As an introduction, I wanted to start out with some basic information about tree searchers, also known as seekers. While most people out there visit the redwood forests to hike the many great trails such as the Lost Man Creek Trail shown on the right, there is a small group of die-hards out there known as tree searchers. Tree searchers are interested in locating the most rare and special trees which have been discovered. The trees which they are looking for include the tallest, the largest, and the ones with interesting and unique features. Because the locations of many of these special trees are usually kept secret to protect the trees from being overly loved, that leaves tree searchers with a difficult challenge. In order to locate the most special trees, a lot of time has to be spent researching published materials and trying to track down information on the internet. Once that is done and a search area has been targeted, a searcher will have to hike and bushwhack out into the forest to see if the tree can be found in that area. As an example, if someone wishes to search the Larry Damm Creek area, the searcher will have to leave the main trail and hike up the creek (or a nearby creek like May Creek) until the targeted area is reached. After that, the searcher will have to go up and down hillsides and along ridges looking for the tree they hope to find. Sometimes, a search will end in success (as the picture to the right reveals, which shows us successfully finding Hyperion on a steep hillside). But many times, a search will end in failure. Cheating by looking to the internet for GPS coordinates will provide you with a few days of pointless bushwhacking. Down below, the first yellow box shows an updated list of the Top 8 world's tallest trees, along with their ranking, current height, and tree name. The second yellow box provides an interesting glimpse into the difficulty levels of locating the Top 8 trees. If you are interested in becoming a tree searcher and locating some of these, such as Hyperion, you might want to start with some of the easier ones to find. Because if you can't locate Lauralyn or Stratosphere Giant, you have no business searching for the trees that are harder to locate, such as Hyperion. After the boxes, I have divided this page into different parts, which chronicle my different searches for trees in the Top 8. While I do not give out clues, I am happy to discuss tree searching if you want to e-mail me at email@example.com
"Redwood Creek has surely run dry, Somewhere else Hyperion must lie,
Lost Man Creek we aim toward, For a tall tree hunt reward,
Onward we go with one extra try!!"
(Hyperion search jingle written by a tree searcher named Brookings)
370 FOOT CLASS REDWOODS
(Top 8 Tallest Trees in the World)
(List Current as of Sept. 2013)
1- Hyperion (379.65 ft)
2- Helios (376.54 ft)
3- Stratosphere Giant (372.73 ft)
4- Icarus (371.19 ft)
5- Nugget (371.00 ft)
6- Paradox (370.34 ft)
7- Lauralyn (370.04 ft)
8- Orion (370.01 ft)
DIFFICULTY IN FINDING CHART
(Top 8 Tallest Trees in the World)
(Listed From Easiest to Hardest to Find)
1- Lauralyn (easiest tree to find but still a challenge)
2- Stratosphere Giant (plenty of clues but wide search area)
3- Nugget (finding this tree presents a good test of skills)
4- Hyperion (significant increase in difficulty starts now)
5- Paradox (clues become very scarce from here on)
6- Helios (very few clues and no helpful pictures)
7- Icarus (even less clues, searching may be hopeless)
8- Orion (hardest tree to find, nearly impossible task)
HYPERION REDWOOD -- THE TALLEST TREE
Searching for Hyperion is probably the single most challenging task I have ever undertaken in my life. Hyperion is a coastal redwood tree which has the distinction of being the tallest tree in the world. Not just the tallest redwood tree or tallest tree in California, but the tallest tree on the planet. At last publicly released measurement, it was 379.65 feet tall and it continues to inch its way higher each year towards the elusive 380 foot mark. Helios and Icarus are the 2nd and 4th tallest trees in the world. My interest in finding Hyperion traces back to two things. First, I have always been fascinated by tall and large trees (there is a difference between height and volume). I've spent time hiking into groves in different places such as Yosemite and Sequoia and really developed a sense of awe and wonder towards some of the many gigantic trees I have found. Second, I was riding the Skunk Train one day with some family and friends when the train host started talking about the tallest tree in the world. He mentioned how it was north of the area we were riding through but nobody knew where it was because the location was a closely guarded secret. That kind of caught my attention and when I got home I began doing research and learned about Hyperion. I found out that it was discovered by Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins in 2006, climbed and measured by Stephen Sillett and Marie Antoine, and then written about by Richard Preston in his book "The Wild Trees". All of these were names I would become very familiar with over the course of the 100+ hours of study, research, and investigation that I would embark on in my quest to become only the 3rd confirmed person (or group) to find Hyperion since it was originally discovered five long years ago. (Note -- the illustration on the right is one of my favorites of Hyperion. It was published in the SF Chronicle and really helps you to gain an appreciation for the height of Hyperion Redwood Tree. Especially living near San Francisco my whole life, the scale and comparisons are very meaningful. Illustration of Hyperion is copyright of San Francisco Chronicle.)
MY SEARCH FOR HYPERION (August 2011)
Some of the questions which confronted me as I embarked on this search were -- How do I find something that absolutely nobody else wants me to find? And how do I find a single tree in an entire forest and large area of national and state parks?
Those two issues took center stage and I realized that this task was monumental and nearly impossible. I could see that I was setting myself up for disappointment and failure, especially as I read the reports of other searchers on the internet who had all come up empty and were lost in discouragement. In talking about the road ahead with a few family members, I pointed out that finding Hyperion could take as long as three years. This was because that was how long it had taken the only other documented public group which I read about. Still, I decided to embrace the challenge and give it my best shot. With my background in searching for and locating secret areas of Death Valley successfully, I felt that I could have an edge in reviewing and analyzing Hyperion clues. So I began an exhaustive examination of books, magazine articles, documentary videos, online sources and other resources, and after some time had built up a large collection of hints and clues that would serve as the basis for my search areas. Living just 5 hours from Redwood National and State Parks, we were also able to travel there and do some initial scouting work and hiking. Although we didn't find the tree at that time, we became familiar with the area. Back at home, my search expanded beyond the boundaries of Redwood National Park to nearby State Parks such as Jedediah Smith, Prairie Creek, and Humboldt Redwoods. I had to assume that nothing and everything which I had read and learned was true. Eventually, I had a couple of breakthroughs. An area that I had been targeting for a long time and had high expectations for was eliminated by a fellow searcher who I talked to. That was a crushing blow, as I had really believed that I was looking into the right area. But the fellow searcher provided indisputable evidence. Then one day I was thinking about something I had read a while back and the correct location just struck me. I'm not going to say what the information was or where I found it, but it clicked in my mind and it was like the pieces of the puzzle just came together all at once.
Thus, exactly five years to the day after Hyperion was first discovered, my brother Jim and I were packing our bags and preparing to head back to old growth redwood country in Redwood National and State Parks for another search. Things did not go well for the first couple of days. We searched high and low, up and down hillsides in quite a wide area for 14 hours and came up empty. We were battered and bruised and our willpower was fading. We prepared ourselves to accept failure and began discussing how we could just appreciate the rewards of the forest itself (much as Clynes did in his failed search and article for Backpacker magazine). But we weren't ready to surrender just yet, so we made a decision to take a risk and it ended up paying off. We found Hyperion, the tallest and most majestic of all trees. I will never forget that moment as Jim and I approached the tree from different angles and I yelled out: "I'm making the call... this is it... this is Hyperion!" We celebrated and got some photos, all the while walking carefully around the tree, not wanting to damage its root system in any way. It truly was a special moment in our lives and something we will always treasure and remember.
It's hard to put into words just how difficult our 2 days and 14 hours of searching on this second trip really were. The terrain in the vicinity of Hyperion Hill was rugged and intimidating -- steep hillsides, impenetrable overgrown thick plants and trees, thorny bushes which cut skin and draw blood, false forest floors that collapse into pits, tall trees that all appear to be the same height, massive fallen trees which block routes, hidden trip vines, no visibility (especially in fog), signs of extensive bear activity all around, and the sheer isolation of being in the middle of nowhere. There are spots along the way where it takes extreme caution to avoid bruises, falls, and broken bones. And the bears were definitely a concern. We both carried $60 bottles of bear repellant pepper spray. The bears of the redwoods aren't like the bears of Yosemite. They aren't used to people and we weren't taking any chances. All the way around, it was an unforgiving environment and I certainly can't suggest this search to anyone that I know. The dangers are too great and the search areas too vast. But we overcame the astronomical odds and our search for Hyperion ended with success. I truly feel that it is quite an honor to be one of only a handful of people on the entire planet who knows where Hyperion is and to have seen it with my own eyes. But it is also a responsibility and that is why I will not provide any clues or hints as to the whereabouts of this legendary titan of the forest. Upon returning home, something which meant a lot was receiving a note of congratulations from Michael Taylor, the person who co-discovered the tree, when he learned of my success in finding it. As I wrote that last sentence, which was supposed to conclude my story, a question popped in my mind. It was... Helios and Icarus, where are you hiding? Maybe this is not an ending, but just the beginning. (CONTINUED BELOW...)
(Note -- the best web resource for information that I have found on Hyperion was written by MD Vaden of Oregon here and he also has the best picture I have ever seen of the world record holding tree. MD Vaden was a member of the 2nd person (or group) to find Hyperion. You can learn more about landmark trees here which is Michael Taylor's site. In the pictures below, I am sharing a few of my special Hyperion pictures which do not reveal anything about the location where it can be found. The rest of the pictures will only be kept in my private collection. If you would like to see some video footage of Steve and Jim searching for Hyperion in Redwood National Park, click here. This will give you an idea of some of the challenging terrain and beautiful old growth redwood groves to be found throughout Redwood National and State Parks.)
HYPERION TRIP PHOTOS
(taken during August 2011
please do not repost photos)
(Photo 1) Hyperion Redwood's majestic top towering into the blue sky:
(Photo 2) An unforgettable moment finally hiking up Hyperion Hill and standing next to the world record tree:
(Photo 3) How does it feel to stand under the world's tallest tree? Steve found out for the first time in 2011 when he took shelter under Hyperion:
(Photos 4 and 5) Two top-to-bottom panoramics showing Hyperion's majestic height. Click on the pictures to enlarge them:
FINDING HELIOS -- THE 2ND TALLEST (October 2012)
If locating Hyperion is like finding a needle in a haystack, tracking down Helios can be likened to trying to find a grain of sand on a beach. Helios, as noted above, is the 2nd tallest tree in the world, behind only Hyperion. Both are coast redwood trees that are located somewhere within the vast wilderness of Redwood National Park. Their exact location has never been made public by those who discovered the trees back in 2006, and probably never will. While there are a small number of intriguing clues available online, in magazine articles, and in books in regards to Hyperion, there are near-zero clues when it comes to the 2nd tallest tree Helios (376.54 feet tall at latest measurement). And there are no useful pictures at all available on the internet which show what Helios looks like down at its base. The implications of this are obvious. If you can't see a complete picture of Helios to help you match up the tree when you think you have found it, then the only way to be certain is to take your own measurements using a forestry laser or other equipment. That is an expensive and time consuming process that probably won't work for most searchers. Especially when you have an entire national park as your search area. When it comes to tree searchers, most of those out there during the past half decade or so have been searching Redwood National Park for Hyperion and coming up empty. A little over one year ago, I was able to locate Hyperion after two trips and countless hours of research, no doubt to the surprise of many within the tall trees community. After that, I shared my story in the form of the report written above, which many have enjoyed reading. Over the past year, I even received several e-mails from searchers asking for help in locating the world's tallest tree. However, I had to decline to help them because I don't have the right to share or discuss clues. But I do have the obligation to protect the tree, and that means allowing searchers to try to find the tree on their own without any outside influence or help. I did point searchers to MD Vaden's page of collected clues which he analyzes and shares on his page (link above). While I was undertaking my own search for Hyperion through research at home, I used MD Vaden's page on a near-daily basis, and it helped me a lot. But when it came to my search for Helios, there was no such resource available. At the same time, I felt the clock ticking. It has been estimated by various experts that Helios will overtake Hyperion and become the new world's tallest tree sometime in the next 5-15 years. Thus, finding Hyperion could not be the end of the story for me personally. I would need to find Helios as well, to be certain that I had seen the world's tallest if Helios did indeed manage to overtake Hyperion at some point in the near future. However, instead of rushing back out to Redwood National Park to search for Helios, I wisely stayed at home. I realized that randomly searching through the park would accomplish nothing except bringing on frustration and potential injuries. There is nothing easy about even searching one hillside of one small portion of one creek within the park. So I collected a few breadcrumbs worth of clues that I could find in regards to Helios and then spent a year thinking about those clues. After more than a year had passed by, I figured that I just might be able to find Helios, so I gave it a shot. Read on to see what happened next, as I share my first-person account.
**As I bushwhacked up a steep ravine somewhere in Redwood National Park, things were not going well. It had been raining off and on all morning, conditions were damp and muddy, and everything was wet around me. I paused below the steep slope of a slab of rock which I would need to climb up to continue. To my left and right were thorny bushes with even steeper terrain and nothing to hold onto. If I was going to make it through this section and continue my search for Helios, I would have to make it up this slippery rock with terrible footing. For several minutes I just stood there, trying to decide if I should turn back and hike all the way back down the ravine to try to find another access point to get up this hillside or if I should try to climb the slippery rock face in front of me. Finally, I went for it and put my soaking wet right boot up on a notch in the rock slab. I pushed myself up but then suddenly slipped back. I nearly tumbled and slid down the steep hillside, which could have resulted in potentially serious injuries. Another five minutes went by while I again debated what the best course of action would be. Once again, I went for it, this time using more of my hands by grabbing onto some roots and mud with one hand, and a natural handhold on the rock slab with the other hand. This time I made it up. When I got to the top of the slippery rock slab I looked back down and thought to myself: "I sure hope I can find another way back down later, because I don't think I can get back down this without possibly slipping and breaking a leg." Above the rock slab, the underbrush of the steep hillside continued to be nearly impenetrable. I had to force my way through the midst of thorny bushes, overgrown plants, and the thick foliage of trees. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the part that I could never get good footing. This hillside was just incredibly steep and I couldn't even pause to rest because it was so uncomfortable. Several times I took nasty falls. Up to this point, I had already been soaking wet because of the rain, but now my entire body was covered with mud. A short time later, I saw several very large old-growth redwood trees. There was one higher up on the hillside to the left, and three trees to my right a bit lower than my elevation. I started to head up to the higher tree to my left to take a closer look, but I just couldn't make it there. The terrain was brutal. Ten minutes later I was back at my junction. The only other way to go was to my right towards the lower trees. Going straight ahead was not an option because it was so overgrown. It took me quite some time, but with great difficulty I made it over to the lower small grove of trees. Along the way, my leg collapsed into a pit once and my feet nearly gave out another time because the slope dropped off at such an extreme angle. I was not in the mood to go sliding down a hillside, especially not bushwhacking solo in an area where nobody would probably ever find me. At this point I said to myself: "What the heck am I doing out here? This is not worth it. I am beating up my body and for what? In the hopes of finding a tree which could be located anywhere. I'm getting out of here." One year earlier, I had uttered similar words to myself, yet I ended up persevering instead of giving up. But this time, things were even more challenging. I was out in the forest alone, the weather was not cooperating, and the terrain proved to be much more difficult. When I reached the small grove of trees, I quickly realized that they were not what I was looking for. But instead of turning back, I pushed on and continued hiking and bushwhacking through the forest. Perhaps after hiking and bushwhacking through the forest for another hour, I stood up on top of a very slippery fallen log and looked curiously at a tree in the distance. Something about the tree I was looking at captured my interest. I thought to myself: "Maybe that is Helios. No... that can't be it." I stood on the slippery log for several minutes just staring at the tree and thinking about it some more, debating it in my mind. Finally, I slid down the other side of the log and went over to the base of the tree to take a closer look. It didn't take me long to soon realize: "Yes, indeed, this is Helios!" Against impossible odds, I had found the world's 2nd tallest tree standing tall on Helios Hill. And it was such a pretty tree. An awesome ending to an incredibly difficult journey, both hiking in the forest and at home thinking about clues for a year.**
So that's my story. That's how I managed to become only the 2nd confirmed person in history since the tree was discovered to find Helios. As with Hyperion, I am not sharing any clues or information to help others find Helios. This tree is even more protected than Hyperion is. And I am aware that the park service frowns upon placing focus on individual trees. I can understand that. They want visitors to come to enjoy the forest as a whole, not bushwhacking all over the park searching for a couple of trees that are impossible to find. That's why I don't recommend following in my footsteps and searching for these trees. Because the likelihood of getting hurt is high and the chance of finding these trees is nearly impossible. But for me, I found it important to find the world's two tallest trees. It was something that I wanted to do, and I was able to accomplish it. And there are other trees that I would like to find, including the one known as Orion (currently the 8th tallest tree in the world). Those adventures will have to wait for another time. Because there is an embargo against sharing any complete pictures of Helios on the internet or in publications, I am not able to show you the beauty of this coast redwood in full. My apologies for that, but it is in the best interest of the tree that no entire pictures of it are in existence on the internet. However, in order to prove that I did indeed find Helios, I sent proof to both Michael Taylor and MD Vaden. They both have verified that I found the correct tree. Quite a while before I located the tree, I was hopelessly searching one hillside and I took a short video of myself bushwhacking through some of the easier terrain of the day. So I am including that as something that you can watch, since it provides no assistance but it did document a short part of my day. You can view the video by clicking here. I am also including a zoomed in view of myself standing next to the base of Helios. I wish everyone reading this the best in your own adventures through the old-growth redwood forests. (Note -- check out MD Vaden's page here for more information on Helios.)
HELIOS TRIP PHOTO
(taken during October 2012
please do not repost photo)
(Photo 1) This is the only picture that I will share of myself standing next to the world's 2nd tallest tree Helios on the day that I finally found it. The picture has been heavily cropped to remove any identifying trunk features and background brush in order to protect the tree:
(Photo 2) The burden of proof to show that somebody has found Helios is to take a picture of MD Vaden's "shark tooth" on the tree. During my 2nd trip to see Helios, I matched up the image that he has posted as his only "free bone" as far as clues to find Helios. Nobody else has found Helios since we did. We will see what the next few years hold for the world's 2nd tallest tree. Hopefully, it will remain well protected and the location will stay a closely guarded secret. This picture is from June of 2013:
FINDING STRATOSPHERE GIANT -- THE 3RD TALLEST (November 2012)
Up until my trip to Humboldt Redwoods State Park in November of 2012, I had only spent time searching for tall trees in Redwood National Park. While I had visited other parks and hiked there, I had not carried out actual searches. That changed this past week when my sister and I traveled to Humboldt to try to locate the three trees that are found there that are in the Top 8 -- Stratosphere Giant (3rd tallest), Paradox (6th tallest), and Lauralyn (7th tallest). Millennium and Minaret (the 9th and 10th tallest trees) are also located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, but I did not have enough clues gathered up at this time to carry out a search for them. It's amazing that 5 of the 10 tallest trees in the world are all located in this state park. And one of the things I noticed about a lot of Humboldt RSP is that the terrain is less punishing than what is found in Redwood National Park. That's not to say that it's easy, it's definitely not. But the forest terrain is a less challenging 8/10 rather than a 10/10 on a difficulty scale. Upon successfully finding Helios last month, I decided to continue on with this quest I have been on for quite some time now. The next objective that I have set for myself is to locate all of the trees in the Top 8 tallest. I would like to extend that to the Top 10. But for now, I'm starting with the Top 8. Thus, I did my research at home and came up with some targeted search areas to try to find Stratosphere Giant, Paradox, and Lauralyn. Here are some details about my search for each of these trees.
LAURALYN -- We started our time in Humboldt RSP by searching for the tree known as Lauralyn. That's such a pretty name for a tree. And the tree itself is also beautiful. Landmark Trees describes it as a "Big Leaner" and that's exactly what it was. In searching for this tree, I was really only able to locate two specific clues online. But that was all that I really needed to narrow things down and find a search area. This is the tree that I recommend that searchers start with. Because as I said in my introductory comments, if you can't find this tree then tree searching is probably not the best activity for you to embark on. Down below, I am only sharing one photo of Lauralyn. And it is not a photo that is taken up close. I couldn't find any other close-up photos of Lauralyn on the internet. And my policy is not to publish photos of trees that have not been published before. So that is why I am only sharing a photo of Lauralyn that was taken from a great distance away. But you can still see it in the photo.
PARADOX -- The next tall tree that we targeted in Humboldt RSP was Paradox, the 6th tallest. In thinking about the name, I wondered why it had received such an unusual but cool name. Many people don't realize this, but Paradox was at one time considered to be the tallest tree in the world, for two years back in 1995 & 1996. For Paradox, I was unable to find even a single photo of the tree anywhere on the internet. When this happens, it makes finding a particular tree next to impossible. About the only option seems to be measuring all the large trees in a specific area to see if the dimensions match up. Outside of measuring, there is no way to know if you have found the correct tree. Fortunately, I stumbled across an obscure clue which helped me narrow down the search areas for Paradox. Paradox is a spectacular tree to stand below in person. Out of the five trees which I have found so far, Paradox is probably my favorite for pure scenic beauty. It's a really nice tree. Unfortunately, I am unable to share any pictures of Paradox with you at this time.
STRATOSPHERE GIANT -- The final tree that we spent time searching for in Humboldt RSP was a very important one. Stratosphere Giant (from now on referred to as Strat) is currently the world's 3rd tallest tree. It recently overtook Icarus to move into that position. Since Icarus has a dead top, several other trees will probably be passing it as well over the next couple of decades. Like Paradox, Strat also held the record for the world's tallest tree. But Strat held the record for over 6 years, from 2000-2006. Then Helios was discovered, which changed everything. An interesting aspect of Strat is that I was able to find more clues for this tree than all other trees in the Top 8 combined. Once I had all my clues gathered, I was able to narrow things down to a small search grid of maybe 1/4 square mile. Even with that, it was not easy to find Strat. The terrain in the vicinity of Strat was a bit tough due to the abundance of fallen massive trees. Many of these trees we had to walk all the way around. I even ended up walking through the creek in the area for a length of time to try to get my bearings and scan the tops of trees. Because our search area was wide, we got disoriented and did an entire loop back to almost our starting point without intending to. We thought we were walking one direction and ended up walking in the complete opposite direction. That has never happened to me before. After that, I took out my compass and began using that to keep track of my position and our direction of travel. We found Strat just in the nick of time. Our trip to Humboldt RSP was winding down and we only had 2 hours of daylight left when we stumbled across it. It was a fantastic moment. Walking into the area and spotting Strat as time was running out, we were instantly awestruck at the magnificence of the tree. Since we still had a little bit of time left, we circled around the area trying to get various nice views of Strat. You will see a few of those in the photos that I am sharing down below.
And now that I have found Stratosphere Giant, that leaves me with only needing to find three more trees to complete my personal quest to find the Top 8 tallest in the world. The remaining trees are Icarus, Nugget, and Orion. I'm confident that I can find Icarus and Nugget. But I have serious doubts about finding Orion. Because there is literally only one clue in existence for that tree. But that's another story. And hopefully I will have another story to write in the Spring of 2013, when my quest continues.
STRAT TRIP PHOTOS
(taken during November 2012
please do not repost photos)
(Photo 1) This first picture shows Steve with Lauralyn in the background. This is the only picture I am sharing of this one in the distant background:
(Photo 2) My sister and I arriving at the bottom of Stratosphere Giant somewhere in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Click on photo to enlarge:
(Photo 3) Steve getting a picture with Stratosphere Giant, the world's 3rd tallest tree:
(Photo 4) A picture of Annie looking up towards the top of Stratosphere Giant:
(Photo 5) A top-to-bottom panoramic of a unique view showing how Stratosphere Giant shoots up into the sky. Click on the picture to enlarge it:
(Photo 6) A top-to-bottom panoramic showing the majestic upper trunk and canopy of Stratosphere Giant can be seen here. Click on the picture to enlarge it:
FINDING ICARUS -- THE 4TH TALLEST (June 2013)
Seven months after my last successful search as covered in Part 3, my quest to find the Top 8 Tallest Trees in the world resumed. But going into this trip, I had officially expanded my quest to include all trees in the Top 10, which means that I have added Millennium (9th) and Minaret (10th) to the list of trees I am searching for. Millennium and Minaret are both located in Humboldt RSP, while Icarus and Orion are located in Redwood NP. So, Part 4 of my quest took me to both parks where I would need to spend ample time tracking down what trees I could find. A couple of things were different about this trip. First, I would be reteaming with the person who I found Hyperion with (we both were part of the 3rd person or group to find Hyperion some two years ago) for safety purposes and to put our heads together. Second, we would be measuring the DBH and using a professional laser rangefinder to confirm our finds. With the addition of Orion to our search plans, this would be necessary if we hoped to be successful. You will understand why if you read the section below on Orion. Our trip started out in HRSP but then moved on to RNP. Upon arriving at park headquarters for Redwood NP, we were informed that the road to Tall Trees Grove has been closed indefinitely due to budget cuts. That is bad news, because it means that anyone who is hoping to access the southern half of Redwood Creek via the Tall Trees Trail or the Emerald Ridge Trail will now have to find an alternative way to reach that area. When I asked what the shortest way down to the southern half of Redwood Creek was now, the ranger informed me that the suggested route is to hike the Dolason Prairie Trail. That's 4.2 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation change just to reach Redwood Creek. After talking with the park ranger, we headed out to Prairie Creek RSP to do some hiking and exploring of the Atlas Grove. After reading the accounts in The Wild Trees which are set in the Atlas Grove, I wanted to see some of these legendary trees for myself, but previously had not had the time to do so. The most impressive tree I found in the Atlas Grove was Illuvatar. I also really liked Bell. But seeing these trees was kind of just a teaser in comparison to what was to come during the rest of the trip. Thus, we headed deep into Redwood NP to carry out searches for Icarus and Orion, which you can read more about below.
MILLENNIUM -- Before carrying out our searches for Icarus and Orion, our trip started in Humboldt RSP. I was already very familiar with the terrain there and knew what kind of difficulties to expect. I also knew that the only clue available online was that Millennium Tree was located in Millennium Grove in HRSP. That is not a whole lot to go on. Last year, I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully trying to figure out where the Millennium Grove was located. But then we had a breakthrough. Armed with the knowledge of where Millennium Grove was, we could now go about our tasks of using a laser rangefinder to estimate the height of each tree and a D-tape to measure the DBH. This method for measuring trees works because both the height and diameter of all important trees have been published by Michael Taylor and others. When I walked into the middle of Millennium Grove for the first time, my fellow tree searcher turned to me and asked, "Which tree in here do you think is Millennium?" I turned around in a circle and looked at all the towering old-growth redwoods which surrounded me. I then pointed at one tree in particular that captured my attention. Sure enough, that tree turned out to be Millennium. And thus, I had found the 9th tallest tree in the world. There are no pictures anywhere in existence online of Millennium, so I am unable to publish any with this report.
ICARUS -- When I carried out my search for Helios nearly one year ago, I knew I had passed right by Icarus. In my mind, I had actually narrowed down the location of Icarus to one tree out of about ten trees. I can say this because it is widely known that Icarus and Helios are in the same general area of Redwood NP. In the book The Wild Trees, the narrative states that "minutes after they discovered Helios, they found another tree, a darning needle of a redwood with a dead, sun-bleached top" which they named Icarus. By stating that fact, I am not revealing anything that every die-hard tree searcher doesn't already know. The big problem with finding Icarus among the dead-topped trees in RNP is that there are literally thousands of trees with dead-tops. And they are spread out everywhere. So on this trip, we bushwhacked out through some challenging terrain to the general area where I was expecting Icarus to be. And, indeed, it was right there. Our time was taken up trying to get accurate laser measurements, which is not easy when you are on a steep hillside with lots of thick growth and high canopies. For this trip, I went out and bought a powerful zoom lens which would allow me to see the upper portions of the world's tallest trees. A fair distance away from Icarus, I found a perfect window through some brush and branches looking up at the very top of Icarus. I am going to share with you a picture which shows the top of Icarus from where I was standing. This is the first photo which has ever been published of Icarus. I'm comfortable sharing it because it would not serve as a helpful clue to somebody who is searching. My photo shows a view that can only be seen from one specific spot. I tested taking pictures of the top from other locations, and it made the top look completely different than what is seen in my picture. And without a very powerful zoom lens, you cannot see the top in great detail as I did. But still, enjoy the first-ever photo showcasing Icarus, the 4th tallest tree in the world. And keep in mind that it takes a lot of pain and suffering, along with many trips up Dry Heaves Creek to find it. After checking out Icarus, I did also take the bear trail up out of Dry Heaves Creek to pay a visit to Helios as well. To further prove that I have found Helios, in case there are any doubters out there, I have included a picture on this page that shows me perfectly matching up MD Vaden's "shark tooth" clue.
ORION -- Orion has always been one of the most important trees for me personally to find. Being only the 8th tallest in the world, it may not impress as many people in the same way that Hyperion and Helios do. But Orion holds an important distinction. Orion is the tallest tree discovered by LiDAR. Credit for the discovery of Orion goes to Sillett-Atkins-Taylor, but it would have taken them longer to find it without LiDAR. If you don't know what LiDAR is, you probably aren't very involved with the tall trees community. To explain in the simplest terms how LiDAR fits in here (from my own memory), basically airplanes flew over Redwood National and State Parks and fired lasers towards the ground. These lasers were able to measure the height of the old-growth redwood trees and identify some very tall trees that were missed by ground searchers. Orion was one such tree. Follow-up visits were necessary to LiDAR identified tall trees to confirm their height in person, since due to certain reasons (such as slopes and cliffs), the data is sometimes off. But it is generally very accurate. In fact, LiDAR confirmed that Hyperion and Helios were the two tallest trees in the world. Thus, you can see why Orion is a very intriguing tree to see in person. In my own search for Orion last year, I began by targeting one certain area in the park. The only information that Michael Taylor provides on Orion is that it "grows on a high perched bench with spring". I eventually figured out that the area I was originally targeting was completely wrong when I stumbled across a very obscure clue. That's when I began targeting a new area. To reach this targeted area, we backpacked in to an area of Redwood National Park, realizing it would take more time and effort to search out "high perched benches" than what could be done on a day hike. The bushwhacking that was involved was some of the worst we have ever been involved with. I got two nasty bruises, one on my right leg and one on my midsection. There were no bear trails to follow, so we had to blaze our own trail through thorns and heavily overgrown brush. At one point we had to literally let go and slide down an 8-foot slope. We also had to cross a long, thin, fallen log that was weakening due to decay, with 15+ foot drops on both sides. At times, the horse flies and mosquitoes would move in on us and become a nuisance. The pure brutality of the bushwhack was only forgotten when we finally entered a grove of giant old-growth redwoods. It was literally stunning to find such a beautiful grove in the last place where we would expect it to be. It took us quite some time, but we finally did identify Orion, thus confirming that this was the Orion Grove. Finding Orion proved to be the biggest challenge we have overcome yet and one of the most rewarding. Obviously, I can't share any pictures of Orion. But I can share a picture of a very impressive tree that I found in the nearby vicinity. The redwoods of the Orion Grove and nearby vicinity are stunning.
And so here I am back at home reflecting back on the magnitude of these accomplishments. When I look back and read my account of finding Hyperion, it brings a smile to my face. That was two years ago. I feel like I didn't know anything back then. I was just a regular person with a dream taking on a very big challenge. I was in way over my head. Since then I have managed to find both Helios and Orion, which are much greater challenges. It is nearly impossible for someone to go out and find those two trees. In conclusion, I have now found 8 of the Top 10 Tallest Trees. The only two that I have left are Nugget (5th) and Minaret (10th). Getting a picture with Nugget is a mere formality for me, as I already know exactly where it is. But Minaret is another story. Minaret is located in the Patriarch Forest. I have located the Patriarch Forest, so that is half the battle. The other half will be actually going out and finding it during a ground search. And that means that there will be a Part 5 to this story. Stay tuned. As a final note, keep in mind that there are no clues to the locations of any of the Top Ten trees within these reports. That means that you shouldn't read between the lines and either avoid a certain area or go to a certain area based on my pictures and what is written here. MD Vaden is the proper resource for all clues to find the tallest trees. And all EXIF data has been removed from my pictures. For those of you searching, keep an eye out for mountain lions. One searcher who was looking for Hyperion wrote in and told me about a frightening experience that he had. He said that as he was searching through a certain area, "I could hear a large animal walking beside me on the edge of the woods. When I would stop, it would stop. When I would walk, it would move with me." Shortly after this happened, he called off his search and left the area.
ICARUS TRIP PHOTOS
(taken during June 2013
please do not repost photos)
(Photo 1) Since I am not authorized to publish a picture of Millennium, I decided to share this picture of me next to Illuvatar in the Atlas Grove instead. While virtually nobody has ever found Millennium, many searchers have managed to find Illuvatar in recent times. I really love the lighting in this picture, which was perfect during my visit to the Atlas Grove:
(Photo 2) A picture of Steve taken on the June 2013 trip with his backpacking gear at an undisclosed location in Redwood National Park. Some have speculated online as to where this photograph was taken. However, I am not publishing the location at this time. It is definitely one of my favorite areas in Redwood National Park where I have been more than once:
(Photo 3) The world's first look at the 4th tallest tree Icarus comes in the form of this picture of the dead top that I am publishing. With an extremely powerful zoom lens, I captured the top 2 feet of the tree. The next time that you read The Wild Trees and come to the section on Icarus, keep this picture in mind. Icarus is a magnificent tree from top to bottom, but I will not be revealing any more of it in order to keep it protected. Click on photo to enlarge:
(Photo 4) My final picture reveals a stunning old growth redwood that we found in the near vicinity of the Orion Grove during our backpacking trip. Pictures of Orion are not allowed to be published, so this nearby titan of the forest will have to do. But still, this tree is quite impressive, just like all the trees in the vicinity of the Orion Grove. Notice the burn marks on this redwood, which stretches hundreds of feet into the air:
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 -- 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.
NUGGET -- 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.
MAYA -- 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.
NUGGET TRIP PHOTOS
(taken July to September 2013
please do not repost photos)
(Photo 1) The first picture was taken during my only visit to Hyperion during 2013. It shows me keeping warm while I sit up on Hyperion Hill with the world's tallest tree directly beside me. It will be interesting to see if another tree (such as Helios) will overtake Hyperion in the near future:
(Photo 2) The next picture shows me standing next to Nugget, currently the 5th tallest tree in the world. In the picture next to Nugget, I am holding up the number 10 with my hands. This signifies that with the discovery of Nugget, I have found all of the Top Ten Tallest Trees:
(Photo 3) A picture taken of Tobin in the forest surrounding Nugget. This is a very lush, green area. Click on the next three photos to enlarge them:
(Photo 4) On another date, we found the legendary tree Maya. Here, Jim and I are measuring the DBH and have confirmed that we found Maya:
(Photo 5) 48.7 feet around the base of Maya. That is an exact match with the numbers in the database:
(Photo 6) Looking up Maya, it is obvious why it has been described as a beautiful tree:
(Photo 7) Getting a picture next to Maya was a personal highlight of all my times spent in Redwood National Park. Ever since reading about Maya, it has intrigued me:
(Photo 8) Maya is the tree in the background center. It is hard to get a good picture from a distance in view of all the other tall trees in Maya Grove:
(Photo 9) This last panoramic of Maya was the best one I could get showcasing as much of the tree as possible. Even though Maya is not a Top 100 tree, it is still extremely special to visit:
(Photos 10 to 12) One of the special aspects of a trip to Redwood National Park is the chance to see wildlife up close. The park has bears, mountain lions, elk, frogs, and deer in great numbers. Click on photos to enlarge them:
SEPTEMBER 2014 UPDATE
As promised in Part 5, the time has come for a brief tree searching update. I will try to post these updates either once per year or when something significant happens. The first thing that I should mention is that back on January 1, 2014, a well-known veteran tree searcher and myself carried out a successful search for 11th tallest Mendocino Tree. We felt that it was important to track down the location of and photograph the Mendocino Tree, being that it is just literally a fraction of an inch outside of the Top 10. The same goes for 12th tallest Apex, which will be my next personal target that I hope to search for this Fall. The search for Mendocino Tree took me into Montgomery Woods for the first time ever. It was a quite small but beautiful place and we really enjoyed our day there, especially since we were successful. So just to recap, in the past year I have successfully found 11th tallest Mendocino Tree and I am now targeting 12th tallest Apex. No pictures can be released of Mendocino Tree for obvious reasons.
I would also like to let my readers know that the Current Top 8 Tallest Redwoods as listed above and on other internet sites is no longer completely accurate. Some of the world's tallest have been remeasured and because of their growth have jumped over other trees on the list. Basically, the Top 8 is still the Top 8, but the trees are now somewhat out of order and the heights are not fully accurate. And things are going to stay that way for the time being I have been told. Although I have been given the updated order and numbers, I have been asked not to publish that information or give it away, so I will honor that. But I felt that my readers deserved to know that things have changed in the Top 8. I think the powers-that-be want to stop promoting in any way the tallest redwoods so as to minimize visitation and protect them the best they can and that's possibly one reason they aren't releasing the new numbers to the public.
On a final note, it has been brought to my attention that very few if any tree searching groups have discovered Hyperion on their own since my group last did so about three years ago. That's a long time. After my visit to Hyperion in 2013, I started worrying that due to clues and word-of-mouth, tons of people would be finding it soon. That hasn't happened yet, despite the recent increase in Hyperion searchers and extensive clues leaking online. But tree searchers still have to go out and find the tree and so far the Hyperion Club has not grown in membership very much during the past few years. I don't mind at all if others find Hyperion, I just don't want the location published on the internet. And I actually don't consider finding Hyperion to be the real prize anymore. The real prized discovery is Helios. Finding Helios is the greatest accomplishment possible. Orion is even more difficult to find, that is true, but Helios will likely be #1 someday. And that's why a tree searching resume is not complete without Helios. Well, that's about it for now. I will post another update in the future. Until then, enjoy your tree searching and don't give up on the impossible task. If you want to find out what bushwhacking up a creek in Redwood National Park is really like, watch this 30 minute video I put together.