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 pictures of Helios on the internet or in publications, I am not able to show you the beauty of this coast redwood. My apologies for that, but it is in the best interest of the tree that no 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. I wish everyone reading this the best in your own adventures through the old-growth redwood forests. (Note-- check out MD Vaden's page http://www.mdvaden.com/redwood_helios.shtml for more information on Helios.)