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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This is the fun and more than a little unbelievable story of how a bunch of students and amateur naturalists ventured into the redwood forests of Northern California and began to explore the hitherto unknown canopies of these amazing giants. Preston's writing veers over into soap opera at times, but how else to capture the romantic nature of the facts; i.e., a geeky convenience-store clerk who in his spare time goes out and finds the tallest tree in the world! A fascinating read. --Rem — From Rem

This was an amazing book that didn't conform to any of my initial expectations, but was fantastic nonetheless. I was expecting a book that really focused om the natural history of the coast redwood, with an emphasis on the biology of the crowns and a peek into the amazing world of tree research. I did get a peek into that world, but in a manner that I wasn't anticipating. This book tells the story of the trees more indirectly, through the stories of the people who explore them. Let me give you a hint, the title refers to a tree that has never been climbed before. In a nutshell this book is about climbing trees...really big ones. Packed with the personal stories of the people that pioneered climbing super tall trees for study this book will have your heart in your throat as you follow the footsteps of discovery of this amazing world. Highly recommended for anyone who loves trees or climbing, this book is a jaw-dropper. --Jessica — From Jessica's Picks


Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustained–the coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air.

Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored.

The canopy voyagers are young—just college students when they start their quest—and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there’s nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.

The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called “fire caves.” Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to one’s death.

Preston’s account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists’ passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Trees—the story of the fate of the world’s most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.

About the Author

Richard Preston is the bestselling author of The Hot Zone, The Demon in the Freezer, and the novel The Cobra Event. A writer for The New Yorker since 1985, Preston is the only nondoctor to have received the Centers for Disease Control’s Champion of Prevention Award. He also holds an award from the American Institute of Physics. Preston lives outside of New York City.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780812975598
ISBN-10: 0812975596
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Publication Date: February 12th, 2008
Pages: 320
Language: English