the oral traditions of these peoples are stories of past giant earthquakes followed by walls of water coming in off the ocean.   At 9 PM the inevitable happens and another great quake occurs.  The ground  shakes violently, knocking people off their feet and caving in walls and roofs.  The people who are able to do so act on their oral traditions and immediately start walking to higher ground.  The people who are trapped in debris or otherwise unable to move to higher ground are tragically drowned twenty minutes later by a great upheaval of water originating a few hundred miles offshore.

Redwood National Park ocean front south of Orick
Redwood National Park ocean front south of Orick

 

3      Redwood Forests – 2016

 

The present day remaining old growth redwood forests are very special.   They give us a view into what forests looked like many millions of years ago and are also places of great scenic beauty.   These trees are very long lived and well able to withstand a lot of what nature dishes out.   Be it forest fires, winter storms with hurricane force winds, flooding rainfalls, and even 9.0 magnitude earthquakes, many redwood trees endure.  But many are damaged in some way by these events, and sometimes these trees come crashing down to the ground, the whole entire tree, all at once.

I would like to speculate the 9.0 magnitude Cascadia subduction earthquakes occurring every five hundred years or so have effects on redwood forests in ways that have not yet been documented.  These effects could include the following:

Even aged reiterations in crowns:   The 9.0 magnitude earthquakes cause tops of trees to whipsaw and snap off.  This effect has been documented in the Forest of Nisene Marks at the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.   Perhaps there are clusters of reiterations in cadence with the timing of the past large earthquakes in 1700 AD, 1310 AD, 810 AD, 400 AD, and 170 BC.

Twisted redwoods:  The cause of twisting in some trunks is not well understood.  Perhaps one influence is the reorientation of the axis of the tree due to twisting of the roots caused by the large intermittent earthquakes.

Bends in trunks:  Some redwoods have a pronounced bend in the trunk.  These could originate with leans induced by rapid subsidence due to earthquakes followed by the trees then growing straight sections.

Even aging of downed redwoods:  Once redwood trees fall they still persist on the ground for hundreds of years.  Core samples can be taken from a sample of downed redwoods and the rings cross dated to the core samples taken from many standing redwoods.  In this way the last growth year of the downed redwoods can be determined.   I predict the year 1699 will come up much more often than by chance.

Possible even aged crown reiterations in Humboldt Rockefeller Loop Eel River front
Possible even aged crown reiterations in Humboldt Federation Grove redwoods fronting the Eel River

 

Redwood National Park trunk with twisting
Redwood National Park trunk with twisting

 

 

4      Eureka, Arcata, Orick, and Crescent City – 2016

 

When you drive along Route 101 in and near the towns of Eureka, Arcata, Orick, and Crescent City you will see blue signs with a symbol of a person moving uphill from a large wave.  These signs will say “Tsunami Hazard Zone” or “Tsunami Evacuation Route” or “Tsunami Evacuation Site”, or something similar.   Should a large earthquake occur while you are along 101 or other low lying areas in or near these towns heed these signs.  The people living in these areas are well aware of the risks associated with major earthquakes and know to get to higher ground immediately, most likely by walking as the roads will be damaged and gridlocked.   It is very doable as there are many hills and getting to one hundred foot elevation should be safe enough.  Then they know to wait there until the all clear, most likely several hours later as there will probably be multiple tsunamis, with the first starting 15 to 30 minutes after the initial earthquake.

According to numerous credible websites there is a ten percent chance a major (8.7 to 9.2 magnitude) Cascadia subduction earthquake will occur in the next fifty years.   The full threat of these earthquakes was not realized until 2005, and many buildings and infrastructure have earlier construction or remodel dates. For this reason as well as the sheer size of the event the primary impact of Cascadia subduction earthquakes will be damage to buildings and infrastructure.  However the tsunami threat to low lying areas is also of great concern.

Since 2005 a lot of good work has gone into threat identification and preparation for the inevitable upcoming event.

Thanks for reading.