GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST — To find the tallest trees, you’ve got to look up.
Eyeballs are the only way to identify rare, towering ponderosa pines amid the profusion of neighboring trees in these crowded woods. In mid-July, a group of hardy volunteers kept peering up at the skyline and then down at their boots while plunging off trails and into the thickest depths of the forest.
On everyone’s mind were the fiercely destructive wildfires now raging across the Pacific Northwest.
“The fires in the past few years on the West Coast are affecting everybody,” said Delaney Gaughan of Seattle. “Everyone has to do their little part, because it’s all caused by humans.”
Hauling shovels, picks, rakes and enough water to keep them hydrated on a long, hot day, the group spent hours bushwhacking across an obstacle-course landscape near Trout Lake, just south of Mount Adams, and then setting to work at the base of every giant ponderosa they could find.