Come Join Us for Roots ‘n Ropes October 22nd!
Dig deep and climb high! Join Outward Bound California for an afternoon of fun and community building at our Ropes Challenge Course in McLaren Park. We’re really excited to have events back in person, and we want to connect with you! Check out the details here!
At Outward Bound California, we have three trees that represent each of our three respective basecamps. In the Bay Area, the Monterey cypress is the representative tree. It grows naturally in only two spots, both of which are within a few hundred yards of the Pacific Ocean: on the Monterey Peninsula and at Point Lobos. Although not native to San Francisco’s Presidio, it’s one of the most interesting and beautiful trees, and has become an iconic part of the space.
The Monterey cypress was planted in the Presidio by the army in the 1880s. Before then, there had been a few oaks, lots of sand and other native plants, but the army found the area too windy and sandy. Since the cypress roots’ are wind and drought resistant, they seemed by a good option and 100,000 trees were planted by 1910. Of those 100,000, 60,000 remained creating the forests in the Presidio.
As one can image, when changing the native landscape, there is a tension between the native plants and newer trees. It’s complicated as the trees block the sun from native plants, but they provide homes for native species of birds that weren’t able to nest here.
The majority of these trees are in their final days, and The Presidio Trust has the task of trying to balance the beauty of the forest, the health of the trees and the nurturing of the native plants. In this really beautiful and well-written article in Bay-Nature, the author explores the difficulty of this task and how the Presidio Trust is navigating it.
Further inland, in Midpines, is the High Sierra base, which is represented by the sequoia tree. The mighty sequoia is one of the largest living organisms on earth. It has a relatively shallow root system compared to its height. While mature sequoias can grow up to 300 feet tall, their root systems are often less than 10 feet deep! How amazing! That is approximately the height of a 20-story building with a root system slightly larger than Shaquille O’Neil! Imagine a pine tree in your yard that is 30 feet tall, with a one-foot root system. Would you climb that tree? This begs the question: how do these massive trees manage to stay standing for so long?
The sequoia manages to withstand all of its hardships the same way a group of OB students manage to withstand all of their hardships while on course. No…the answer is not GORP, it’s not the bickies, it is not the burrito blowout at the end of the course. The answer is teamwork (and a dash of perseverance). Sequoias grow in groves with other sequoia trees, so while the roots may not be deep, they are interconnected with each other. Each tree is supported by the other trees around it, just like each student on an OB course is supported by the other students.
Next up is the official tree of the Joshua Tree basecamp, the Joshua tree. Which is actually not a tree, but a Yucca. The Joshua tree has two very different and specialized sets of roots. One set of roots goes very deep into the ground in search of water. This deep set of roots can dig 30 feet into the dry desert soil. The second set of roots grows out from the plant, but stays in the shallow soil, hoping to catch the rare raindrops that fall in the Mojave Desert. Like almost any plant or animal that thrives in the harsh desert climate, the Joshua tree knows how to utilize every last drop of water that it comes across. Again, teamwork seems to reign supreme.
Although we have closed our basecamp in the Presidio, we were there since 2008, seeing the cypress trees every morning. Our needs have changed, and although bittersweet, we’re changing too.
Five Trees On An OBCA Course
- The interesting, twisty, dual-rooted Joshua tree
- Sequoia grove in Sequoia/Kings Canyon
- The ragged, wind-shaped Sierra juniper tree where you may tie an anchor on a climbing trip
- Perfectly aligned trees where you can set up a tarp or hang a hammock
- Shady oak tree on a hot day
What’s your favorite tree?
We hope you can come join us on October 22 at Roots ‘n Ropes. Come interconnect your roots with us and build community!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John was born and raised in Lakewood, Colorado. He has always been passionate about the outdoors and sharing that passion with others. In 2015 he graduated from the Red Rocks Community College Outdoor Program and then went on to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, receiving a B.A. in Adventure Education.
John was an instructor for Outward Bound California for three years while working at several different basecamps. Throughout his career in the outdoor industry, he has worked with many different outdoor organizations including Naturalists at Large, Durango Parks and Rec, Camp Thunderbird, Experiential Learning Associates, Durango Nature Studies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Creek Adventure Program, and Mile High Rafting. John believes his time working with these organizations has shown him how critically important it is to protect these beautiful places.