The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston

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I picked this book up not because I wanted to read about trees, but because I really enjoyed Preston’s debut book, The Hot Zone, about ebola. His other stuff hasn’t been as good, but I enjoyed this book — it’s about the biggest living organisms on the planet — the redwoods in California. I’ll say that I didn’t really think he could put together an entire book about trees that would keep my interest, but this book is pretty good. There’s a lot I didn’t know about the redwoods — interesting stuff.

Like how about this: the tallest known trees in the world are in groves in Northern California whose location is kept a secret by the folks who study them. Or this: the very tallest tree known is about 370 feet tall (!) and growing every year. Scientists think the theoretical maximum height is about 420 feet. Or that some of these trees may predate the founding of Rome, nearly 3,000 years ago. Or that there are giant ecosystems that are at the tops of these trees that include animals found elsewhere only in the ocean. Wacky.

I guess what I found most interesting is how unknown the world of trees is. As a starter, we don’t really know where the tallest tree in the world is. There’s no easy way to measure them, except by eyeballing them, climbing them, then dropping a line down and measuring it. I mean, wtf? That’s the best we can do? We live in a world where so much is known, reported, confirmed — the idea that there are things in the world that seem to be obvious & right in front of us that we don’t know at all — it’s sort of encouraging to me somehow. The idea that it’s a sort of inspired wandering around that leads to discovery — that’s a little bit how I feel about what we’re doing at Mozilla some days.

The story of the folks who dedicate their lives to this is great — people climb them, camp in them, sleep at the tops of them — it’s hard to really believe, but they say that at the tops of these trees there are effectively clearings that you can walk around in, the branches are so thick — with huckleberry bushes, multiple trunks per tree — a forest at the top of each tree, really.

Anyway, as a result, I think I’d like to take a family trip to see the big trees sometime. I always used to hate trips like that when I was a kid, but now it seems interesting. Kathy has always liked this stuff better than me, though, so there’s a chance Sam will like them, too.

Good book. One measure of a book’s import to me is how much it changes the way I think about things & look at the world, and by that measure, it’s a great one.

Saturday I started on Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. One of my favorite authors, but man is it a lot of work to read his writing. You just feel worn out afterwards. This one’ll take me a while, but I’ve got a backlog, so maybe I’ll post some about other books I’ve read this year in the meantime. About 20 books on my queue now. Sigh. 2 by Haruki Murakami, one of my very favorites. Gotta clear the queue before 7/21.

12 Replies to “The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston”

  1. The book was quite good.And I went ahead and found the grove of titans.If I filled the link box right, either my name, or a text link should hyperlink to a page about my experience looking for those largest trees mentioned in Preston’s book.Still keeping the location secret, but did share one image. Was really raining the day we took the photograph of the Del Norte Titan. Found it, as well as the grove.There are many trees there not as big, but equally as enjoyable.

  2. The book was quite good.

    And I went ahead and found the grove of titans.

    If I filled the link box right, either my name, or a text link should hyperlink to a page about my experience looking for those largest trees mentioned in Preston’s book.

    Still keeping the location secret, but did share one image. Was really raining the day we took the photograph of the Del Norte Titan. Found it, as well as the grove.

    There are many trees there not as big, but equally as enjoyable.

  3. Desperately seeking the location of the grove of titans. Would appreciate anyone’s assistance. Can I climb one of these trees without getting my head chopped off? I need to see them up close, & then looking down, from the top. I’m practicing climbing down in florida. by the way, the world’s oldest tree is right here, by me. It’s called “The Senator Tree,” & has a girlfriend by his side, “Lady Liberty.” He’s 3500 & she’s 2000. This information is not in any books you can find in any library or college, I might add.

  4. Desperately seeking the location of the grove of titans. Would appreciate anyone’s assistance. Can I climb one of these trees without getting my head chopped off? I need to see them up close, & then looking down, from the top. I’m practicing climbing down in florida. by the way, the world’s oldest tree is right here, by me. It’s called “The Senator Tree,” & has a girlfriend by his side, “Lady Liberty.” He’s 3500 & she’s 2000. This information is not in any books you can find in any library or college, I might add.

  5. This is the best book I’ve read in 5 yrs. The audio version is mesmerizing. Clearly, the passion of discovery is contagious, due to Preston’s mastery of the art of creative writing & spiritual matters. I’m taking a wk off to come out there & investigate it for myself, all the way from Florida. I’ll be there in early May. My favorite line in the book is at the end…… “Don’t ever stop; keep going…. & If someone tells you something is impossible, do that thing first & prove that it IS possible, & then keep going….”

  6. This is the best book I’ve read in 5 yrs. The audio version is mesmerizing. Clearly, the passion of discovery is contagious, due to Preston’s mastery of the art of creative writing & spiritual matters. I’m taking a wk off to come out there & investigate it for myself, all the way from Florida. I’ll be there in early May. My favorite line in the book is at the end…… “Don’t ever stop; keep going…. & If someone tells you something is impossible, do that thing first & prove that it IS possible, & then keep going….”

  7. About Becki Weaver’s request…You probably read my earlier post, about finding the grove. Page is:http://www.mdvaden.com/grove_of_titans.shtmlI also visited Atlas Grove.Seeing that you wish to climb them, I would not be able to help you. If anyone was going to twist my arm, I’d have to be certain that they would not climb the trees or post the location on the internet.Although they are tucked-away, your chances of getting caught climbing them are not small. Because there is research occuring every now and then.People around there are so concerned about the trees, and the endangered bird species, that they would almost certainly report you to the park ranger.By the way, part of Preston’s book is misleading about where the Grove of Titans is located. I can’t share the details, except to say that some details in the book don’t seem to match the location.

  8. About Becki Weaver’s request…

    You probably read my earlier post, about finding the grove. Page is:

    http://www.mdvaden.com/grove_of_titans.shtml

    I also visited Atlas Grove.

    Seeing that you wish to climb them, I would not be able to help you. If anyone was going to twist my arm, I’d have to be certain that they would not climb the trees or post the location on the internet.

    Although they are tucked-away, your chances of getting caught climbing them are not small. Because there is research occuring every now and then.

    People around there are so concerned about the trees, and the endangered bird species, that they would almost certainly report you to the park ranger.

    By the way, part of Preston’s book is misleading about where the Grove of Titans is located. I can’t share the details, except to say that some details in the book don’t seem to match the location.

  9. …seriously don’t be a dope, climbing these trees for purposes other than care and research is a selfish and downright dumbass thing to do. besides, it takes expert climbing skills as the first branches can be 100+ feet up

  10. …seriously don’t be a dope, climbing these trees for purposes other than care and research is a selfish and downright dumbass thing to do. besides, it takes expert climbing skills as the first branches can be 100+ feet up

  11. The only purpose I have in finding the grove, is for purposes of taking photos, for a painting, or maybe a story. One must actually be INSIDE the forest to truly experience it’s majesty. Simply reading about climbing the trees, with Steve Sillett’s brilliant new climbing method, was enough to light up the fires of my imagination, although I guess you didn’t realize I was only dreaming of one day actually climbing the trees, my friend……To be in the forest, and have any intention other than appreciation or study, with a desire for preservation, in my view, is insanity. I love the trees, and the forest, as well as all the forests of the world. The lovers of these trees, forests, and the life within, along with their counterparts around the world, need to ban together and stand strong against the industries that would destroy them. You may not realize this, dear reader, but every time you frequent a fast food restaurant & eat a hamburger, you are fanning the flames that result in the “slash & burners” in 3rd world countries. Where the only jobs people can find are to cut down the rain forest & replace it with cattle, so the beef can be sold back to the US to satisfy America’s demand for fast food.

  12. The only purpose I have in finding the grove, is for purposes of taking photos, for a painting, or maybe a story. One must actually be INSIDE the forest to truly experience it’s majesty. Simply reading about climbing the trees, with Steve Sillett’s brilliant new climbing method, was enough to light up the fires of my imagination, although I guess you didn’t realize I was only dreaming of one day actually climbing the trees, my friend……To be in the forest, and have any intention other than appreciation or study, with a desire for preservation, in my view, is insanity. I love the trees, and the forest, as well as all the forests of the world. The lovers of these trees, forests, and the life within, along with their counterparts around the world, need to ban together and stand strong against the industries that would destroy them. You may not realize this, dear reader, but every time you frequent a fast food restaurant & eat a hamburger, you are fanning the flames that result in the “slash & burners” in 3rd world countries. Where the only jobs people can find are to cut down the rain forest & replace it with cattle, so the beef can be sold back to the US to satisfy America’s demand for fast food.

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