Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustainedthe coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored.
The canopy voyagers are youngjust college students when they start their questand they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that theres nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.
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 that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called fire caves. Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to ones death.
Prestons account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Treesthe story of the fate of the worlds most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.
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 into a deserted parking lot near a beach and stopped.
A solid-looking young man got out from the driver's side. He had brown hair that was going prematurely gray, and he wore gold-rimmed spectacles, which gave him an intellectual look. His name was Marwood Harris, and he was a senior at Reed College, in Portland, majoring in English and history. He walked off to the side of the parking lot and unzipped his fly. There was a splashing sound.
Meanwhile, thin, somewhat tall young man emerged from the passenger side of the car. He had a bony face, brown eyes, a mop of sun- streaked brown hair, and he wore a pair of bird-watching binoculars around his neck. T. Scott Sillett was a ...
Preston's account of the exploration of this extraordinary world is a true-life adventure story that is at times terrifying, often moving and, occasionally, a little long winded. The reader comes away with a fierce appreciation for the trees themselves and their ecological significance, and a respect for the people who have not only devoted their lives to understanding more about these behemoths of the forest, but regularly risk their lives to climb these humbling examples of nature at its most magnificent.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (883 words).
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