The Trembling Giant…


by dal…


Did I mention this earlier? 


Creepy means different things to different people. To me sushi is creepy. I’m not fond of many raw foods outside of fruits. I pretty much like fish or meat well done enough to fall apart when I threaten it with a fork. This may stem from my mother’s cooking. She was not a great cook and she had some unusual ideas about serving food that seemed perfectly natural to me sixty years ago but in the occasional re-examination of my youth, I wonder what she was thinking. 

For example:


Peas were always a side-dish. Mom served them in a saucer, bobbing in warm milk. I called them “floaters”. The peas came from a can and were closer to navy gray in color than pea green.

My mother didn’t like to buy breakfast cereal. Instead she would take a few slices of white bread, rip them up to spoon sized chunks, toss into a bowl and smother in milk and lightly sugar.

Friday was mandatory fish day. Usually Mrs Paul’s Frozen Fish Sticks with a side dish of floaters. 


Wednesday was either hot dogs or ring baloney and they were always boiled and served tasteless with a side dish of floaters and a splat of ketchup.

Spaghetti came out of a can. On good days there was a meatball or two.

We rarely had desserts. A treat was prepared on “special” days when she would make grilled cheese sandwiches (Kraft Velveeta Cheese)…with a side of floaters. My brother loved grilled cheese sandwiches.


We occasionally had steak. I don’t know what cut they were but our stove had a broiler and the steaks went into that broiler all red and marbled but came out singed brown and smoking…somewhat crispy and certainly tough. The edges of the overdone steak were curled up from the high broiler heat. They resembled shallow, brown pottery sherds.

I bring all this up to make a point. My wife, Kathy is a wonderful cook. When I told her about my pre-teen home dining memories she said those dinners sounded “creepy”. To me it was just “home cooking” and I’m certain I looked forward to mealtime as much as Betty Crocker’s son must have. Overcooked was my mother’s mantra. Kill all living organisms in meat and vegetables before they were served. It’s what I grew up with. It’s what I look forward to…although I prefer a more tender steak than my mother ever seemed to accomplish…sushi is creepy.

So it doesn’t surprise me when I hear people’s reactions to my long standing pursuit to sleep inside a living organism, they tell me “that’s creepy”. I’ve managed a few such sleeping experiences in my life-time. I slept a couple nights more than 100ft up in the canopy of a Coastal Redwood tree, well over 1,500 years old in Northern California, and although I wasn’t actually “in” the organism I did take a nap under a twisted and gnarled 3,500 year old Bristlecone Pine one fine summer day. There have been dozens of other such overnight excursions to and in ancient organisms.

It doesn’t always work out…Timber merchants intended to harvest a forest of enormous Western Red Cedars on the west side of Vancouver Island. I decided to run in before they got to the forest and spend one night in the canopy of a majestic coastal monarch understood to be over a thousand years old. I had stood in awe next to this ancient behemoth a few years earlier. I like trees. They speak to me (creepy). There was nothing I could do to stop the harvest of that tree. I just wanted to spend some final “quality” time up in it’s branches. But the loggers were quick and the magnificent trees were reduced to a trashy tangle of broken branches surrounding stumps the size of small houses when I got there. So I turned out my bedroll on the 10ft high, 16ft diameter stumpish remainder of my tree and said goodbye to an ancient life form.

Not all archaic organisms are trees. But the ones we can precisely measure tend to be trees. We can count the rings to accurately determine a tree’s age. Dendrologists do this. They can even count the rings on a live tree by drilling a small hole in the tree and taking a “core” sample. Then filling up the hole. Hard to do that with a Galapagos Tortoise so we still don’t know how old those things are.

Last fall I heard about “The Trembling Giant” or “The Pando”. This is one of the oldest living, single organisms on earth and…it’s in Utah. I can drive to it in a day plus. They figure this organism is at least 50,000 years old…WHAT???


How can anything alive in Utah be 50,000 to 80,000 years old???

There have been fires and volcanoes and biblical style floods and disease and water shortages and climate change and die-offs and insect invasions and earthquakes and wood cutters…How could one botanical organism live through all that for 50,000 or more years??

This organism’s strategy is to spread. According to Atlas Obscura, Pando means “I Spread” and has 47,000 stems covering approximately 107 acres and weighs 6,615 tons…a massive organism by anyone’s standard. The tens of thousands of trees are not individuals like you would find in a typical forest, but rather stems of the same 13 million pound organism.  (creepy).

For an enthusiastic botanical specimen admirer such as myself, The Pando…AKA The Trembling Giant is a “must sleep in”…

So off I head…one fine fall day….on my way home from Santa Fe.

The drive is scenic. I stay off the freeways as much as possible and take the side highways and byways…the scenic routes. The smaller the towns, the better for me…at least until lunch time.

The Pando is located in the Fishlake National Forest in south central Utah. It more or less covers land at the south end of Fishlake. It’s not hard to find. See that picture up above. That’s what I expected to find. But my calculations for the location forgot about one crucial measurement….elevation.

The drive through Southern Utah in fall can be spectacular. At about 5,000 feet in elevation I was treated to soul satisfying views like these:







Canyons, mesas, plateaus, fall foliage, cut roads, comfortable temps…PERFECT!

But then, as I started to head out of the lovely, lush Koosharem Valley, I began to climb in elevation, By the time I reached the Pando I was at 9,000 feet and fall was long gone. Winter had settled in. The temps were in the low to lower 30’s and Pando’s foliage was laying flat on the ground…colorless.


I should have left two weeks earlier. Timing is everything!

None of this was going to deny me the opportunity to sleep inside the largest single organism on earth…



That night, curled up in my bedroll, I dreamt I could talk with The Pando. It told me stories that made me laugh about the first people it ever saw and the time when it watched the rainbows fight with the trout over Fishlake. (creepy)

In the frigid morning I was colder than an ice-packed tuna headed to market. I desperately needed to warm up my innards. I stopped at a resort on the lake and had a bowl of hot oatmeal and hotter hot cocoa. It was perfect!!

I also learned that scientists think that The Pando is dying. WHAT??

What could possibly kill a 50,000 to 80,000 year old organism that has lived through dire straits, planetary upheaval and the Nixon presidency? The answer surprised me.


Deer are apparently eating all The Pando’s tender young sprouts as they emerge. Leaving no new growth. Nothing to replace the older trees as they die off.

No trees, no leaves…

No leaves, no food for Pando.

It seems like there should be an easy solution to this problem.

Save The Pando…Eat More Venison!

Seriously, venison is tasty. Unless of course you make it the way my mom made it… (creepy).











70 thoughts on “The Trembling Giant…

    • its good to eat anything when your young and old. The grateful do, anyway.
      you’ll miss the, good times. They are worth remembering. best wishes to you always. Hang in there. good read, that food looks good. Sounds good too. dandelion salad, talk about bitter’ But I, love my Mom, She did her best for are belly’s, that she could. have a good day always Jeff B Burch and crew its hard to make something
      Simple. BUT ILL eat almost, any thing to this day I’m easy to please.

  1. My grandmother (Missouri Southern cooking) was the only person to prepare venison properly, from my way of thinking:

    – Venison steaks beat thin, dredged in flour;
    – Fry in bacon grease or equivalent, along with sliced onions;
    – serve hot and in batches.

    An extremely simple recipe, but the results are a rare treat. Perhaps pando fed venison may even up the ante in taste and delicacy?

    Having shared that, I Wonder about these Utah excursions, Dal.

    There’s been a rumor you didn’t even search for the chest last summer? Any truth to that one?

    One might wonder why that’s the case…

    • I searched twice last year. I am working with a new solution…since the one I’ve been repeating like Ground Hog Day the past two years has been so successful… 🙂

      But I don’t want to share it yet because it’s so good that Diggin Gypsy will want to head back to the Madison and probably find it…

    • Sikeston,

      We prepare our deer cutlets almost the same…
      Marinade meat in a dark beer [ Killian’s is what I use, Sam Adams as a couple of good ones as well ]
      Bound with a meat tenderizer [ that’s what we call it ]
      Dipped cutlets in whipped eggs. [ keeps the flour and bread crumbs from falling off in the skillet, and adds a nice flavor to the meat ]
      Dipped in flour.
      Dipped, or sometimes shaken, in bread crumbs.
      Set in skillet with virgin olive oil. {bacon is a good idea, but too salty for me.} A deep fryer works well to.
      Saute onions in butter, then spit the batch… a small amount goes in the pan to fry with the cutlets for flavor. The rest is caramelized for later. {which might go well with your bacon fried cutlets… it will give a little sweetness to it all}
      With the skillet dripping I make a gravy [ secret is; to bring the dripping almost to a burning stage. ok, burn it slightly ], then make the gravy as you may normally do… I’m a mashed potatoes and gravy freak.
      The only veggies I eat cooked, is corn. If it was good enough for the main course, its good enough for me.
      Ps. a nice strong Port goes well with the meal, or you should have a killian’s or five left over from the sixer. Your choice.

      Too bad we didn’t share recipes earlier… we may have saved those beautiful trees.

  2. I enjoyed your story, Dal. Several years ago, Rocky Mountain National Park started fencing off some of their Aspen groves in hopes to revitalize their growth due to the elk and deer eating them. It seems to be working. People can walk through the gates to venture, but I do miss not having to do so.

    • I wish there was a control for that pine beetle. Wiped out whole mountainsides of lodgepoles and ponderosas. Ugh.

  3. I enjoyed your story Dal! Pando has been on my short list to visit with my family for several years now ever since I learned it is one of the oldest living organism currently on earth. I’d like to spend a night out there too if I can.

  4. It’s amazing the things I’ve learned at the HOD..
    Thanks for another interesting lesson Dal.

  5. Loved your tale Dal; So why the growth in the deer population? What predator have we gotten rid of? HUMMM??? Thanks again for the lovely PIC’s and tale – JDA

  6. Dal, Another wonderful story. The Pando is now a must-see spot for me to visit… maybe this spring while I wait for the snow to melt in Wyoming. I also love trees… have loved them as far back in my youth as I can remember. I have no idea why… maybe because I could climb them to get a better view. Maybe because of their scent in autumn when their leaves turned to spectacular colors and made hiking in the woods all that much more enjoyable. I bet I’ve planted well over 100 trees in my lifetime, whether it be in semi-tropical central Florida or the high desert of New Mexico. Does the gene that makes our love for trees automatically make us Fenn treasure hunters? Maybe….
    Your pictures are stunning!! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sounds like Pando is dear to you..
    Awful friendly of it to tell the deer “eat me”..
    I guess sooner or later we all get ours

    • Super Blood Wolf Moon.

      I’m itchin to do some howlin.

      20% cloud cover in Dallas, so should get good view of it.

  8. Nature is constantly in flux. What is now the largest of a species, whether animal or plant, must not necessarily always be. I’m kinda happy we only have coyotes and not brontosauruses inhabiting our suburban green spaces. The coyotes can leave some droppings around my azaleas to drive my dogs wild, but man, one poop from a brontosaurus, and I’d have to hire a back hoe to cart it off, plus kiss that azalea bed good bye.

    I look at it this way — what about the second largest aspen grove? It’s been sitting there quietly for thousands of years, never complaining, never calling up the Sierra Club or National Geographic Society after seeing pretty pictures of the Pando and crying about how its fall colors included more brilliant reds among the gold than that Pando ever produced.

    Is it happy or is it anxious about decline of the Pando? Is it routing for the deer to flourish? After thousands of years, it will now finally be the biggest organism. Whoot-whoot! But then the people will come to behold it’s splendor. They’ll trample its roots. They’ll carve initials into its bark, inhibiting the travel of nutrients and weakening it. They’ll leave trash. They’ll light campfires and not fully extinguish them. They’ll increase the area’s carbon monoxide in those awful contraptions that bring them to trample their roots, carve up their trunks and leave trash.

    I’m guessing that the second largest aspen grove is desperately hoping for the Pando to recover. It’s humble. And smart.

    • Good point Aard…
      I guess it’s true that what’s bad for one organism is probably good for others…

      I just hope they don’t decide to pin the death of The Pando on me…

      • Well, there does seem to be an odd correlation between your plans to sleep beneath trees and them dying. Could I talk you into sleeping under an annoying holly tree that my neighbors have near the property line?

  9. I really enjoyed this! My stepmom used to cook the same way, same floaters, same steak, same fish sticks…. are you my little brother??? Lol.

    • James…I don’t know…but if so…I’m sorry for taking your radio apart and not putting it back together again…

    • Amber.. in one of your previous posts.. you had mentioned a hive..

      i’m wondering what.. brought that about? can you please tell me more?

  10. I never thought of peas as creepy, but those look like frog eggs!

    This was a great post. You’re a true adventurer, sir. Whenever I think about Pando I can’t help but think about the very first stem breaking ground unknowing of the next 80,000 years and counting that it’d be a part of. I’d like to go and see her, before she’s gone, to be a part of that.

  11. Hi Dal,
    Writer, photographer, cinephotogrpher, diver, media manager, Internet content creator, blogger, treasure searcher, friend of Fenn, wow. Did I miss anything? You never cease to amaze me. Thanks again for another great read.

  12. Since I live just a few miles from Fishlake, we went often this summer and fall with our grandchildren. What was the highlight this fall was the salmon run. The Pando was absolutely beautiful and the fish fascinating ! I have pictures but don’t know how to post them.

  13. A fun post, dal! Your history of home-cooked meals sounds very similar to my father’s. He was probably the only college freshman who never stopped raving about the excellence of the dormitory cafeteria’s food. I’m certainly one who enjoys a good plate of sushi, but try as I might I have never been successful in getting him to consider sushi as anything other than creepy.

    I will have to pay a visit to the Pando myself some day. The deer overpopulation seems to be a common problem in a lot of areas. Another victim of deer seems to be the beaver. They thrive on eating the tender willow shoots in river areas, but such plants are more and more quickly devoured by deer (and elk and moose for that matter) and the beaver colonies soon become abandoned. Deer have been around for quite a long time, but the unprecedented elimination of their natural predators has caused a lot of unforeseen consequences like this unfortunately. In the first half of the 20th Century, some of the National Parks would recruit hunters to go on nighttime hunts to thin out the deer & elk populations, but that stopped completely by the 1960’s due to public outcry of killing animals in what is supposed to be a protected reserve.

    Anyways, I enjoy a nice venison steak every now & again myself too!

  14. Seems like everything will go extinct in time.
    Wondering if you could cut a shoot or root or two to replant them in another area?
    I would try to get them going in a greenhouse environment first, then replant them to a new home and repeat the process.
    I don’t know much about them but think they may be nature’s clones?

  15. I’ve had lots of game at the 320 Ranch. IMO, too much iron in the blood makes the meat less tender. Luckily for me, my stepmother was a student of Paul Bocuse.

    The correct solution for curbing browse species is to re-populate the area with more wolves, like they did up in Big Sky, I think.

  16. It is sad to think of the Pando dying. One of the happiest feelings I know is standing in the midst of an Aspen forest as they laugh in the breeze. Aspens know a great many good jokes, if you know how to listen.

    Pine are different. They don’t tell as many jokes, but they do whisper gossip.

    Man, I’ve been cooped up in the city for too long this year; I need to get back into the mountains and listen to some trees.

    • Ray Henry- perhaps this may brighten your day….
      the Pando began its slide into to tree heaven….10,000 years ago.
      time waits for no man, but the Pando, well maybe.
      mourn or celebrate both, i guess is your choice.

      i think.

  17. Nice read Forrest… er.. um.. Dal… Ha, kidding. Dal, that’s impressive. I’d say you are further along the way than most.

    I’d love to hear more. Hopefully the deer don’t eat their way into a big empty.


  18. Dal , those photos are absolutely stunning( the bright yellow against the cliffside is my favorite!) and thank you for sharing your adventure . The things we experience in nature can teach us so much about ourselves.

  19. cavier,you can also eat trout cavier,eggs,hidden away in the stomach of fish,solar plexus,a complex of ganglia and radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach.roe,roe roe your boat gently down the stream,merrily ,merrily,merrily,merrily, Life is but a dream.quaking aspens,are from one end of the rocky mountains to the other end of the rocky mountains,each end is a start and a end.the aspen does not go dormant like other trees,its photosynthetic makes it make sugar and gives it still growing while other trees are dormant.I love the way the wind blows the leaves of the green aspen,then around the end of summer,we get the blazing golden glow of the turning of the aspens.what a treasure to see.colorado has the most aspens.the leaves fall to the ground and become brown,then the white trunk,chest,of the aspens really stand out among the gray tops of aspens .also a treasure.its fruit is catkins.2006 a stamp came out,on aspens,called the 40 wonder of america.beavers love aspens,so does anywhere in the rocky mountains are aspens.after a burn,aspens come up first.

  20. Ah yes…the good old days before Alice Waters singlehandedly invented food!
    Vegetables cooked into submission and well beyond, Wonder Bread, Crisco
    for all your frying needs, Iceberg lettuce, Velveeta real cheese product, Dinty
    Moore’s beef stew occasionally, and the greatest. crime. ever. committed
    against the vegetable kingdom: creamed corn in a can! To this day I gag at
    the mere sight or smell of the stuff. But enough about me…

    The third rail of gastronomy, imo, has always been SPAM Spam spam spam.
    The amazing greasy gelatinous mysterious product in a rectangular tin.
    Dal, did you ever touch it? On the other hand, I never did mind SOS
    (for the youngsters, it’s sshhh… on a shingle, aka creamed chipped beef on toast)

    Come to think of it, there was a time when I voluntarily drank Boone’s Farm
    Apple Wine and scarfed sliders from White Castle, and Twinkies, and other such
    health foods. The good old days aren’t what they used to be it seems now.

    • DC-
      I get a can of spam for Christmas each year. It magically appears in my stocking..It gets eaten in the spring when I go searching. I am old enough to remember C-Rats… I am tasteless enough to have enjoyed them. So enjoying Spam is not a challenge for me. I have read that Stalin claimed the Russians would have lost the war against Germany if it had not been for Spam…and WWII POWs in Europe fairly remember Spam as a treat they received in those Red Cross parcels.

  21. What a great story Dal! It sure put a smile on my face this cold PA morning. I love trees as well! Sushi not so much. LOL
    We hope all is well in the great North West!

    • Thanks Tom-
      I think we are fine but I stay away from definite statements…The NW is becoming more like Northern CA and Northern CA is becoming more like Southern CA. I haven’t seen the ponds here freeze over in five years…anybody need a good pair of hockey skates?

  22. Dal,
    It seems you’re living the life! I’m envious!
    Thanks for the bucket list addition… and this blog!

  23. im seeing double entendre for the word creepy.
    im seeing the axeman in the drawing from TTOTC Epilogue.
    i see a rainbow, as in the end of Forrest.
    im seeing brave and in the wood.
    im seeing no place for the meek.
    im seeing extinct species.
    im thinking thanks Dal.
    oh! the thinks you can think!

  24. During the search I came across my first real fairy ring. It was about eight feet across and perfectly circular, but not in a place associated with a fungus. These can also cover very large areas, but beware sleeping in one.

  25. Dal, I really enjoyed this post for many reasons. I too love trees, and so do my Grandchildren. My favorite is Live Oaks. Love, love, love them!!! Thanks for the entertainment, pics and info.

  26. Dal – Wow! Great story and pics! I love trees also. I was given a silver ring over the holidays by a talented local jeweler, because I saw a Lord of the Rings Ent imaged in his work. And I just proposed tree houses as the solution to our local mayor here in town to our affordable housing crisis. Several of those are being offered as Air B&B rentals these days.

    I think you and many other tree lovers on The Chase will enjoy reading this awesome book:

    And I will ask some of my Mountain Lion and Canadian Wolf buddies to head to Utah to thin out the deer population. They like to take an adventurous trip now and again, also.

  27. sometimes my posts just immediately go up without question..

    other times, they partially go up, but with a tag that says it’s “awaiting moderation”

    and then there’s the insidious drop into the abyss where it behaves like it’s going to do one of the first two things.. but then.. poof.. nothing.. frustrating!

    • now wait a minute.. i’m beginning to feel like daffy duck in a bugs bunny as artist cartoon i once saw..

      aaaanyway.. IF.. by chance THIS note gets through.. I’m trying to post a question 4Amber ? AKA 23kachinas ?

      • …oook…. ummm.. anyhoo.. my question 4Amber is regarding a previous recent post about a hive…. i’m wondering if i can get more info on that ?

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