Urban Nature

A Surprise Circle of Redwoods

April 27, 2013

When SimDad went geocaching near the Berkeley Campus, Dad thought to himself somewhat arrogantly, what could there be to find?  Dad had spent five years as an undergraduate on that campus, wandering along every imaginable and unimaginable path at every time of day in every season.  Despite the fact that the University was almost always under construction somewhere, Dad felt that he knew the depths of the campus: he knew where to find the golden gingko tree and when to view its leaves; he had stared into the eyes of the California State Fossil and touched its pointy teeth (consider this a puzzle – answer at bottom).  He even had ascended serendipitously into the hidden Zen garden, knew what was in the middle floors of the Campanille, and lamented the loss of a certain Eucalyptus grove whose calmness and sanctity had saved a friend from a very severe panic attack.  Now there were fewer trees, newer buildings.

Geocache GCQFFF, A Circle of Redwoods, promised just that: a circle of redwoods just off campus.  Dad could not imagine that with his five years wandering the campus and more than twenty years wandering around the campus, with his pals, with his walking partners, eventually with his kids in strollers that he had just MISSED an entire redwood grove.  They are very tall trees, he stated to himself as if this were news, in fact they are the tallest trees in the world.  But zipping around Northside, Dad found a “half legal” parking space with relative ease and proximity to the sought after dot on his GPS.   He and Sim got out of the car, and sure enough, one corner lot of a block had not been developed – there was a heretofore unknown (to Dad) Circle of Redwoods.

Dad started to blather to Sim about “tallest living thing” and “mother tree… twin sisters… all genetically the same . . . ” but Sim turned his eagle eyes to the grove and found the geocache in an instant.  Dad traded out an object (though he neglected to note the trade, an unusual gaffe), took a quick picture, and raced off after Sim who was eager to get to Emeryville and see a movie.

As they drove off, Dad mused about the unknowability of all things.  Even with immersive learning and wide exploration, some small detail (or a large one!) remains to be discovered.  Even the “expert” always has something to learn.

Answer to puzzle: The state fossil of California is Smilodon californicus, known for its distinctive “smile” of saber teeth, the Saber Tooth Cat.  There is a bronze replica of one in front of McCone hall, formerly known as the “Earth Sciences Building”.  In case you were wondering, the hidden Zen garden lies in the courtyard formed by McCone, Hesse, O’Brien and McLaughlin halls.  The only direct access to it is via a small, unmarked spiral staircase adjacent to McCone hall.  The middle floors of the Campanille contain offices and, legendarily, “bones”, though fossil specimens belonging to the Paleo department is a less hyperbolic description.  Before the “Life Sciences Addition” was built, there were more Eucalyptus trees and the campus was quieter.

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