FINDING NUGGET -- THE 5TH TALLEST (July 2013 through September 2013)
Every great adventure must come to an end sometime. Even for Michael Taylor, who spent decades tracking down the world's tallest trees. Eventually, he found them all and had to move on to searching for the tallest non-redwoods and the redwoods which were unique in ways other than extreme height. And the same goes for myself and this unbelievable quest that I have been on to find the world's Top 10 Tallest Trees. It was my hope to eventually find all of them. There was no guarantee, but once I found Hyperion and Helios, my confidence increased and over the past two years so did my abilities in searching out trees. After my last update, I had successfully found 8 of the 10 tallest trees and only had two left to go -- Nugget and Minaret. And perhaps this final section would have been better entitled "Finding Minaret" instead of "Finding Nugget". Because finding Nugget was no challenge, but finding Minaret was perhaps the toughest of them all. I'm still sitting here in shock that I actually did find Minaret, and I'm writing this introduction to Part 5 a full week after we found it. But more on that below under the Minaret heading. Going back for a moment to the Top 10 Tallest Trees in the world... do you know how many people outside of the original discoverers have seen all of the world's ten tallest trees and know their locations? Nobody. With the exception of anyone that the original discoverers might have led to the ten tallest trees to perform measurements or scientific research, no tree searchers have located all of the Top 10 Tallest Trees on their own. Until now. Most of you following my search efforts over the past two years have seen the progress that I have made along with the fellow tree searchers that I am working with. In fact, you have probably seen the two short videos that I made which documented a very small part of my searches for Hyperion and Helios. As a side note, several have written in and commented that they felt the search areas in the videos did not look that difficult or challenging to pass through. But keep this in mind -- the videos do not represent what bushwhacking in Redwood National Park is really like. In the videos, nothing is shown of the extremely challenging terrain in the creeks, nothing is shown in close vicinity to the actual trees (in order to protect the areas), and no filming was done during the most difficult parts on the hillsides. I simply turned the camera on for a few minutes and decided to document a short part of our days. So don't judge the terrain based on the videos and don't try to look for clues within the videos. With that said, I am happy to report that my quest to find all of the Top 10 Tallest Trees has now come to an end. We have successfully found all 10 -- Hyperion, Helios, Stratosphere Giant, Icarus, Nugget, Paradox, Lauralyn, Orion, Millennium, and Minaret. The hardest trees out of these to find definitely were Helios, Orion, and Minaret. I'm not sure if anyone out there reading this will ever be able to find those three trees. But I don't want to discourage you. It is just that now that I know where they are, I would be shocked if somebody else was able to find these on their own. If someone out there can manage to pull off a miracle and find either Helios, Orion, or Minaret, please write in and tell me your story. Now that I have wrapped up this great adventure in tracking down the Top 10 Tallest Trees, what is next on my agenda? You will have to read my conclusion down below to find out. But first, here is the story of finding Minaret and Nugget, as well as a very special tree which is not in the Top 10 but is closely related and famous on its own.
-- Minaret had been on my mind for an entire year before I actually managed to find it against all odds. What makes Minaret so challenging is that there are zero clues available online that would be helpful to somebody searching for it. One thing I learned early on in my research is that the tree is not very well known. Unless you happen to look at a list of the Top 10 Tallest Trees, you probably have never heard of Minaret. And Minaret comes in last on the list, right at #10. An interesting aspect of the tallest trees is that trees 10-12 are pretty much interchangeable. What I mean by that is that those three trees (Minaret, Mendocino, and Apex) are only separated by about 2 inches. And that means whichever tree has the most recent measurement will probably jump ahead of the other two. For now (as of the time of this writing), Minaret is the #10 tree in the world. There are no photos in existence online of Minaret, so that right there makes it very challenging to find. The one and only thing that is publicly known about Minaret is that it is located in the Patriarch Forest. But where is the Patriarch Forest? It is located somewhere in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Other than that information, a searcher is left on his own to figure out where the Patriarch Forest is and where Minaret is located within it. And trust me, that is no easy task. We managed to track down an obscure clue which revealed the location of the Patriarch Forest within HRSP. But that clue revealed nothing about Minaret. Thus, we undertook a massive ground search of the area. The day was hot and humid, our water supplies were short, and we were spending countless hours measuring the DBH of towering redwoods and targeting the tops with our laser. Finally, we had enough. In the Patriarch Forest, it proved to be particularly tough to find windows to target and shoot our laser at the tops of trees. We did manage to find several other named trees which were not on our high priority list, such as the John Muir Tree (currently #45). But Minaret was nowhere to be found. So we packed up our things and bushwhacked all the way back to our vehicle. There we took a break, resupplied our water, and discussed our options. At this point, it was tempting to call off the search and leave Minaret for another trip. But we didn't want to give up quite yet. Now that we had more water, we were ready to give it one more shot. Thus, we bushwhacked back out to the Patriarch Forest and decided to focus on one area that had caught our attention. Three trees really stood out to us. We felt that each of them had an equal chance of being Minaret. We had been unable to measure the tops of them but the DBH was within the margin of error. So we photographed and documented all three of the trees and then ended our trip there. Upon returning home, we were able to confirm that one of the three trees was indeed Minaret. And I can't tell you how dramatically my mood changed upon realizing that. The whole trip home from HRSP, I had been discouraged and felt like our day had been somewhat of a failure. I even mentioned to my search partner as a joke that we were "heading home with our tails between our legs". One thing I do like to say is that when it comes to tree searching, there is no such thing as failure. There is only delayed success. Because eventually you are going to find the tree you are looking for. We just ended up finding Minaret faster than I thought we were going to. As I went to sleep that night, I had pleasant sleep and sweet dreams, instead of staying awake all night with my mind racing about what we could have missed out there in the Patriarch Forest. Quite a few weeks later, I returned to the area and took some more photographs of Minaret. After all, the first time I found it, I didn't even know it was Minaret. It was a very nice feeling to go back, to say the least. However, I will not be publishing any photographs of Minaret or the Patriarch Forest.
-- With 9 of the Top 10 Tallest Trees completed, the only one left was Nugget. Nugget is an interesting tree. Some researchers say that it will someday become the world's tallest tree based on its age and growth rate. Only decades of time will prove or disprove that theory. Before that happens, it is more likely that Helios will overtake Hyperion. My journey out to visit Nugget was a celebration of sorts. For the event, I had special T-shirts printed up which list all of the Top 10 trees in their current order or rank. You can see a sample of the T-shirt by clicking here
. When I arrived at the Redwood National Park Visitor Center to pick up my backpacking permit for the long hike to Nugget, I was wearing my special T-shirt. The shirt immediately caught the attention of the park rangers on duty. They asked if they could take a picture of me wearing the shirt to post on the RNP Facebook page, which was fine with me. I was happy to see that they were familiar with the names of the top trees and were so interested in them. With that, we backpacked out to the area where Nugget is located and tracked it down quite easily. Nugget is not a very hard tree to find. At least it wasn't for me. But it might be for some people who are new to tree searching and don't understand how to locate it. Nugget is a very impressive tree. I think we all enjoyed our time visiting it and it truly was special to wrap up my quest for the Top 10 with a picture next to it, which you can see down below.
-- After wrapping up my quest for the Top 10, I wanted to put a bow on top by doing something extra special. Thus, I came up with an incredible plan. It was something unthinkable to most people. I decided that I wanted to become the first person in history since the tree was discovered to find Maya (spelled Maia in The Wild Trees). Keep in mind that Maya is not even a Top 100 tree. That being the case, what makes it so special? If you don't know the answer to that question, you probably aren't involved in tree searching and you definitely have never read the book The Wild Trees. To answer the question, Maya is a very special tree because it was discovered prior to Helios and Icarus and it is the basis for the name Dry Heaves Creek. In the last chapter of The Wild Trees, it is revealed that Maya was discovered "about halfway into one valley" and it was named Maya because of its beauty. But during the hike out, Michael Taylor suffered from exhaustion and non-stop vomiting. Because of this, Maya was given the nickname Dry Heaves Tree and, as stated in the book, "the creek where it lived became known as Dry Heaves Creek." Ever since the book was released, tree searchers everywhere have dreamed of figuring out exactly where Dry Heaves Creek is located. Using a clue that I gained access to, I was able to figure out where Maya was located. There was something about Maya which made finding it just as special to me as finding both Hyperion and Helios was. It is a beautiful tree and the area where it is located is amazing also. To confirm that I had found the right tree, I used my D-tape to measure the DBH. You can see pictures of us doing that down below. The diameter of Maya is 15.5 feet. To measure the DBH, you need to multiply 15.5 by 3.1416, which equals 48.7. Take note of how we got a perfect measurement on Maya. There can be no doubt that we found it. And what a special discovery it truly was and great way to end things.
With the discovery of Minaret and Nugget (and Maya), that finally brings this report to a conclusion. As you probably noticed, the events, hikes, bushwhacks, and discoveries all written in this report have taken place over a period of two years. In fact, Part 5 alone took place over the course of three months. That is a long time. It really demonstrates the large scope and difficulty of finding the world's tallest trees. I think it is fair to say that accomplishing this is nearly impossible. An easier challenge would have been to simply focus on finding Hyperion or Stratosphere Giant. Speaking of Hyperion, I paid a visit to the world's tallest tree at some point during the past few months. And sad to say, it looks like the location of Hyperion has become somewhat known, at least privately. The good news is that nobody has posted the location on the internet. The bad news is that enough people seem to have located it that they have caused some damage around the roots by trampling the soil carelessly. If you find Hyperion, please do not do this. Please keep some distance between yourself and the base of the tree and just admire it without getting too close, because trampling can hinder the growth. Thank you for your assistance with this. In conclusion, what is next for me personally? Am I going to search for trees 11-25 on the tallest list? Will I search out the Top 10 largest redwoods by volume? Will I just search out specific trees that intrigue me as I did with Maya? Or will I try to discover new 350 foot trees that are not currently on the list and haven't been found yet? I'm not really sure. About the only thing that I can say is that I am going to enjoy some quiet time off the grid. With my success in finding the Top 10 Tallest and Maya, this report has been concluded. I may post very brief one paragraph updates from time to time if I need to report something on Hyperion or Helios. And I may update the heights of the Top 8 Tallest in the boxes at the top of the page as they are measured in the future. But that's about it. My quest has concluded. My hope is that something written or shown here has inspired you to go out and explore the redwoods to see firsthand the tallest trees on the planet.