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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring » User review

Climbing Gigantic Redwoods

  • May 1, 2008
Pros: One of the best true narratives I've ever read.

Cons: Not one.

The Bottom Line: This is a wonderful factual account that reads like exciting fiction.

I just this last minute finished this book. I've been reading it for about the last five days.

This book is stunning beyond belief.

The Wild Trees is the story of the evolution of the research of the search for the tallest redwoods and the discovery of the life that exists in the canopies of these trees.

On first consideration, one might think, hmm, wow, redwoods. They are big. Yes they are. Many of them are more than thirty stories tall. Hmm. Redwoods, they are old. Without a doubt they are older than civilization.

The Wild Trees details the lives of seemingly random people who are drawn toward the study of tall trees and the life that exists so many feet above the rest of the world. It is another world unto itself, an ancient world that measures time in millennium.

This book is NOT fiction. It is a well written narrative account of the people that have explored the canopies at the top of the living world.

How does one get to the top of a 35 story tree? It's complicated and is explained by the arborists and daring scientists who developed riggings to carry them aloft. They have specialized gear that allows them to use tree climbing methods to ascend to the very tops of these giants.

Many of us have climbed trees. Most of us climbed up trees in the neighborhood. We had friends who fell out and broke arms. I certainly climbed up a few in my younger days. I loved the feel of sitting on branches and feeling the wind add to the movement of the tree. The descriptions of the daring scientists take this feeling to a whole new level of excitement.

The grand scale that these scientists pursue is beyond imagination. Yet they climb. They backpack through brush and wade through creeks looking for "undiscovered" giants.

Some of them are botanists who are recording topographic readings of the arboreal forests they explore. They found that many of the existing maps were very wrong.

At the heart of this story, the group of botanists are seeking the tallest tree on the planet. It takes some sleuthing to determine where the really big trees are.

What they find in the tops of the trees are ecosystems that support other kinds of life. They find bonsai trees of other species growing high off the ground. They find "fire caves" where trees damaged by forest fires grow around the area of injury leaving internal tunnels and recesses. They crawl through the trees with scientific ardor and a passion for exploration.

They learn about the ages of Redwoods and how they change and interact from seasonal stresses that cause branches to fall. The power of a falling redwood could be likened to a building falling resulting in a "detonation zone" that shows massive destruction.

Many of the groves discovered are filled with gigantic trees. Many of them are only known today by a small group of biologists. They keep them a secret.

The Wild Trees is a riveting account of an oddball group of individuals that share a passion that defies what many of us would call "sensible." It absolutely can be called extraordinary.

Recommended: With EMPHASIS


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October 28, 2010
This sounds amazing! My mom lives up amongst the Redwoods of Northern California by Armstrong Woods. My friend's hubby is an arborist...I see a couple of X-mas gifts here lol. Thanks so much for sharing, I can tell that you're incredibly passionate about this book through your review!
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About this book


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.

The best-selling author of <IT>The Hot Zone<RO> takes a close-up look at the world's tallest trees, the coast redwoods that grow only in the coastal regions of California, and at the previously unknown ecosystem that the trees form high in the air in the forest canopy, profiling the scientists and researchers that study this unique, labyrinthine ecological niche. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.
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ISBN-13: 978-0812975598
Author: Richard Preston
Genre: Science
Publisher: Random House Inc
Date Published: February 12, 2008
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