John Muir


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black water beneath. The trees are loaded down with mosses, some bunches on the palmated portions when wet weighing a hundred pounds or more. Ferns and even bushes grow on these masses. An old tree with a multitude of its own children in its arms. By the decay of the mosses and accumulation of leaves, etc., a soil is made which, killing the branch at that point, causes a multitude of small diseased branches to spring out behind it. These die also by the decay, going back leaving a root-like clump of dead limbs, and when these occur on the top of a tree it seems as if an uprooted tree had been set upside down in the ground. Saw one such to-day that I thought at first sight had been tossed in the air in some way falling, and had stuck with its mass of roots in the air, so perfectly root-like were the dead abnormal branches which had lost the moss that killed them. The upward swell of the trunk made the whole delusion perfect, and it was only after examining the lower portion of the trunk and observing the normal branches that I could believe that this tree was standing right end up. It was about 30 ft. high and 10 inches dia. When I called companions’ attention to it he said, “How terrible must have been the storm that uprooted and tossed this tree in and air and then let it drop upside down.” {sketch: “moss-killed spruce with young one on top”} {sketch: “Island opposite Wrangel, showing after sculpture of local residual glaciers.”} {sketch} Side branches with the same kind of root-like, abnormal branchlets. Discovered the secret of the secret of its origin. Here, too, I found a few cypress trees, they have light airy open look, pale gray as a whole, scarce at all green in the distance, though the foliage is so bright a green. Very slender tops when young or middle aged. Toyatte tells me that this tree occurs in abundance on this island and also on the large Kou Island. At one place a stream has spruce on one side and cypress on the other. The young vigorous Merten hemlocks when about a hundred feet high usually have very slender tops bent all one way like fingers. A Merten spruce near the shore measures at four ft. from the ground 5 ft. in dia. And at a height of 82 ft. it measures 3 ft 3 inches in dia. A Menzies spruce that had fallen with it measured 2 ft. 2 in. dia. 100 ft. from the ground, and only 3 ft. 11 in. 5 ft. ab[ove] ground. The clouds lifted at sunset revealing a sharp group of white mountains to the southward, (Pages ahead) probably Coronation Island, and a range of snowy peaks on Kou island quite imposing, probably from 5 to 8 thousand ft. high.

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Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 18 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist