Sitka Spruce

by Chris de Serres

It is one of the wettest places in the United States.  Moss carpets the floors and drapes the branches of some of the largest trees of their kind on Earth.  It is like entering a place from another time, hundreds of years ago.  It’s the best example of what the Pacific Northwest used to be, and it’s all protected.

It takes time to get to.  We finally got to the Olympic Coast.  The longest undeveloped coastline in the United States.  Imagine no waterfront property.  No buildings.  Just wild coast for miles.  It’s incredible.

Mountaineers have been coming out here for over a hundred years.  To climb over the Blue Glacier.  To reach the summit of Mt. Olympus.  To watch the largest herd of wild Elk in the Northwest migrate across the landscape in the hundreds.

The Olympic National Park is one of the few places in the U.S. still left where one could find wild adventure in untouched spaces.  It’s relative lack of roadways guarantees remote corners for only the most persistent mountaineers.

We were headed to a special place within the park.  The Hoh Rainforest.

There was a tree there.  They say it’s been there for over 500 years.  It is one of the tallest and largest Sitka Spruce trees in the world.  We took our daughter there a few years ago.  She was 2-years old at the time.  This tree was the largest thing she had ever seen.  It’s trunk split the sky that it seemed to reach the clouds above.  Like a real-life Jack’s beanstalk.


My daughter, a new life, stood juxtaposed against a living thing so old it defies our comprehension.  We hugged it and wondered if it could sense we were here.  If it interacted with it’s surroundings.

Now my daughter was 6.  We were back to pay homage.  We planned to hug the Spruce once more.  The next day we would hike out to another giant, one of the largest Douglas Fir’s,  in the nearby Queets region.

It was an uncharacteristically dry day.  We turned into the old-growth park.  The rays of light shot down into the canopy floor like many tiny laser beams.

We had another mile to the Spruce.  My daughter pulled out her nature guide and ran her finger over an artists rendering of the tree.

We found what we thought was the right pull off.  The tree was nowhere in sight.  Maybe this wasn’t the right parking lot?  There was only open sky wherethe the old Spruce once stood.

It was then that we saw the remains.  How could this happen?  A piece of paper nearby gave the story.  It was felled by a storm last December.

It’s long body lay to the side like some huge beached whale.  It had ripped a path through the dense woods, felling numerous smaller trees in it’s path.  It’s base was intact.  It snapped about 15 feet from it’s base.  I climbed up it’s body and took a long walk down the length of it.  Soon I was at the very top.

That night at the campfire we talked about dying.  Even things that were meant to live forever don’t.  Trees fall and become nurse logs which help create life.  We are all a part of nature, even though it may seem we aren’t.  It’s okay to miss the things we love.  It’s okay to cry for a grieve for a tree, especially old Spruce.