12 Trees

Pacific Coast Road Trip

I hadn't seen the Pacific in decades and it had been three years since I’d flown anywhere. A good friend invited me to drive from Seattle to San Diego along the coast. Trip planning was sketchy and flexible. But a week sounded like enough. It really wasn't.

They'll pry my cold dead fingers off the Honda’s steering wheel but I have to admit her Tesla was more comfortable and fun. My back didn't hurt and it was great to drive.  It did occur to me that the fun might be limited if everyone zoomed Teslas all the time. I found the huge screen in the center of the dashboard distracting and I never did get the door and window buttons right. But the short stretch I drove was exhilarating - for me at least. Zoomies are always less fun for passengers. I drove a hairy little stretch of former logging road and really enjoyed the fun curves. But for some reason, that was my only opportunity.

The trip began the day after a King Tide and a week of big storms. There was evidence of flooding everywhere - huge trees down and closed portions of the coastal highways. The booming Pacific was unsettling, especially the first night when I thought I was hearing heavy furniture moving around the room. And it was especially impressive for a desert dwelling unfamiliar with its power. 

We blazed down the coast, stopping periodically to wonder at sights but never really long enough to fully relax. We made it to California our first night after zooming into the dark forest. There’s a giant peanut sitting beside the highway in Orick that's carved from a huge Redwood. It was sent to President Carter as an appeal to stop designation of the Redwood National Forest. It  was returned and the forest was established. We visited the awe inspiring “Big Tree” there, and many like it. In Leggett we stopped at the even larger “Grandfather Tree.” 

In the predawn hours in Monterey I woke to the unfamiliar sound of  barking harbor seals. It was Friday already. That night was Santa Barbara. Then San Diego. I would go the other direction if I had another chance. Hopefully the highway both sides of Big Sur, which we missed, would be open. And I would go north instead of south so that the population grew thinner and the trees thicker as the trip progressed. 


Cold Turkey Twitter

I Quit. The new oligarchic owner with an adolescent's impulse control gave me the push I needed. I've "deactivated" my account which is apparently the closest thing to leaving Twitter you can get. No withdrawal symptoms but it's only been 24 hours and this morning I was on tiktok so long I got the warning video. "Hold on! You've been scrolling WAY too long...." Or am I the only one that gets those? Is it after two hours? Three?

Twitter never showed concern for time or anything else. I used Tweetdeck to create news and topic columns. I didn't see the ads or promoted tweets. It was like a old school ticker tape - news scrolling down my screen. It is invaluable for breaking news and events. But step off into the discussion and you're tripped up and tied down like Gulliver by little lying Lilliputian trolls.

In the many years that I've "reported"  accounts that were obviously fake, abusive, or purposefully misleading, Twitter never determined a single one violated their narrowly defined policies. Nearly every thread of substance and topical interest, and there are many, is infested with professional and amateur trolls within hours of posting. They dispirit, dishearten, misdirect, mislead, question consensus, suppress, degrade, intimidate and threaten.

Done with it. I re-upped subscriptions to Santa Fe New Mexican and WaPo and honed the tiktok algorithm to feed me videos of   horses. Horses running, jumping, doing tricks, getting groomed, pulling things, having foals, having surgery, having snacks....


Wislizenus Cottonwood

What a character Wislizenus must have been - explorer, physician, and botanist. He’s the cottonwood's namesake. A02235E4-7FEF-4B83-B404-3C98A887CA52

Frederich Adolphus Wislizenus (1810-1889) was a German emigrant involved in several political causes, uprisings, and adventures. Among these were his expeditions to the American West. 

He studied medicine at four universities in Europe before arriving in New York in 1834. Then he moved to St. Louis to practice medicine a few years later.

He joined a fur trading expedition in 1839 and on that trip crossed the Rocky Mountains. On his return he joined a band of Flathead and Nez Perce. He wrote an account published in German in 1840.

Back in St. Louis he partnered with fellow physician and botanist George Engelmann who encouraged him to continue exploring and collecting. With his support Wislezenus began another trip in 1846 -  a merchant expedition to Santa Fe and Chihuahua.

On this adventure he was detained for six months after the war with Mexico began. He spent the time in the Sierra Madres observing, and collecting plants. His next report, Memoir of a Tour to Northern Mexico (1848) was about that trip but I haven't got a copy.

I imagine that's when he first met our tree. The populus deltoides wislizenii.


River Curves

The big westward curve of the river - the top of the Valley. That's where the big floods used to start. The Camino Arroyo, named for the road up to the mountain, swept into the valley up there from time to time, depositing muddy water and trees and boulders too sometimes. They "tamed it," along with all the other arroyos and the Rio itself. A87F3A5C-6858-41C8-9714-8B79C0FFE1DD

Some of the cottonwoods have a curve like the river. 

Up there's also where Edward Abbey began the tale of The Brave Cowboy, later made into the movie Lonely Are the Brave.  When Kirk Douglas rides his Palamino mare Whiskey into town, he crosses both the Rio and Second Street. The Big Chief Truck Stop is in the background along with decent sized clusters of cottonwoods. 

These twisted trees were probably stomped on as seedlings. This place was a park. And a dump. We thought it all belonged to us as kids. It magically morphed into private hands after construction of the drainage canals and ditches and began sprouting houses after that. 

In at least one 60s neighborhood, free-range children roamed widely and climbed the biggest trees. They urged each other on, nailing up short pieces of scrap lumber as footholds for the scariest straight parts. High trees seemed to go on forever like our high hopes. In some places you can still see steps in the tall trees.