Good Wood

Sojourn in the cedars

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Like many greenhorn trail crew leaders before me, I did not endeavor to undertake my inaugural worksite encounter with an ancient grove of super-sized Western red cedars without briefing myself thoroughly on the signature structural and spiritual characteristics those shaggy-topped “transformer” evergreens have long been known to possess.

I soon surmised just how powerfully useful and life-affirming our most deeply revered and culturally valuable endemic conifers actually are.  

Tree-hugging the scaly-rough columnar girth of a 200-foot fir or a hemlock is one thing. But if it’s the elegantly fluted, garage-sized trunk of a shinglewood arborvitae that you’re aiming to wrap your grubby meathooks around, then you better be ready to dance.

We were hard at work clearing rock slides, rebuilding washouts, reaming out clogged culverts and generally sprucing up a heavily eroded Forest Service pack trail that accessed the Marmot Pass area in Olympic National Park through a remote river canyon somewhere in the so-called “rain shadow” side of the peninsula when the aforementioned formative phenomena began to occur on a regular and ever-intensifying basis. 

The first ancient giant we encountered quickly became impossible to regard as anything less than one of the finest, most human-friendly trees any of us ever had the good fortune to rest, relax and cook multiple variations of SRE (Spam, Minute Rice and Egg Beaters) under. 

But all those sheltering branches and boughs weren’t reserved just for me alone. All 12 of us (everyone on the crew) somehow managed to pitch our tents below the naturally weatherproof canopy of that thing. Not only did it help protect us from increasingly inclement skies, but it also smelled downright aromatic in there.

While luxuriating among those cozy communal confines along the river in all that rarefied, cedar-scented open air, we were soon appreciative to find ourselves buffeted against unseasonably heavy rain showers mixed with intermittent sleet and the occasional raucous outburst of pea-sized hail. I suffered nary a single discernible raindrop on my tent, while the weather station in Quilcene measured more than five inches of precipitation that week.

The second ancient giant we encountered—the one that really got the tree magic going—was actually dead as a post and moldering slowly away on the a mountainside about a mile up the valley from our camp. We didn’t need it for shelter, but we did end up utilizing its heartwood for building materials and spent the better part of three days splitting up planks for a bridge we were repairing.  

Not coincidentally, for three consecutive nights during this exhumation project several participating crew members and I found ourselves visited by a series of powerfully vivid and uncannily interconnected dreams—dreams in which our living spirits were pulled out of our bodies, absorbed directly into the roots of a giant cedar tree and promptly spat out into the river, where we were free to dart and swim at impossibly fast speeds down through the forest and into the sea. 

Although we didn’t share these dreams with each other until after we’d moved on to another trail project in the North Cascades many weeks later, it turns out no fewer than seven of us had experienced (or somehow been pulled into) that same exact dream. Tree magic, indeed.

National Arbor Day is Fri., April 25. To find out more about the tree-planting, tree-loving holiday, go to http://www.arborday.org

More Outdoors...
Spooky Sojourns
Of gore, lore, ghosts and more

What do a graphic murder mystery, Depression-era tales of darkness and despair, and spooky voice recordings have in common? They’re all part of what can be experienced by getting in on the Good Time Girls’ seasonal “Gore & Lore” tours taking place in downtown Bellingham every Saturday…

more »
Fall Fungi
Mushroomers gone wild

When perusing the astounding array of toadstools that will be on display at the Northwest Mushroomers Association’s 27th annual Wild Mushroom Show Sun., Oct. 16 at Bloedel Donovan, keep in mind that the spore samples weren’t purchased at a grocery store—they were carefully collected by…

more »
Weekend Warriors
A city of superheroes

If your weekend plans involve running or walking in a scenic locale, consider putting some of that energy into an endeavor that will not only elevate your heart rate, but also make that tender organ grow a few sizes by knowing you’ve accomplished good things for good people. Following are a…

more »
Handling the truth


The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Family Game Night

7:30pm|DUG Theater

Lynden Book Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Komo Kulshan Ski and Snowboard Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Gymnasium

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Arsenic and Old Lace

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall and Brodniak Hal

Top of the food chain


12 Minutes Max Fall Showcase

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Old Main Theater


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Phenomenal Woman Cabaret

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Make It & Take It

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cherry Point Forum

9:00am|Bellingham Technical College

Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek

Scottish Highland Reel Competition

9:00am|Syre Center

Make a Difference Day

9:00am|Whatcom County

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

98221 Artists Studio Tour

10:00am|Anacortes and Guemes Island

Correspondence Club

10:00am|Mindport Exhibits

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Community Meal

10:00am|United Church of Ferndale

Celebrating Vicky Marshall

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Cornhole Tournament

2:00pm|Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County

Writing the Living Memoir

2:00pm|Ferndale Library


4:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Warfel Award Ceremony

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Skagit Symphony Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Just another hardcore troubadour


MBT Once Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Handling the truth


Lynden Book Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall and Brodniak Hal

98221 Artists Studio Tour

10:00am|Anacortes and Guemes Island

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

The Fungus Among Us

10:00am|North Lake Whatcom Park

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sunday Market

1:00pm|Alger Community Hall

Praise the Salmon

1:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Living Proof

4:00pm|Village Books

Benefit Variety Show

6:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Greg Proops

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books
Handling the truth


Word Sprints

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

October Chores in the Garden

6:30pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Crossing Zion

7:00pm|Deming Library


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

MBT Once Everybody’s Store Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Andrew Subin Lydia Place Village Books Artifacts Wine Bar MBT Ben Folds Swinomish 2016 Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market