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).











Idaho and Utah, Kaput!…



Posted in June 2013

What on Gaia’s green earth does Forrest have against Idaho and Utah?

When I first heard that he had completely eliminated these two fine examples of mountain states from the list of probable places where one might find the treasure, I was absolutely dumbfounded. I mean, think about it. As if these states are not already in the doldrums from an economic slowdown since 2008. This has got to be the Coup de Grace.

The citizens of Idaho and Utah were surely counting on the Thrill of the Chase Treasure Hunt to move along the end of this recession/depression. Just as Idaho politicians were licking their lips in anticipation of the tourism dollars headed their way; Just as Utahans from Salt Lake City to Kanab were bracing for the rush of searchers; Forrest has snatched the prize out from under their noses. As the snow melts in the Rockies so goes the fortunes of two pleasant little innocent kingdoms.

“The treasure is not hidden in Utah or Idaho.”

Nine little words and two states now face economic doom.  (nine words-nine clues…coincidence?)

In the previous Today Show clue Forrest simply said that the treasure was not associated with any structure. A pleasant little clue that hurts no one. But this most recent clue is bound to send Wall Street to the dugout, hat in hand, looking for a new republic savior.

You might think that I have crossed the line with my accusations. But this is certainly no exaggeration. There is more to this loss than airfare, gas, water bottles and national disgrace…much more! Let me explain:


Do you have any idea how much a shovel costs? Do you know what the mark-up on a shovel is?

Let’s start with America’s most popular long handled, forward turned, step, tempered, round shovel…the Acme, tall wood. Made right here in the US of A and sold in ACE Hardware stores all across the country and certainly in Idaho and Utah.

Retail Price $26.99

Wholesale Price $12.50

Manufacturing Cost $2.14

Generates about $2.00 in sales tax

Now the thing about a shovel is you need one to dig for buried treasure. And if you are traveling by air to your destination you don’t want to take a shovel. It doesn’t fit under your seat and there is never room in the overhead because that’s where everyone who got a seat before you put their extra heavy duty foldable luggage dollies. So, you have to buy a shovel when you get off the plane at a local ACE Hardware store.

But Dal…come many searchers are there anyway?

Thousands and thousands is my answer. In May, over spring break, Santa Fe had an additional 6,000 searchers fly, drive and bus in. And as anyone who knows anything knows, the treasure isn’t even in Santa Fe. So imagine the kind of searcher tourism some place like Salt Lake City (where warm waters halt) could have gotten.

Someone like Stephanie who has flown out to Colorado umteen times, buys a shovel every single time she gets off the plane. The Ace Hardware folks love her. She has her own reserved parking spot at Ace Hardware stores all across the country. “Non-Employee of the Month” they call her. That’s 4,017 stores with a parking space just for Stephanie.

But that’s not all. Searchers need other things too; arch supports, Gatorade, band-aids, inhalers, beer, dry socks, liniment, aspirin, maps, bear spray, ammo, beer, mask and snorkel, poisonous plant ID books, portable espresso machines, compass, beer…the list is endless.

In my humble opinion the states of Idaho and Utah have generous cause to sue Fenn for “breach of hospitality and denying suitable income”. In the words of my friend Mort, “You mean he knew all along that it wasn’t in Idaho?”.

And that’s not all. What about the hundreds…perhaps thousands of searchers who have already looked needlessly in Utah and Idaho. Perhaps a class action lawsuit against Fenn for not telling us sooner is in order.

The whole thing is willfully unfair. Fenn has now unilaterally denied Idaho and Utah untold income from treasure seekers not only from Americans but also from Canadians, French, English, Mexican and Lithuanian searchers. And he has knowingly hoaxed thousands of us into traveling needlessly to these near-do-well states to look for Fenn’s treasure. This is no meaningless, small breach of the constitution.

Gird your loins Mr. Fenn…