Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tree Huggers

Richard Preston’s The Wild Trees tells the story of botanists Steve Sillett and his wife Marie Antoine as well as another tree lover, Michael Taylor.

The gist of the (true) story is this: These three people (and a few others) love trees, love to climb trees, and, especially in the case of Sillett and Taylor, are passionate about Redwoods on the west coast. Sillett and Taylor often plunge—sometimes alone, sometimes together, sometimes with others—into various Redwood areas to find the largest and the tallest. They are in fact responsible for finding and naming most of the biggest Redwoods we know today.

I found the book fascinating for several reasons.

1) The description of the trees. The size of these tree, how they develop, and how they play host to a whole other world—all kinds of life—some 30 stories above our own are amazing.

2) The efforts of Sillett and co. to discover, climb, and learn about Redwoods—the climbing techniques as well as the dangers and thrills.

3) The passion of Sillett and co. The passion scientists have for God’s creation (though these particular scientists are evolutionists) reveals to me how interesting God is as a Creator. His creation, such as trees, is so amazingly complex and intricate and wonderful that people can be fascinated by certain aspects of it for decades at a time.

4) The book’s well-written. It’s written like a story. It flows. It feels more like a novel than a non-fiction book about scientists.

Just a few tidbits from the book:

Often Sillett and others would spend the night in or near the crowns of these Redwoods. They would sleep in treeboats, hammocks suspended between branches, sometimes as high as 30+ stories in the air!

Redwoods have a habit of growing other trunks in the sky from their branches or from the main trunk. For example, a tree named Adventure, 334’ tall, has 40 extra trunks. (234)

Another one, Iluvatar, contains 220 trunks. “The top of Iluvatar is so dense with foliage that you could put on a pair of snowshoes and walk around on top and play Frisbee there.” (202)

The base of Iluvatar

The author’s daughter climbed a giant tulip poplar tree in Georgia that has a cave in it. The mouth of the cave was 90’ above ground. She climbed in through the mouth and rappelled down 20’ through the center of the tree. “She came out into a room inside the tree, where a hole looked out into the canopy, like a round window.” (243)

Click here to see a pictures that give some perspective on how tall these Redwoods are.


michelle said...

Amazingness. My boss just got back from a trip to CA where she was able to experience the Redwoods!

On another note, some people call me a tree hugger. maybe it's because I like to/am obsessed with recycling and such. Meh.

Anonymous said...

That looks like the Wikipedia photo of Iluvatar.

You ever seen all the other ones on that arborist's redwood page? Of other redwoods in the book that is. Most are in the albums, but some on the page. The Sir Isaac shot is really cool.

Redwood Page

It's sort of a Nexxus.

Kent S said...

Thanks for the info. Yes, I have looked at that page.