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The Forgotten Flying Redwoods

A cache by DrHugAlot Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 08/05/2003
2 out of 5
1 out of 5

Size: Size: micro (micro)

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Geocache Description:

Micro cache is offset from the center of the redwood grove but reachable from within the park. Visit the local park and view the amazing flying redwoods.

This cache brings you to a very utilitarian, well-used park that has no other remarkable feature except for the trees which include some amazing flying redwoods.

They are nearly forgotten and maybe a little neglected. It is sad to see them relegated to an obscure corner of this little park. But this is where they ended up, some of them at least. Their extraordinary voyage means nothing today. Now it is simply a matter of finding enough water and nutrients to survive. The two stumps indicate that survival is not guaranteed, but the remaining seven still hold out hope that someday they will form a lovely redwood grove, with cool moist soil and a plaque commemorating their heritage and adventures.

I call them Flying Redwoods because, you see, the living DNA of these trees has orbited the earth. Now before you say that DrHug is off his medication, let me tell you the story.

In March of 1987 I was walking through this park on Arbor Day and noticed that the city of Palo Alto was giving away some trees. They were seedling redwoods that came with a certificate of authenticity. (See the attached certificate.) To give them even more stature, as if redwoods need more stature, the seeds came from Palo Alto's own El Palo Alto. See Rain's Historic Palo Alto cache to view the parent.

They were free to a good home, free being the operative word for me, and so I took one and began to read the certificate. It was signed by Dr. Loren Acton, a scientist that I worked with at that time in Palo Alto. I also knew that Dr. Acton had been the SpaceLab 2 Mission Payload Specialist on a 1985 NASA Space Shuttle flight.

In the name of science, he had agreed to carry on the flight a small packet of seeds from El Palo Alto that were provided by the city. When he got back he returned the seeds to the city and they germinated them. After awhile, they were ready for homes- hence the Arbor Day giveaway. The orphans that were not adopted were planted in this section of the park forming a new redwood grove in 1987. There are seven of them standing about 25 feet tall and there are two stumps indicating perhaps that conditions here are not the best. You can count enough of the rings on the large stump to estimate an age that agrees with my figures. Remember that the wide light ring and the thin dark ring together equal one year, the wide one being the rainy season and the dark the dry season. But why exactly were they cut down? Did they start doing strange things? Did Aliens come after them? It looks like they were cut fairly recently and I'll bet that the person who cut them did not know their story.

Today, you can stand among the survivors, pat them and realize that the living seeds that grew into these trees have done something that you or I will probably never do - spend 190 hours in space and orbit the planet 126 times at over 17,000 miles per hour travelling over 2.8 million miles (NASA's number) on STS 51-F from July 29-August 6, 1985.

(I have added a side note here. The seeds flew on board the Shuttle Challenger. Exactly six months later on January 28, 1986 it would be lost with seven brave astronauts.)

So talk to them, ask them if they remember the flight and whether they were a little confused when the time came to put down roots. (An upside down redwood would be even more amazing and would certainly have made them famous- oops, the medication is wearing off.) The roots of a redwood tree spread out, but only go down about six feet so finding water is a problem. Today they are just ordinary-looking redwood trees trying to survive. Do we dare send an e-mail to the city arborist and ask him/her if it would be too much to ask to give them a little drink from time to time? (The city arborist's e-mail address is They have come a long ways to get here and if they survive they would serve as a nice story about our early space-age exploits for future generations. Remember they can live 3000-4000 years. And if they don't survive, does that tell us something about the hazards of space or just indicate that our own environment is not very tree-friendly?

And the one I took home? It's OK, and it's not doing anything weird, other than the crop circles it leaves on my back lawn at night.

There is the ubiquitous 35mm film can stashed in the usual, obligatory fashion about 30 steps east of the new plaque. Bring a pen and sign the log.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Avzoyr svatref erdhverq

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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