The coastal redwoods of Northern California inspire awe in those who have seen them because of their incredible height and size. What we see are tall wide trunks that soar into the sky with an evergreen canopy. Who thinks about what the canopy holds? Richard Preston for one and his book, The Wild Trees, explores the subject in a most enjoyable way.
The Wild Trees presents the story of a group of young people that climb coastal redwoods and explore their canopies. The book is non-fiction and can be enjoyed on two levels. One is the human interest aspect. Preston develops the stories of several climbers, Steve Sillet, a Reed College student from Pennsylvania, Marie Antoine, an Oregon State University student, and Michael Taylor, the son of a wealthy land developer. These three main characters share a love for the tall trees with each other and other people they encounter as they live out their dreams and agonies. The climbers develop new methods for climbing and share their joy as they explore the tree tops.
The second level of the book’s interest is the nature of the tree canopy itself. The young climbers find that the canopy forms a unique enclosure of sorts and has a thick layer of soil and is very rich in plant species including many different kinds of lichens, ferns, and mosses. As the climbers probe their leafy environment they realize how complex and different their environment is and we, as readers, gain from their experience.
The narrative style combined with the intimate view of a natural environment results in an informative and heartwarming book. The text is simple, yet personable, and is enhanced with a few drawings. Photographs of this fascinating and remarkable environment would greatly increase an understanding and appreciation of the coastal redwood canopies and the problems associated with visiting them.