Friday, August 15, 2008

Taking Reading to New Heights

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring
by Richard Preston

I've always been drawn to nonfiction books that let us take a peek into some little known sub-culture of our society. Two of my favorites of this type of book are The Orchid Thief (about people who raise and collect different specimens of orchids) and Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer (about people who are obsessed with the Crimson Tide football team of the University of Alabama). It is fascinating to read about people who can get so focused on any one thing. I mean, I have hobbies, but really some people are intriguingly extreme.

The Wild Trees is this type of book - it is about people who are drawn to climbing and studying the tallest species of trees - mostly the redwoods in northern California and southern Oregon. In this case, the trees are not a hobby. They are vocation, passion, life itself for the people who become involved in studying them. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around the height of these trees - the tallest are in the range of 37 and 38 stories tall. Some of them do not even have branch to grab onto until 150 or so feet in the air. There is lots of interesting science in the book - the "canopy" that the trees form hundreds of feet up that is home to innumerable other plants, lichen, and animals. Most of this canopy has never been seen before and is untouched by humans. But there are a few really focused botanists that risk their lives to strap on harnesses and use ropes to climb these trees. It is incredible.

The trees themselves are compelling enough, but it is the people who are driven to climb them who make this book such a page-turner. They are eccentric, to say the least, but very committed to learning as much as they can about these amazing species while still protecting the health of the trees and the other creatures who dwell in them. If you like this type of book, this is one that really should not be missed.

As immense as the redwoods are, regrettably about 80% of them are gone now because of unregulated logging in the 20th century. It takes about 1,000 years for a redwood to reach its full height, so it is not as if we can just replant them and enjoy them again in a decade or so. I want to go see the ones that are left sometime. My bet is that anyone who reads The Wild Trees will feel renewed in their commitment to care for our earth and treat it respectfully, so that we might preserve all her majesty and grandeur.

I was interested to read that two botanists who study redwoods fell in love and decided to get married in the top of one of their favorite trees. They had trouble finding a pastor who was willing to climb that high with them, but eventually succeeded. I would love to see the redwoods, but as for climbing them, no thanks!

Reverent Reader


At 9/1/08, 12:08 AM , Blogger mdvadenoforegon said...

My only dissappointment with the book, was the omission of color photos.

Try a few of these:

Grove of Titans and Atlas Grove

I post this page fairly often when I stumble upon redwood related page content. Gives folks a chance to see those california redwood trees in a bit more color.


M. D. Vaden


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