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Monday, January 7, 2008

Super Heroes!

With gusts up to 55 miles per hour, it takes a lot of courage and dedication to stay HUNDREDS of feet in the air during hail, thunder, lightning, and severe winds. Even though mother nature and her fury tests treesitting activists, they stay strong in their cause.

These high altitude villages can be blown sometimes 15-20 FEET in both directions as winds test the strength of these Ancient Redwoods, as well as the strength of their protectors. The villages remained occupied throughout the past week, even through the strongest winds, as the storm slammed into the North Coast.

It is dangerous simply to be on the ground during high winds in the woods, especially in forests surrounded by clear-cuts. Normally, the winds would be buffered by surrounding trees, acting as a wind shield, and protecting the inner woods. However, Nanning Creek and Fern Gully lack the protection that a normal, "healthy" forest has due to excessive logging.

The first time that I sat in a tree was in Nanning Creek, during a massive winter storm a few years ago. It was challenging enough to climb 160 feet to "Spooner's" lower living space in the rain and wind for my first experience. As the storm progressed the first night, I found my self clinging to the platform ropes for dear life as I watched surrounding trees sway back a forth in the winds. I wondered if I could make it thorough without giving up and climbing down.

The feeling is comparable to being in a very small "dingy" boat caught in a squall, only this boat was suspended high in a Ancient Redwood tree. As the storm got progressed the second day and trees began to fall around us, I began to trust "Spooner" the tree and accept my situation. I chose to protect a being that was over two thousand years old and my place was to "go down with the ship" if by chance that this was "Spooner's" last storm.

Imagine, the storms that "Spooner" experienced these past two millennia. Spooner has seen earthquakes, floods, fires, and greater storms than we or our children will ever see, hopefully. This brought a sense of peace to me and helped reaffirm my presence. "Spooner" was never going to drop us. As I was thinking this, all of a sudden, my treemate and I hear a loud cracking and popping sound.

My first thought was that the "Sprout" that our platform is partially secured to was breaking off. "Sprout" is a branch, technically called a reiteration, but imagine this branch being about the size of a second growth tree, about 4-5 feet in diameter. “Sprouts” are known to fall from Coast Redwoods, part of Sequioa Semperviren’s reproduction cycle. I thought we were about to fall 160 feet, crashing to the forest floor below. My treemate helped keep me calm and collected as the sound got louder and closer.

BOOOOOOOOM! "Spooner" shook as if there was a large earthquake. My first thought was that we were safe but also I believed our tree "Spooner" was hit by another tree. Luckily, this was not the case. After inspecting the damage in the morning, we discovered that a large second growth tree had fallen over 500 feet away from "Spooner", on the edge of the grove and the clear-cut.

I am grateful to "Spooner", as well as the Universe, for protecting us through that wild and dangerous storm. We were in a place that even loggers refuse to enter during mild inclement weather, due to the danger of falling trees and "Widow Maker" branches. It takes spirit and dedication to protect these ancient giants. It takes faith and guts to stay in a swaying Redwood as trees fall around you. Anyone who treesits is definitely a hero, but choosing to risk your life in these fierce winds qualifies these brave activists as super heroes!

I am reminded of my "close to death" experience every time I visit Nanning Creek. The tree that fell so close, yet luckily so far to "Spooner", actually fell across our path into the Ancient Grove that we are protecting. The shoots of new growth reach for the sky and remind me that these life forms are precious and worth protecting. No matter how tired I am from hiking in supplies, or burned out from the psychological aspect of helping support a treesit, my heart is lightened and my spirits lifted every time I reach the end of my trek at the fallen one.

The fallen tree created a nice bridge for us to walk across on our way in, avoiding the mudslide and slash that Pacific Lumber is famous for, across our county. It is natural for Redwoods to fall, and for reiterations to break off, creating new trees. Redwoods reproduce that way. Redwoods seeds have only a .05 germination rate. Most redwood trees come from fallen trees, reiterations or stumps that are fortunate to have fallen naturally and left to grow or decompose. Clear-cuts are unnatural, and logging companies are forced to sometimes plant these destroyed areas, usually with cloned GMO trees.

If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? Of course it does, especially for someone who is there risking their life to protect these Ancients. But there is both the physical sound of a tree snapping and crashing to the floor, and the metaphysical sound as the process of rebirth begins for a Coast Redwood. It is an experience that only a select few brave and dedicated activists are fortunate enough to hear. To hear this natural sound, opposed to chainsaws and what follows, is truly a blessing and a reward.

To help protect these ancient ones, please visit:

May the forests be with us...Always!

Jeff Muskrat
Humboldt Forest Defense


John Doe #86 said...

Nice post. Definitely illustrates what it can be like up there during a storm. Last time I visited Nanning Creek was at the beginning of a windstorm. I heard a loud POP and looked over just in time to see a 30 ft. section of tree top coming down on the edge of the clearcut. I hope people out there are staying in relatively safe locations on the trees. It would be a good idea to detach from Sprout during storms. It's true that Spooner has been through many big storms but it also lost it's top (probably a few hundred years ago) during one of them.

BTW- the new Nanning Creek logging plan was filed #08-002. It's over 300 acres including some mature forest areas and a few class D Marbled Murrelet stands. I'm going to post about it soon on my blog.

Stay safe out there y'all.

Anonymous said...

Nice article, that's positive and proactive, good job. In the title, however, you've misspelled "heroes." Not a big deal, although it's good to check your spelling, especially on the heading, otherwise people might think the author is unintelligent, undeducated, and/or lazy. People can be really critical sometimes, and I'm not trying to be one of them, I just wanted to point it out, because I think it's a good post. I was up in Aradia during a typhoon, and it was intense, for sure. I remember imagining how it would feel if the tree fell over, and knowing that it would most likely be lethal, especially since I stayed safetied to the tree, so there would be no "jumping off at the last minute," as if that would work, anyway. Your mind definitely starts thinking about life and death in a very real way, yet you just have to trust and breathe, accepting that any minute could be your last, and remembering those who have survived intense storms before you.
I think about the sitters, too, during these crazy storms, and hope that everyone is safe.

XANTAR!!!!! said...

Thank you. Hero and Heroes alike:)

Anonymous said...

Out of all the resources we as humans consume every day, week, and year, why not depend on a resource that is 100% renewable. Trees, when grown responsibly, are the most bountiful crops known to man with every piece being utilized from the heart and sap wood as lumber for homes, to the slash as pulp for paper products (which are far more sustainable than oil-based plastics) to the left over biomass which can be used to produce energy through combustion or through digestion to create ethanol (an alternative automotive fuel).
Its hard to imagine now, in a world that is so environmentally conscious, that we are not supporting an industry founded on renewable resources. Feelings run deep for the ancient forests of the world, and many measures have been set up in some places to protect them. California is a great example with the California Forest Practice Rules, and even many companies with Habitat Conservation Plans, and the numerous parks, reserves, and wilderness areas not to mention the endless stream of environmental policy spilling out at the state, county, and city levels.
The forests around us should be seen as the key element of a sustainable future that they are, not as a human-impaired unfixable entity. With the right management and the right outlook at the future forests should be our gateway into a better world.