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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring (2007)

de Richard Preston

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1,1075415,274 (4.01)52
Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the tallest organisms the world has ever sustained--the coast redwood trees. 96% of the ancient redwood forests have been logged, but the fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. Writer Preston unfolds the story of the daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored. The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems, sometimes hollowed out by fire. Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life unknown to science.--From publisher description.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 54 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Adventurous discoveries amidst the biodiversity of our tallest trees. ( )
  ninam0 | Jun 22, 2022 |
I lived in a public housing project until I was eight years old. There were no trees in the project. When I was eight, my family moved to a free standing house on the south-west side of Chicago. The house was quite small, but it had at least 5 trees on the property. On my first day in the new house, I could hardly contain my joy at the prospect of climbing trees. Within a week or two, I had climbed the three smallest trees to the highest branches that would support my weight. The three trees may have been young birches because they had clean white bark and a ladder like formation of branches. I could shinny up any trunk I could get my arms around, and so I did not have to be able to reach the first branch to climb a tree.

After a couple of months, I was able to try the second largest tree on the property. It was probably a catalpa, judging by the cigar-shaped pods that grew on it. It was quite a bit larger than the other three, and its bark would shed onto the clothes of anyone who would climb it. Because the first branches were much higher than I could reach, I had to shinny up the trunk abut ten feet to find a comfortable resting place, by which time my clothes would be filthy from the bark. Once I reached the first branch, however, it was a fairly easy climb to other sturdy branches about 50 feet in the air, a point that was well above any of the surrounding roof tops. Since the terrain in Chicago is as flat as a pancake, it seemed that I could see forever from my perch.

The fifth tree was a huge old oak whose trunk was simply too wide for my eight year old arms to circumscribe, and so I was never able to climb that tree.

Having been defeated in my efforts to climb a mature oak that might have been 80 feet tall, imagine how impressed I was to learn that a small group of intrepid climbers had learned to scale 360 foot California redwoods and Douglas firs to the very top. Richard Preston’s Wild Trees is the story of a quirky collection of botanists, arborists, and amateur tree climbers who embarked on a quest to discover and climb the tallest trees in the world. The term and title of the book, wild tree, refers to a previously unclimbed tree.

The heroes and heroine of the story are all archetypical “granola” types one finds in rural California and Oregon. Except for the author, the people in the book appear to be more interested in trees than in other people. In fact, I too found myself more interested in learning about the trees and the techniques of climbing them than about the interactions of the human characters.

The trees themselves, however, are thoroughly interesting. They are the largest living things on earth. Well, maybe their cousins, the sequoias, are a bit more massive, but the redwoods are taller. They are also the oldest living things. Some may have been saplings when Plato was lecturing in the Academy.

Determining which tree is actually the tallest turns out to be easier said than done. One reason is that logging companies cut down the tallest trees in accessible areas. The tallest remaining trees are in truly inaccessible areas where there are no roads and which require long bushwhacking hikes to reach. Another problem is that the tops are usually not visible to anyone standing near them—you have to be quite a distance away to see which tree rises above its neighbors.

The redwoods have a remarkable structure. The tallest ones have no significant branches (i.e., sturdy enough to hold a climber) below 100+ feet above the ground. But once you reach those branches, many of them are larger than mature oak trees. Redwoods often form multiple trunks at great heights. In fact, full grown trees of different species have been found sprouting from redwood trunks high above the ground. Those large branches or other trees can be extremely dangerous because they sometimes fall or are broken off by lightening. Think of the impact an 80+ foot long, multi-ton branch makes when it hits the ground after falling 150 or 200 feet!

Redwoods are remarkably resistant to fire. Even when they burn, their remains provide very fertile space for new growth.

The first climbers into the canopy (the collection of high branches) found a previously undiscovered mini ecosystem of its own. It is home to many forms of lichen and smaller plants as well as some species of animals found nowhere else. The climbers encountered flying squirrels that had no fear of humans, never having encountered them. The canopies can be so thick and maze-like that the climbers occasionally had difficulty finding one another when they were in the same tree at about the same elevation. Old trees usually have substantial amounts of dead matter and often have large hollow spaces, which add to the perils faced by climbers.

The climbers had to develop new techniques and new equipment for their activities. They learned to shoot an arrow tied to a climbing rope over a large stable branch in order to obtain purchase for the climb. Other techniques are difficult to describe — I had trouble envisioning several procedures and tactics the author used. In fact, the author himself referred the reader to several Youtube posts where the methods were demonstrated.

This book opened up an exotic and fascinating world I didn’t even know existed. If I were much younger, I’d be tempted try my luck in the trees.

Rating: 4.5/5 for description of the trees and climbing technique and equipment.

2/5 for the interpersonal interactions of the characters.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | May 14, 2022 |
This is a fascinating book about climbing redwoods and other giant trees and the discovery of the mostly unknown world of forest canopies. There's danger and suspense, as in Preston's expert books about killer viruses, but a more patient and contemplative pace. By the end even if you're not inclined to drop everything and take up botany, like some of the climbers Preston profiles, you'll still be wondering how to fit tree-climbing training into your vacation schedule. ( )
  AlexThurman | Dec 26, 2021 |
Strange, almost biographical book about adrenaline junkies masquerading as naturalists. ( )
  Paul_S | Mar 14, 2021 |
This book was so captivating that we ended up actually finding and seeing one of these groves of giants in person. I have to admit I am a bit torn by the premise that only someone 'researching' these trees can know their location, and that if revealed it would cause the forest to die. A quick drive through the redwoods reveals the truth: thousands of them have paths and dirt roads and asphalt roads all the way up to the edge of their trunks. People trample over their roots every single day by the thousands. And yet I have seen no statistics or reports indicating that this has caused these trees to die off and topple over at alarming rates. But the grove we saw is now blocked off because they are constructing fenced-off boardwalks to hem in the tourists. Yes, I will definitely revisit once this is reopened, but I don't think it was necessary at all.

I digress. This book is absolutely fantastic and mesmerizing, opening your eyes to a world above! ( )
  donblanco | Jan 4, 2021 |
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Those who shall dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Rachel Carson
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To my brother Douglas Preston. Remember that tree we used to climb when we were boys?
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One day in the middle of October, 1987, a baby-blue Honda Civic with Alaska license plates, a battered relic of the seventies, sped along the Oregon Coast Highway, moving south on the headlands. Below the road, surf broke around sea stacks, filling the air with haze. The car turned in to a deserted parking lot near a beach and stopped.
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Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the tallest organisms the world has ever sustained--the coast redwood trees. 96% of the ancient redwood forests have been logged, but the fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. Writer Preston unfolds the story of the daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored. The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems, sometimes hollowed out by fire. Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life unknown to science.--From publisher description.

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Mitjana: (4.01)
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