to escapism

 

Here is some more stuff that is not billiards-related.

I am back to tweaking the layouts of posts. While this layout is not quite as nice on a big screen (which is what I plan these posts around), it is much better on mobile devices. If you have a preference, email me and let me know.

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I can’t remember if I’ve written about the great (literally and figuratively) trees we have out here on the west coast. We don’t have the colorful plumage the Northeast has with its fall colors, so we have to make up for that in size. I guess you could say we are overcompensating a bit, since our most famous trees are the Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Aside from having such melodic scientific names (they are named after Sequoyah, the man who created the Cherokee system of reading and writing), these trees, though the stay the same color all year long, make some really pretty pictures.

 

 

I did not take that gorgeous picture up there, but I did take a few with my old point-and-shoot as it was giving up its ghost when I went to visit Muir Woods National Monument.

Muir Woods is a forest of Coastal Redwoods. There are no Giant Sequoias here as those massive trees are native to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and I do hope to visit those one day as well.

 

An old boardwalk footpath that went over a river and through the woods.

 

Muir Woods, because it is so close to the ocean, is often covered in fog. This fog exists in varying thicknesses year-round, but the key is that it exists year-round. Thus, in the summer, these trees can derive moisture from the fog rather than rain. If you ever get a chance to see the bark of redwoods up close, you’ll notice the texture is fibrous and spongy. This sponginess allows the retention of moisture and it also explains why redwood bark is such a good mulching material.

 

Dandelion burning bright amongst the fallen logs.

 

My first visit to Muir Woods many long years ago when I was just a wee bairn was on a very foggy day and I will never forget walking through trees in the middle of a cloud, and the cloud, like cotton, hushed all voices and the ground, soft with leaf litter, hushed all footsteps.

This time, I visited during the summer, after the morning fog had burned off, and while I missed the mystery of the fog, the summer colors made up for it.

 

A fairy ring of redwoods.

 

Redwoods reproduce sexually by seed and asexually by sprouting. In the photograph above, there is a clump of redwood trunks, all very close together. It is likely they all sprouted from the same parent tree. Many sprouts develop along the circumference of a single tree and after they have all grown into trees themselves, the resulting circle of trees is called a “fairy ring”.

 

Redwoods are freakin’ tall. Trees over 200 feet are common and many are over 300 feet. For reference, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet high. Imagine a grove of Statues of Liberty. Actually, don’t do that–it’s kind of a creepy image. The current tallest redwood is the Hyperion tree at about 380 feet tall, located in Redwood National Park, which is a ways further north than Muir Woods (and which I have now noted down for a future trip). The Hyperion tree is considered the tallest living organism, although taller trees have been recorded that were felled by commerical loggers in the previous centuries. The maximum height a redwood can achieve is believed to be between 400 and 425 feet. Any higher and the tree will not be capable of transporting nutrients to the top.

Redwoods and their cousins are also freaking large. The biggest tree in the world by trunk volume is the Giant Sequoia known as the General Sherman. The General Sherman is the largest known living single stem tree on earth and is 275 feet high and 36.5 feet wide at the base. It has an estimated volume of 52,500 cubic feet, an estimated weight of 1,400 tons, and is thought to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. By comparison, the largest accurately weighed blue whale weighed about 195 tons. And remember — the 1,400 tons of the General Sherman is only the weight of its trunk. The weight of the branches are not calculated into that number.

While the General Sherman is the largest living tree, a Coast Redwood known as the Crannell Creek Giant was estimated to be 15 to 25 percent larger than the General Sherman. The Crannell Creek Giant was cut down some time in the 1940s.

 

Due to their large size, redwoods and sequoias were enthusiastically used for housing, railroad ties, and everything else during the expansion west in the 1800s. Here are some old-timey photographs, courtesy of the Humboldt State University Library, showing the size of the trees in the old-growth forests.

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you may click to embiggen the below photographs

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For all its enormous size, the giant sequoia’s wood was rather poor as a building material. It was highly resistant to decay, since the tree itself grew in humid conditions, but the wood was brittle. After felling the giant sequoias, the trunks often shattered on impact. As little as 50 percent of the wood made it from the grove to the mill and most of it was used to produce items like shingles and matchsticks. Still, logging continued because MUCH TREE, VERY WOW. It was this enormous waste of wood that eventually kickstarted the movement to save them. In our current era, it has been found that younger trees have less brittle wood and there is now interest in growing sequoias on plantations as a sustainable source of lumber.

The tall redwoods, unlike the giant sequoias, made excellent building material. Redwood was light, highly resistant to decay, and not nearly as brittle as old-growth giant sequoias. Redwood lumber, then, was greatly valued for the production of railroad ties and the trestle bridges the railroads rode on. Also of interest was the lack of resin in the wood which contributed to its fire-resistance. Redwoods have had a better history of logging due to more responsible forest management. The modern-day logging of redwoods is almost entirely of second-growth trees, meaning trees that have been planted and grown to maturity after an initial harvest of the area. Basically, it’s tree farming: a sustainable practice that ensures there is lumber for the market without resorting to clearcutting methods and those old giants get to keep on growing and giving us neck cramps when we try to see where they end and the sky begins.

 

Big tree dedicated to an important man.

 

One of the biggest trees in Muir Woods is the Pinchot Sequoia, pictured above, named after forester Gifford Pinchot and dedicated to him in 1910. Pinchot was instrumental in the saving of the land that became Muir Woods National Monument.

 

“Hey, do you play basketball?”

 

The most popular place in Muir Woods is Cathedral Grove. The trees in Cathedral Grove are impressively tall and very straight and a nice trail winds through it.

 

Evidence of fire and/or lightning strike on a tree.

 

Although trees can be very long-lived, they do die of natural causes such as disease, rot, and fire. Oftentimes, they are struck by lightning (like the tree above) and can burn down. Some don’t burn all the way and continue living. When this kind of stress affects the main trunk of a tree, that is often when buds begin to sprout around it and begin growing into the aforementioned “fairy rings”.

 

Tipping over.

 

Redwoods have shallow, widespreading lateral root systems. They can tip over like the tree above when the soil they grow in becomes soft due to water saturation. Trees that tip over but are still alive will often have buds growing vertically from the fallen trunk, resulting in a straight line of trees.

 

Rest in peace, giant tree. Ye barely knew us (or cared to, I’m sure).

 

It is not uncommon for large trees to fall. Large trees fell as recently as 2011 (Cathedral Grove) and 2012 (Bohemian Grove). People have been around to hear it (insert obligatory “If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it…”) and record the sound as well. I do not think there is yet a recorded casualty of someone dying because a tree fell on them (knock on redwood).

 

Fa-la-la-la life grows on.

 

For the occasional tree that does fall and die, it lays there and returns to whence it came. The National Park Service used to clear out fallen trees to keep things tidy and reduce the threat of wildfire. Nowadays, they leave them there as dead trees are still an important part of the environment by providing shelter to smaller plants and animals, protecting the ground from erosion, helping the ground retain moisture, and ultimately decomposing and turning back into the soil that once nourished them.

 

 

Related Posts along the Pacific Coast

 

thanks to Wikipedia and the Internet for the fun facts
are ya learnin’?
knowledge is neat, ain’t it

I got dragged into the black hole of internet research for this post. Like, I started reading neat facts about giant trees (you know, things that’ll impress your date at Trivia Night) and the next thing I know, it’s 5:20 in the morning and I find myself reading, of all things, a research paper from the U.S. Forest Service regarding the properties of sequoia lumber vs coast redwood lumber, and not just that, but also the difference between young-growth and old-growth trees and their compartive heartwoods and their differing levels of insect resistance and… and… dang it. My alarm goes off in 10 minutes.

hooray for trees