Tag Archives: hyperion redwood

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.

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.